The First First Couple

Sometime during 2007, Bruce Chadwick, journalist, author & lecturer, published his book ‘The General & Mrs. Washington.’ Sometime yesterday, I reached page 34, finishing up Chapters One and Two. Usually at about this point, I start wandering off in the direction of another book…(commitment issues, maybe?)…but already I’ve jotted down so many quick notes, and have begun forming so many sentences in my mind/article ideas that I decided to just start writing now and see where it takes me.

What reeled me in enough to do this was, as I read descriptions of many of the same life events of the young Colonel Washington that I researched 2 & 3 years ago, though written from another’s perspective and in another’s style – I was struck yet again with what I see as the hand of God at work – in Washington’s life and in America’s formation. All over again, I am seeing the patterns & principles that birthed ‘Jesus, the Revolution & You’. They could not be any more clear.

I rejoice in this ‘rebirth’!

In addition, my rejoicing is energized & fueled by the recently acquired knowledge that apparently the statistics counter I’ve been using on my site, is inaccurate. This entire past year, and especially lately, while I’ve been struggling (sometimes mightily) to maintain! to keep on keepin’ on! in the face of low traffic & readership, it appears that J,R &Y was drawing much more attention than I’d realized. And while my version of ‘much more attention’ pales in comparison to probably every other blog & website in the world! still, I am completely renewed. Completely. My perseverance has been vindicated. I followed my heart, I followed the Lord, and He has not disappointed.

But back to the General & Mrs. W. –

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Learning about our august Founding Father’s youthful, possibly prideful ambitions and first affairs of the heart sheds a whole other light on him! We see reflected in Washington the young man, our own blind spots, our own tangled relationships. Everything did not always fall into place. Misguided motives caused problems! And yet, ever true, I saw that none of these things proved an obstacle to Washington’s destiny. I saw, repeatedly, ‘failure’ turned around.

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A big part of Washington’s destiny turned out to be Martha.

Personally, I believe in soul mates…you know, ‘the One’!  Yet many of us work our way through a few or more, on our way to that grand love. Perhaps, for some, there is no ‘the One’ – but I must say, as I continue to read about Martha Dandridge Custis (finally Washington), I see those signs pointing in that ‘the One’ direction.

And not only do I see the then future Mrs. Washington being prepared & preserved for that role. I have also come to see her as a contender in her own right.

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So, think about this – if you are going to be the wife of the man who will be vitally, strategically involved in the formation & emergence of a new nation, who will becomes its first Commander-in-Chief and bear unimaginable burdens of responsibility…then its Leader…you would have to be very well & specially prepared yourself. A woman of substance & sobriety, capable, perhaps bold yourself. Yet also gracious, compassionate & I would think empathetic. Toughened just enough, but not hardened…

By the time Washington’s destined wife entered his life, she had already experienced enough difficulties & heartache to have developed just those very qualities.

And, as it also turned out, Martha Dandridge Custis had, by that time, become the richest widow in America – and young George Washington was “sinking deeply into debt.” (Henry Weincek, An Imperfect God)

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The meeting of George & Martha.

It was an afternoon in early March, 1758, and George Washington was returning from a visit to a doctor in Williamsburg, Virginia. It was probably not the best day to meet one’s future bride. Washington had been ill for months, at times bedridden and unable to walk. Though diagnosed as having dysentery, Washington believed he was dying of tuberculosis; he had travelled to the office of Dr. John Anson, an experienced surgeon, for a final diagnosis and hopefully a cure. Anson reaffirmed the verdict of dysentery, assuring Washington that he would recover. Buoyed with hope & armed with medicines for pain, George Washington was heading home. It could be assumed that he was still feeling weak.   “He appeared pale and gaunt, seemed tired, and found it hard to carry himself as well as he usually did.” (Bruce Chadwick, The General & Mrs. Washington)   Perhaps the lifting of his imagined death sentence energized him enough to make a spur-of-the-moment decision to drop in unannounced at a friend’s home along the way.

That friend, William Chamberlayne, happened to be hosting a gathering of other friends that day, at his plantation on the banks of the Pamunkey River. And among those friends was the recently widowed Martha Dandridge Custis.

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I don’t know that anyone has called this “chance” encounter of the young colonel & the rich widow ‘love at first sight’. Plus, it probably wasn’t ‘first sight’, as George & Martha would’ve travelled in the same social circles.  But records tell us that, as the afternoon wore on into evening, then late night, they were drawn into a very long, one-on-one conversation.  Which resumed the next morning and lasted into early that afternoon (Martha having planned to stay overnight and Washington having been invited at the last minute.) When the two parted that day, Washington left with an invitation from Martha to visit her at her home on her plantation…White House.

Hmmm…..        

…more about George & Martha, coming up…


 

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