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Confirming A Life Purpose
The pamphlet accused Martha Washington of loyalty to the crown. But the scandal was as false as General Washington’s wooden teeth. People who knew Martha saw the ...

Confirming a Life Purpose

The pamphlet accused Martha Washington of loyalty to the crown. But the scandal was as false as General Washington’s wooden teeth. People who knew Martha saw the publication for what it was: propaganda to discourage the patriots.

Col. Edmund Pendleton, who accompanied Washington as he left Mount Vernon to attend the Continental Congress in 1774, was among the first to witness Martha’s resoluteness to the patriot cause: “I was much pleased with Mrs. Washington and her spirit. She seemed ready to make any sacrifice and was cheerful though I knew she felt anxious. She talked like a Spartan mother to her son on going to battle. ‘I hope you will stand firm I know George will,’ she said. When we set off in the morning, she stood in the door and cheered us with the good words, ‘God be with you gentlemen.’”

Hence, the propaganda pamphlet probably shocked Martha, who understood the meaning of loyalty better than many. If the authors had known her story, they might not have had the gall to write such lies. When a person has loved and lost and loved again, life takes on a new meaning. Love is too short to destroy it with disloyalty.

Eighteen-year-old Martha had married Daniel Custis, a farmer twenty years her senior, in 1749. Death, however, had embraced them more than had happiness. Two of their four children died before the age of five, and Custis died less than eight years after their marriage.

But life changed when the widow Custis met Colonel Washington. After a short courtship, the pair married in 1759. When God brought her a second chance, she embraced it with warmth and commitment. “She [Martha] reminded me of the Roman matrons of whom I had read so much, I thought that she well deserved to be the companion and friend of the greatest man of the age,” an aide to an American general later reflected.

The Washingtons spent sixteen years together, until the Continental Congress called him into military service in 1775. Although it was something he had longed for, marrying Martha had given him a new life purpose: domestic tranquility. Washington embraced Martha’s children with the tenderness of a father and moved them to Mount Vernon, his inherited estate.

And so this Spartan of an American knew what she had to do when she learned of Washington’s role as commander-in-chief. No longer was she a British subject and the wife of a Virginia farmer. She was the wife of a revolutionary, one who could be tried for treason and hanged if the British won the war. Just as he had confirmed her life purpose by embracing her family when they married, Martha Washington knew it was time for her to sacrifice. She became a patriot, determined to face whatever this new road would bring. Failure to do so might just cost the colonies their liberty.


Give me the courage to change with the seasons of life.

“The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called “woman,” for she was taken out of man’”

(Genesis 2:23).

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