Helen M. Cloyd
GEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY
GEORGE WASHINGTON AS AN ACCOUNTANT
Abstract: George Washington's interest in bookkeeping began in 1747 when at the age of 15 he started his first ledger and lasted until his death in 1799. His book-keeping records span a period of fifty years. This manuscript reveals a unique side to President Washington's personality and recounts his inherent desire for accuracy and honesty in all dealings.
Anyone who has seen a copy of George Washington's signature becomes aware of the meticulous care with which he wrote. This precision and attention to particulars carried over into his books of account. Washington learned to write a good hand, and his manu-scripts and account books have a legibility resembling an engraving on a steel plate. Of particular interest to those who are interested in George Washington as an accountant, are the beginnings of his educational background which caused him to develop the character-istics of an accountant.
His early education was received from his father, who besides his interest in agriculture, had a business interest in an iron foundry. Of interest to George, while under his father's tutelage, were his father's surveying instruments which probably led to his own interest in the use of numbers. At the age of 13, after the death of his father, he was sent to Reverend Mayre's school in Fredericksburg, Virginia where he needed to cross the Rappahannock River from his family's farm to the school building at St. George's Parish.
The copybooks which he wrote during this period of school at-tendance are preserved in the Library of Congress. The earliest of Washington's copybooks contain verbatim excerpts from The In-structor, or Young Man's Best Companion by George Fisher (Lon-don, c. 1730).1 From this popular textbook, the young student wrote copiously and carefully the lettering for a Round Hand and an Italian Hand, the rules for measuring, for arithmetical computations, and rules for square and cube roots. It also gave models and forms of business papers, such as notes, bills, receipts, leases, and deeds. Introductory material on bookkeeping was also provided in The Instructor even though surviving copybooks do not contain his exer-