Lawrence Washington: A Neglected Older Brother

Fourteen years older than his half-brother, Lawrence Washington was an active Virginian landowner. J.I. Cooper describes his life, career, and interest in US expansion westwards.

Few roles are more discouraging than that of an older brother (or sister) of a celebrity. The career of Richard, first Marquess Wellesley, is an example familiar to British history. On the other side of the Atlantic, a corresponding figure is that of Lawrence Washington, the older half-brother of George. A man of achievement in his own lifetime, Lawrence Washington has suffered from the pre-eminence of his younger brother.

Lawrence Washington was the oldest surviving child of Augustine and his first wife, Jane Butler. The probable date of his birth was 1718. The family had come far since the first Washington had reached Virginia as the mate on a trading ship. The Washingtons were extensive land-owners on the lower Potomac, the tidewater region. In a modest frontier move, Augustine Washington had acquired land near Fredericksburg on the Rappahannock, and in Prince William county, well upstream on the Potomac. He was, likewise, a pioneer industrialist, a partner in the Principio Iron Works.

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