George Washington's Barbados Diary, 1751-52
In the autumn of 1751, at the age of nineteen, George Washington sailed with his older half-brother Lawrence from Virginia to the Caribbean island of Barbados-the one and only time that the future Revolutionary War hero and president would leave the shores of continental North America. Lawrence had long been in poor health and hoped, in vain, that the island climate would prove restorative. The Washingtons landed in early November, and George spent seven weeks on Barbados, recording his impressions of everything from the exotic landscapes and local culture, to the cultivation of sugarcane and the particulars of plantation slavery, before bidding his brother adieu and embarking on the return sail to Virginia. The two sea voyages provided plenty of adventure, at times harrowing, and framed an island interlude that exposed young George to new cultures and new experiences-and also to smallpox. His exposure to the dread disease, and his resulting immunity, would prove fateful a quarter century later when the commander in chief of the ragtag American revolutionary forces blunted a threat more grave than British cannon by directing the immunization of his troops. Technological advances and fresh scholarship make this the most comprehensive and authoritative edition that has ever been-or likely will ever be-published.