How important were connections in Washington's rise to great wealth and power?

Connections were likely very important in Washington's rise to great wealth and power. During the colonial period in which Washington lived, a small circle of influential and wealthy landowners controlled much of the wealth and politics of early America. Washington would have benefited from his relationships with people in this influential circle.

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It goes without saying that historians are reluctant to speculate about certain aspects of a person's life. It also is true that familial, business, and political connections open pathways not necessarily available to persons of lesser means. The opposite is also true. Many people fail to avail themselves of the privilege and advantage they have over others in society. Several historically significant people in American history began with great wealth, promise, and benefit only to "choke on the silver spoon" and end their lives in poverty, disgrace, and anonymity.

According to the Mount Vernon Association (2018), Washington's family was not wealthy by colonial standards. His inherited fortune and his accumulation of wealth over his lifetime substantially increased. Washington's wife, Martha, was a wealthy widow. She brought into the marriage a substantive amount of wealth, which combined with Washington's own. By the time of Washington's death, his net worth in today's money is estimated to be 525 million dollars, making Washington one of the wealthiest American presidents in history. How much of Washington's wealth was due to his own shrewd business acumen and how much the result of connections to the early republic leaders is speculative. Still, history provides some insight into his personal fortune and how Washington could grow his estate's value so quickly.

Connections to and access to influential people in the colonies would have been an asset in growing the business enterprises of George Washington. In 1790, the United States population was estimated to be a little more than 3.9 million people. Most of the people concentrated in the early colonial cities of Philadelphia and New York and along the eastern seaboard. The heroes of the Revolutionary War and writers of the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution formed a tiny cadre of influential people in politics, business, and society. Indeed, as history documents, many of them interacted nearly exclusively with one another on several levels of power. It is hard to imagine that Washington did not benefit financially, politically, and socially from these interactions.

It is historically accurate and fair to say that Washington's connections, combined with his personal charisma, intellect, and business sense, contributed to his ability to amass a personal fortune and contributed to his political success.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
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