Posts Tagged ‘George Washington’

History of the United States Flows through Fairfax County, Virginia

The history of the United States flows through Fairfax County, Virginia. Two of our Founding Fathers called the county home, George Washington and George Mason. Washington and Mason were the brains behind the Fairfax Resolves, the first document to outline the colonies’ grievances against England.

historic courthouse 600But it goes much further back than that. Capt. John Smith explored the Potomac River area of the county as far north as Great Falls in 1609, shortly after the founding of Jamestown. And, it didn’t end with our first president’s death, either. The first turnpike in America, a 15-mile stretch of Little River Turnpike, ran through the county to Washington, DC.

The Historic Fairfax County Courthouse opened in 1800, the same year as the U.S. Capitol and the White House. And, of course, one of the first land battles in the Civil War occurred at the courthouse, which led to the first Confederate officer to die in the war. A monument to the officer, Capt. John Quincy Marr, stands outside the courthouse. The monument faces north, as do the two Civil War cannons on either side of the monument.

Those are some of the tidbits Jenée Lindner, president of Friends of the Historic Fairfax Courthouse, shared Wednesday at the courthouse during a lecture titled, “Who Was the Fairfax Family? The Colonial History of Fairfax County.” The lecture was part of a series of ongoing events celebrating the 275th anniversary of the county’s founding.

The county receives its name from Thomas Fairfax, 6th Lord Fairfax of Cameron. He is the son of Thomas Fairfax, 5th Lord Fairfax of Cameron, and Catherine Culpeper, heiress to Leeds Castle, Kent, England, and of the land that would become Fairfax County. While Fairfax laid claim to the land with his marriage to Catherine, Culpeper County and the incorporated town of Culpeper, about an hour’s drive southwest of the courthouse, pay tribute to her family’s contributions to the founding and development of Virginia.

historic courthouse plaque 600Culpeper met Fairfax when he rescued her after a probate hearing during which she successfully wrested control of her inheritance from her father’s mistress, Lindner said. She was just 19 and a mob of men clawed at her following the judge’s decision. Lord Fairfax picked her up and carried her safely to her carriage. The rest, as they say, is history. (Actually, that’s history too, if you’re keeping score.)

Our nation’s first president is closely tied to the Fairfax family. The family schooled Washington in high society customs and traditions after Washington’s father died when George was 11. Washington and Bryan Fairfax, son of the 6th Lord’s cousin William Fairfax, would become lifelong friends. Bryan Fairfax also would inherit the title of 8th Lord.

Not surprisingly, Bryan Fairfax and Washington had different views of breaking with England. Bryan Fairfax strongly urged Washington not to endorse the Fairfax Resolves. He wrote a lengthy letter outlining his protests that was delivered to Washington the day of the vote, Lindner said. But Fairfax remained neutral during the war.

After the war, the two men socialized regularly. In a sign of how strong their bond was, Martha Washington asked Bryan Fairfax to be chief mourner at Washington’s funeral. Martha was too distraught to attend.

On the other hand, Washington and Mason, an instrumental pairing in the founding of the United States, rarely spoke after Mason refused to sign the Constitution over its lack of Bill of Rights, Lindner said. The eventual Bill of Rights added to the Constitution is largely based on Mason’s Virginia Declaration of Rights, which was added to the Virginia Constitution in 1776. James Madison, another Virginian, ushered them through Congress. They were ratified in 1791.

Mason’s ideas also crossed the Atlantic Ocean. His Declaration of Rights influenced the French Declaration of Rights of Man and the Citizen, which was issued after the French Revolution. Not to be outdone, the Fairfax influence crossed the continent when Charles Snowden Fairfax, 10th Lord Fairfax of Cameron, caught the ‘49er Gold Rush fever. He and his wife, Ada, officially settled in Marin County, California, in an area now called Fairfax, California, in 1855.

Fairfax County, Virginia, has had its economic ups and downs over the centuries. It remained primarily agricultural until its growth spurt began in 1930, coinciding with the growth of the federal government under President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Today its economy is diverse and international, with 400 foreign-owned companies representing 45 countries operating within its borders, along with eight Fortune 500 companies. And the county continues to influence. Celebrity database company IMDb lists 113 celebrities who were born in the county. Olympians and an astronaut also called the county home.

Although the Fairfax nobles have resided exclusively in London, England, for three generations, Nicholas Fairfax, 14th Lord Fairfax of Cameron, will cross the pond to help celebrate the anniversary with his wife, Annabel. While here, he will lecture on what Brexit means to Great Britain and the European Union. The Fairfax history and its effect on the world continues.

Additional sources:

Fairfax History – Page 1. Accessed June 1, 2017.

“History of Fairfax County, Virginia.” Accessed June 1, 2017.

