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Most of his papers exist at the Library of Congress. When the Library of Congress put all his ledgers, and journals, and account books and everything together [all his financial paperwork], it filled 34 volumes. He was pretty good at keeping track of things. In fact, the only significant documents about his life that don't exist are the letters that Martha and he wrote to each other. She burned most of them after he died. From what I read, she said, "I had to share him with the rest of the world most of his life.

The Founders and the Pursuit of Land

This part I want to keep private. Like most farms in the 18th century, Mount Vernon and the other plantations focused on tobacco. The problem with that was you had to send the tobacco to England. Washington was never sure whether he was getting a good price for it, and also you often didn't get paid in cash. You got paid in goods. You sent off the tobacco, and then you got back stuff that you had ordered, but he wasn't convinced that he was getting the best equipment.

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Some of the stuff that got sent over wasn't of high quality. Plus in the s, the bottom fell out of the tobacco market.

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He was one of the first people to say, "I need to do something else. He co-founded the Great Dismal Swamp Company. Do you know where the Great Dismal Swamp is? Brokamp: I had never heard of it, but it's actually in Virginia and North Carolina. The goal was to clear it and make it land worth farming on.

Unfortunately it didn't work Brokamp: A branding problem. But at the time of his death, he owned 52, acres of land as well as several other businesses. We've talked about human capital before -- basically your ability to earn a paycheck. Besides running all these businesses, he thought he would have some time to become a politician, as he did, and he joined the military, serving in our military for a long time and then, of course, taking over the military.

This obviously increased his standing in society, increased his connections, and he actually got land in return for serving in the French and Indian War as far as Pennsylvania. That's part of why he got some of his land. He didn't own just real estate. Not all of the investments turned out well. Some of the stocks that he owned did not fare so well. In his will he left some of these stocks to be used for charitable purposes; for example, The Alexandria Academy, which was a school for orphans and other poor kids. He left shares of the Bank of Alexandria, which was the first bank of Virginia, and the building still exists here in Old Town.

Brokamp: He also bequeathed 50 shares of stock to the Potomac Company as an endowment for a university in Washington, D. Brokamp: Unfortunately, the Potomac Company, which was meant to dredge up and build locks and canals up the Potomac Some of those did get built. You can see them along the way like in Great Falls and places like that. Brokamp: It did not survive, but the idea of forming a university in Washington, D. It was originally called Columbian College and then in it was renamed to George Washington University.

Brokamp: A fine university. So he had mixed success with his stocks, but I admire the fact that he did try to do something good with what he had. Always a good strategy. Washington was only a moderate drinker, and he considered drunkenness one of the worst vices, but that didn't prevent him from making money from alcohol. He built a distillery that in the year before his death produced 11, gallons of whiskey which made it the most productive distillery in America. Southwick: Yes! Rick's nodding his head. There's like a big boom, right now, for [craft beer], spirits, cider, and things like that.

We may have to take a field trip.

George Washington

Brokamp: I just came across this funny story. Like I said, he didn't like drunkenness. He had a gardener that he wanted to keep on the payroll who drank a little too much, so he wrote a contract with the guy. Otherwise, I expect you to be sober. He left most of his estate to Martha including, as stated in his will, "My improved lot in the town of Alexandria situated on Pitt and Cameron Streets.

Can you tell us what else was on the corner of Pitt and Cameron Streets in Alexandria? Brokamp: That's right. It's the previous Motley Fool office. We were George Washington's neighbors. Brokamp: And in his will he apportioned out a lot of his estate for charitable consideration.


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He forgave a lot of debts. And he also freed his slaves, sort of. One thing we have to acknowledge is the fact that he owned slaves [and by the time he died it was more than ] is a legitimate stain on his legacy. And when you talk about his financial success, it's no doubt in part to him having slave labor.

What he put in his will was that once his wife passes away, his slaves would be freed and that they would be educated. So anyone who was younger would be educated. The older would be taken care of. He had a very complicated story when it comes to slavery. He inherited his first slaves at age 11 when his dad died.

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