Essex Men Who Built the United States: Part Seven - The United States Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

Essex Men Who Built the United States: Part Seven - The United States

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Essex Men Who Built the United States
Introduction | Virginia | Massachusetts | Connecticut
Rhode Island | Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey
Georgia | The United States

The men of Essex were not just influential in colonial days. Two other 'men of Essex' were major influences in the early days of the United States. One of them never saw America and the other never saw Essex, but the part they play in the story of the United States merits their inclusion.

John Locke (1632 - 1704)

John Locke was born in Wrington in Somerset, the son of a local landowner and attorney. He attended Westminster School and Christ Church College, Oxford. Between 1669 and 1672 he was the secretary to the proprietors of Carolina. He drafted a plan for the colony's government, though this proved unworkable.

The dirty air of London was playing havoc with Locke's asthma and so in 1691 he moved out to live with Sir Frances Masham at his house, Otes, in High Laver near Harlow, Essex. He and his manservant had two of the best rooms in the house, for which he paid a rent of £1 a week.

His essays and published letters were a major influence on the United States, the first of which was called An Essay Concerning Toleration, published in 1667. As Locke became one of the most famous of all English philosophers and political thinkers, Otes became one of the most famous addresses in letter-writing circles. Some of the other influential works he published were: An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690); Two Treatises on Government (1690); Some Thoughts Concerning Education (1693); and The Reasonableness of Christianity (1695).

His opinions about the natural rights of man were extremely influential on the founding fathers of the United States. His views are echoed in such phrases in the Declaration of Independence as: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal' and 'Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.'

Locke died at Otes and was buried outside the south wall of All Saints Church in High Laver.

George Washington (1732 - 1799)

Before we come to George Washington, we should head back to a man who died 80 years before George was born. In 1633, Lawrence Washington took the job of a parish priest in the village of Purleigh which lies between the modern town of South Woodham Ferrers and Maldon. Unlike most of the Essex priests that have featured so far, he wasn't a Puritan and in fact sided with the Royalists during the Civil War, a choice that led to him being ejected from Purleigh in 1643. Later he became curate of Little Braxted but his appointment was kept quiet in order to avoid annoying the Puritans. Lawrence died in 1652 and was buried in Purleigh.

His son John, who was born in 1631 or 1632, left England in 1656 to found the Virginia branch of the family. John's great-grandson was George Washington. George's father Augustine and half-brother Lawrence educated the boy and he was put to work in 1749 surveying Virginia's 'northern neck' for Lawrence's father-in-law Thomas Baron Fairfax.

Washington was made a major in the Virginia militia in 1752 and was sent to drive the French out of Ohio. He failed. He was also present when French-Indian forces attacked and captured Fort Duquesne, Pennsylvania. His 300 men were one of three brigades that recaptured the fort. At the age of 23 he resigned his commission and left the British Army.

Washington was elected to the Virginia House of Burgesses, Virginia's parliament, in 1759. He was a delegate at the First Continental Congress in 1774 and when the War of Independence broke out, Washington was given command of the Continental Army. With the help of the French, Spanish, Dutch, Russians, Danes and Swedes, they got rid of the British. The Treaty of Paris was signed in September 1783 and independence was recognised.

Washington returned to New York in November 1783. He resigned his commission as commander-in-chief on 23 December, 1783. He presided at the 1787 Federal Constitutional Convention. He was elected unanimously as the first President of the United States in 1789, even though he was reluctant to take the post. Although he stood for and won re-election in 1792, he stood down in 1796. He retired to his estate at Mount Vernon, Virginia.

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