Tom Pfeifer is the managing partner and chief strategist for Consistent Voice Communications and author of Write It, Speak It: Writing a Speech They’ll APPLAUD! Reach him at

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Remembering Our First President’s Warning on Parties

As we prepare for the peaceful transition of government in a nation divided by party, creed, economics, geography, religion, and race, it is perhaps instructive to remember this portion of George Washington’s Farewell Address:

george-washington-1731-1799-on-engraving-from-the-1800s-can-stock-photo-georgiosart-smI have already intimated to you the danger of Parties in the State, with particular reference to the founding of them on Geographical discriminations. Let me now take a more comprehensive view, & warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the Spirit of Party, generally.

This Spirit, unfortunately, is inseperable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human Mind. It exists under different shapes in all Governments, more or less stifled, controuled, or repressed; but in those of the popular form it is seen in its greatest rankness and is truly their worst enemy.

The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge natural to party dissention, which in different ages & countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders & miseries, which result, gradually incline the minds of men to seek security & repose in the absolute power of an Individual: and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of Public Liberty.

Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight) the common & continual mischiefs of the spirit of Party are sufficient to make it the interest and the duty of a wise People to discourage and restrain it.

(Excerpted from the University of Virginia, The Papers of George Washington, Farewell Address – Transcription)

Tom Pfeifer is the managing partner and chief strategist for Consistent Voice Communications and author of Write It, Speak It: Writing a Speech They’ll APPLAUD! Reach him at


“FRIENDS, FOES AWAIT AN ENCORE” screamed the front-page headline in today’s Washington Post.Washington Post front-page headline, Sunday, January 20, 2013: Friends, Foes Await An Encore

And therein lies the problem. President Obama has either friends or foes in America. There is little middle ground.

America’s 57th inaugural ceremony was the theme for my Toastmasters club meeting yesterday morning. Several speakers mentioned during the course of the morning that on Inauguration Day, we’re all Americans. The clear intimation of that comment is that on the other days, those who disagree with us really aren’t Americans. When it was my time to speak late in the meeting, I noted that we are all Americans every day, and we need to remember that. We are a diverse nation with diverse views, but we need to find a way to once again work with the schmucks who disagree with us and move this country forward.

The public doesn’t expect that to happen. The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press released a poll on Thursday that shows only 23 percent of those polled believe Republicans and Democrats will work together to move the country forward.Pew Research Center for the People & the Press poll results show public expects more partisanship. Sixty-six percent believe the parties will “Bicker and oppose one another more than usual.”

Sounds depressing. But I remain an eternal optimist. This isn’t the first time the schmucks celebrated divisiveness over diversity. In fact, our country has a proud history of bickering and opposing one another.

When I was discussing my Toastmaster mini-speech  in an email exchange with a friend later in the day, she wrote that Thomas Jefferson would be proud of me. I think not. Jefferson was one of the meanest and most underhanded politicians of his time. He quit George Washington’s cabinet in a huff because our first president favored Alexander Hamilton’s nationalistic fiscal policies over Jefferson’s agrarian policies. As vice president under President John Adams, Jefferson did everything he could to thwart Adams’ policies. And, Jefferson paid newspaper editors to paint Adams as a monarchist.

Jefferson was a pro at underhanded politics, but he wasn’t the only revolutionary schmuck. It was the way things were done. Yet our country survived and prospered. And so shall we today. We are all schmucks. The other side just has bigger schmucks. But they are Americans too.

Tom Pfeifer is the managing partner and chief strategist for Consistent Voice Communications. Reach him at

No lie: You can plant a cherry tree to celebrate history

I received my first official e-mail about the 2011 National Cherry Blossom Festival last June. In December the e-mails began to come more regularly.

But it wasn’t until the temperature hit 75 on Friday and I began to contemplate the severity of this year’s annual Washington, D.C., President’s Day winter storm that the idea of another annual Cherry Blossom Festival became a possibility in my mind.

Cherry blossoms at night along the Tidal Basin with the Washington Monument in the distance.

Used by permission from the National Cherry Blossom Festival.

Cherry trees, of course, had an important heritage in the D.C. area long before Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo gave 3,000 cherry trees to our nation’s capital in 1912. This President’s Day weekend — like every other — we remember the lie that George Washington cut down a cherry tree and admitted his crime when confronted by his father. That cherry tree lie began a tradition that carries on to our present day.

It also began the lie that our favorite presidents don’t lie, a tradition that also carries down to the present day.

Thankfully, you no longer have to live in or visit Washington, D.C., to experience firsthand the blossoms of a cherry tree or the lies by and about our presidents. Now, “for the first time, the Festival has partnered with Arbor Day Foundation in a nationwide, year-round tree planting program that will bring the trees directly to you,” declares the National Cherry Blossom Festival. You can purchase a Japanese flowering cherry tree, also known as the Yoshino, which is the species planted around D.C.’s Tidal Basin, for $8.98. If you want to go cheap, you can get the Sandcherry Western for $4.98. Want to plant to impress? The Arbor Day Foundation has four varieties priced at $12.98.

