WASHINGTON – February 16 –
Author of “Harvey Wasserman’s History of the United States,” Wasserman said today: “Washington inherited substantial riches from his wife Martha, the widow of Daniel Custis, a wealthy plantation owner who died when she was 26. She married George soon thereafter. He was (and is) often referred to as “the richest man in America,” but this title is in dispute. He was an aggressive land speculator who, as a British and then an American officer, did not hesitate to personally profit from the conquests of Indian land. Tax records show he owned more than a hundred slaves in his most prosperous years. Though he began to reject the ‘peculiar institution,’ and stopped buying more in his later years, he was also capable of selling off slaves he didn’t like or trust. At least two personal servants, Hercules and Oney Judge, ran away from his household. He freed a number of slaves when he died in 1799, pending Martha’s death. She died in 1802 after burning the personal letters in her possession (though some survived, including one complaining that their marriage lacked ‘fire between the sheets’).”
Wasserman recently wrote the piece “Was George Washington a gay pot smoker?” He added: “The evidence is also clear that Washington, like many other American farmers, grew significant quantities of hemp. It was (and is) a profitable and reliable cash crop, easy to grow, with no extraordinary demands for cultivation, watering or fertilizing. As a hardy perennial, it needs no year-after-year replanting, pesticides or herbicides. In one of his meticulous agricultural journals, dated 1765, Washington notes his being late in separating the male hemp plants from the female. There is little reason to do that except to make the females ripe for smoking. As a hard-working farmer, Washington would certainly be stunned to hear that hemp is today illegal in the nation he helped found.
“As an exceedingly complex and contradictory character, the Father of Our Country remains a topic of endless controversy and fascination. The last word on his attitudes toward slavery, his farming techniques and the details of his marriage will certainly be debated for centuries to come.”