The Fightin’ Ninth and the father of our country

Morgan Griffith
Report from Washington

As we enjoy parades, cookouts, and fireworks, we should also reflect on Independence Day itself and that inspired document written predominantly by Virginia’s own Thomas Jefferson.
I encourage each of you to pull out a copy of the Declaration of Independence and see how many of the grievances listed by the colonists you can recall from history classes.
It is around this time of year (okay, and many other times of year as well, for those of you who know me) that I welcome the excuse to reflect on the history of our nation and the lives of those who played a role in its founding.
I am also given the opportunity to wax historical when I am speaking with students or other people who ask which of our presidents is my favorite. When asked this question, I reply that my favorite president is the father of our country, George Washington.
First and foremost, without a question, George Washington put his nation ahead of himself. With a devoted army at his back, he easily could have been king or a dictator. With the love of his countrymen, he easily could have been president for life. He could easily have insisted that his wealth be greatly added to from the riches of the young nation.
But he did none of these. He first returned home to Virginia to resume being a farmer.
When the Articles of Confederation failed and a president was needed to be elected to unify the country under the new constitution, Washington stepped forward, but he set an example for all but one of our other presidents by only serving two terms.
When the Virginia legislature awarded him stock in the James River Canal Company, though he could have used the money, he felt he should not benefit from his public service and gave the public stock to Liberty Hall Academy. This gift still contributes to the academy’s operating budget.
You would know it as Washington and Lee University
Generations of students at the undergraduate schools and graduates of the school of law, including myself, have since benefited directly or indirectly from this gift.
Additionally, not only does he have connections with such places and Mount Vernon and Washington and Lee, but he also has connections to the Ninth Congressional District as well.
Fort Vause in Montgomery County is located on the outskirts of the community of Shawsville. As is described in my copy of the “The Virginia Landmarks Register,” Fort Vause, which today is an archaeological site, was a simple palisaded fort established in Shawsville in the mid-18th century. In 1756, during the French and Indian War, Indians attacked and burned the fort. Regrettably, a relief party led by Maj. Andrew Lewis arrived too late to save most of the fort’s occupants.
But Fort Vause was quickly rebuilt by Capt. Peter Hogg as a composite earth-and-palisade structure and, in 1756, merely five months after the fort was attacked and burned, George Washington inspected it during his tour of Virginia’s frontier defenses.
According to legends I have been told, when Washington was headed to Fort Vause, he heard reports of a potential ambush by a small band of Native Americans allied with the French along what today is the Route 11/460 corridor. Accordingly, he took the long way through what now is known as Bottom Creek Gorge to what today is Shawsville.
Many great things have been said about George Washington, all deserved. But perhaps the greatest comment came from Light-Horse Harry Lee in the moving eulogy he wrote following Washington’s death: First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.”
In western Virginia, we are proud of our history, from Fort Vause to the Overmountain Men of Abingdon, etc., not only on Independence Day, but throughout the year I wish you the best as you celebrate the birth of our great nation and reflect on the founding of these United States.
If you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to contact my office. You can call my Abingdon office at (276) 525-1405 or my Christiansburg office at (540) 381-5671. To reach my office via email, please visit my website at Also on my website is the latest material from my office, including information on votes recently taken on the floor of the House of Representatives.


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