A portion of the proceeds goes to support the festival, of course.

So buy and plant now so that by next President’s Day your very own cherry tree will be large enough that your very own tyke can cut it down. Because in America, anyone can grow up to be president and lie and be lied about. It really is the pits.

Tom Pfeifer is the managing partner and chief strategist for Consistent Voice Communications. Reach him at

Postcards from D.C.

By guest blogger Flat Nicholas

I hail from Long Island, N.Y., and was sent to spend a few days with Uncle Tommy as part of a second/third grade class assignment from Mrs. Lerit at West Middle Island School.

Uncle Tommy and Flat Nicholas pose before the cherry trees on the Tidal Basin, with the Jefferson Memorial in the background.

Uncle Tommy and Flat Nicholas pose before the cherry trees on the Tidal Basin, with the Jefferson Memorial in the background.

Uncle Tommy was very busy during most of my time in Washington, D.C. He works for a U.S. congressman and debate over the health care bill was raging. I barely made it out of my envelope all week. I was literally left in the dark. But we did spend Saturday seeing the sights.

We started just after dawn at the Tidal Basin where the Jefferson Memorial sits. Cherry trees given to the capital city by the Japanese as a gift in 1912 rim the basin. Every year the city celebrates the gift with a Cherry Blossom Festival, now in its 98th year. Saturday was the first day of this year’s festival, but it was also very, very cold. The temperature was in the upper 20s when we arrived at the basin. Perhaps that’s why Uncle Tommy is not smiling in any of the pictures we took.

The cherry blossoms are still about a week from being at peak, but it was very pretty just the same.

Uncle Tommy and Flat Nicholas pose before the Library of Congress’ Jefferson Building.

Uncle Tommy and Flat Nicholas pose before the Library of Congress’ Jefferson Building.

We posed in front of the Washington Monument, which is the tallest structure in Washington, but does not reach the highest elevation. By law, no building in Washington can be at a higher elevation than the U.S. Capitol. Elevation means the height above sea level. Because the U.S. Capitol sits on a hill, the top of it is at a higher elevation than the Washington Monument, even though it’s a shorter building.

From there we went to see the Library of Congress and posed before the Jefferson Building for a picture. Thomas Jefferson, our third president, sold all his books to the Library of Congress after the British burned the library in 1814. Now the library is the world’s largest repository of books, manuscripts, photos and recordings. The library has been working very hard to put its collections on the Internet.

Uncle Tommy and Flat Nicholas pose before the U.S. Supreme Court as two police officers look on.

Uncle Tommy and Flat Nicholas pose before the U.S. Supreme Court as two police officers look on. We look pretty suspicious, don’t we?

Next stop was the U.S. Supreme Court, which is right next door to the Library of Congress and across First Street from the U.S. Capitol. The nine members of the Supreme Court decide if the laws passed by Congress and other governmental bodies in the United States are constitutional.

We then jumped on the Metro – Washington’s subway system – and headed for the White House. George Washington was our first president, but he never lived in the White House. The first president to live there was our second president, John Adams. It was still under construction when President Adams moved in and he was not very happy living there.

Uncle Tommy and Flat Nicholas pose before the White House. President Obama didn’t come out to say hello.

Uncle Tommy and Flat Nicholas pose before the White House. President Obama didn’t come out to say hello.

The White House is heavily guarded. When Uncle Tommy tried to set his tripod up to take a picture of us outside the south fence, a police officer politely told him he couldn’t do that. So Uncle Tommy and I went across the street to take the picture from there. Notice Uncle Tommy’s still not smiling, even though it was starting to warm up by then.

We walked from the White House to the National Mall, which is not a shopping center. It is a long strip of mostly grassy area bounded by Independence Avenue to the south, Constitution Avenue to the north, the Lincoln Memorial to the west and the U.S. Capitol to the east. There are many memorials on the Mall, including the Washington Monument. Most of the Smithsonian museums also line the Mall. Uncle Tommy and I took our picture with the Lincoln Memorial and the World War II Memorial before heading back to Uncle Tommy’s home.

Flat Nicholas and Uncle Tommy pose before the Reflecting Pool and the Lincoln Memorial.

Flat Nicholas and Uncle Tommy pose before the Reflecting Pool and the Lincoln Memorial.

Washington, D.C., is an interesting place. It is where our federal laws are made by Congress, implemented by the President and the administrative branch, and their constitutionality decided by the Supreme Court. It is a tourist destination, drawn by such events as the Cherry Blossom Festival and the numerous memorials and museums. It’s also a very friendly city. As Uncle Tommy and I walked around, numerous people called out: “Hey, it’s Flat Stanley,” not realizing I’m actually Flat Nicholas. Some even stopped to talk about their own experiences.

I would definitely go back. If I do, hopefully Uncle Tommy will take me out of his backpack when history is being made.

Tom Pfeifer is the managing partner and chief strategist for Consistent Voice Communications. Reach him at

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