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The Childhoods of U.S. I’ve taken six of the best-known presidents of the United States and looked at their childhoods to understand the influence of their early lives on their presidencies. George Washington, 1st U.S. Everyone has heard the famous story about George Washington and the cherry tree. Young George supposedly took a hatchet and chopped down a cherry tree. When his father confronted him, George confessed, saying "I cannot tell a lie." This story was made up to demonstrate the good character of our first president. Sorry, the story is not true. It was included in a biography of Washington written by Parson Weems in 1809, ten years after Washington’s death. It has been told to children ever since. George Washington was born in Virginia on February 22, 1732 His father, Augustine Washington was a member of the gentry (people of high social status, plantation owners). His mother, Mary Ball Washington, was Augustine’s second wife.

George was the third son, the first of his mother’s six children. George’s father died when George was only 11 years old, and thereafter he was shuttled from relative to relative—living with his mother, other relatives, and later his older brother, Lawrence who he adored. When George was 14, he wanted to join the British navy, but he reluctantly stayed home in obedience to his mother's wishes. By the time he was 16, he had completed his basic education and learned taught himself to be a surveyor—a person who measures plots of land. The two oldest sons inherited whatever land and wealth Augustine possessed. George knew from a young age that if he wanted wealth and status he was going to have to earn it himself. Thomas Jefferson, 3rd U.S. Thomas Jefferson was born into a wealthy family on April 13, 1743, at Shadwell plantation in Virginia. Thomas’ father, Peter Jefferson, was from a modest family. His father was a self-educated man who became successful as a cartographer, surveyor, and planter. He eventually rose in prominence and was appointed to leadership positions--sheriff, colonel, and ultimately, a representative to the House of Burgesses.

Thomas’ mother, Jane Randolph Jefferson, came from an aristocratic family that could trace its origins back to the kings and https://www.metafilter.com/47404/Trust-Cancels-Fear queens of Scotland and England. Thomas was the third child, and eldest son, in a family of eight children. His father died when he was fourteen. Thomas spent his early years roaming the woods around his home, and thus began his lifelong interest in nature. He began his formal education at the age of nine, at a school established on the family property specifically for the education of the Jefferson children. Thomas pursued his studies avidly, studying Greek, Latin, and French. He also studied music and learned to play violin. Abraham Lincoln, 16th U.S. Abraham Lincoln was born on February 11, 1809 in a log cabin in Hardin County, Kentucky. When Abraham was eight years old, the family moved to Perry County, Indiana. It was a hard life. They slept on the dirt floor on insect-infested corn husk beds that were often visit by rodents. Abraham Lincoln’s father, Thomas Lincoln, was uneducated, but his mother, Nancy Hanks Lincoln, was a believer in education.

When a school opened in a nearby town, she insisted that Abraham and his older sister, Sarah, be allowed to attend. They had to walk about nine miles each way. Abraham Lincoln’s mother died when he was nine-years old. When Abraham’s mother died, Thomas couldn’t cope with juggling the need to farm and to hunt for food and the care of the children. He left Abraham and his 11-year old sister, Sarah, alone on the farm for several months while he went to Kentucky to find a new wife. Neighbors reported that the children were skinny and filthy. When Thomas returned with his new wife, Sarah Bush Johnston, and her three children, Abraham rushed to her and buried his face in her skirts. They became quite fond of each other. Sarah was a loving person and she supported Abraham’s interest in education. Although she could not read herself, she knew of Abraham’s interest in reading from Thomas, and she brought six books with her from Kentucky. When a school opened about a mile away, Abraham was allowed to attend, but unfortunately the school lasted only three months.

The family had little money for paper, pencils or books, but Sarah did all she could to help Abraham learn to read and write. Sometimes Abraham used a bit of charcoal to write on a piece of wood. Abraham Lincoln attended school intermittently, for only a few months at a time. He was mostly self-educated. He was avid reader and borrowed books whenever he could. He was often called lazy because he would rather read than do chores on the farm. Abraham did not have a good relationship with his father who often beat him. His father often rented him out to perform manual labor tasks such as shucking corn, hoeing, gathering, and plowing. All the money he earned went to his father. It is reported that Abraham was the shyest, most reticent, most uncouth, most awkward, most badly dressed and homeliest of any of the boys in the region, but he was strong and tall. His skill with an axe was well-known--he could chop more wood and split more rails than anyone around.

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