Former President George Washington was not buried for three days, per his wishes. During that time, his body was kept in the New Room in a mahogany casket. Mount Vernon held a solemn funeral on December 18, 1799. But did you know the story behind George Washington’s Tomb?
The Capitol was built to display George Washington’s tomb to the public. Both houses passed bills stating that he should be buried there, and his wife agreed, but it took until 1830 for it to be feasible due to various delays. The project was canceled following the attempted theft of his head.
The Public Tomb of the First President of the United States
The Capitol was still under construction when Washington died in 1799. Both houses of Congress passed a resolution requesting that Washington be interred in the Capitol when it was finished. Despite a provision in her husband’s will directing that he be buried at Mount Vernon, his wife, Martha Washington, agreed to the plan.
The Rotunda and the Crypt beneath it were originally designed with a central glass floor that would allow visitors to see Washington’s Tomb two floors below, but this was never built.
However, due to disagreements over the specific design and cost of the tomb, the original resolution was never carried out, and the body was placed in a temporary tomb at Mount Vernon. Congress attempted to resolve these issues again in 1800, 1816, 1824, and 1829, when the Architect of the Capitol prepared plans for the tomb in anticipation of Washington’s birth centennial.
After an attempt to steal Washington’s head in 1830, the Mount Vernon tomb was vandalized, and several of Washington’s relatives’ corpses were desecrated. Congress renewed its call to transfer the body to the Capitol in 1830. Instead, the current owner of the property, John Washington, decided to construct a new, more secure tomb on the site. (Source: Mount Vernon)
Months Before George Washington’s Death
Washington drafted two wills a few months before his death. Washington then asked his wife to bring him both versions on the eve of his death. Washington had one of them burned after reviewing them.
After Martha Washington died, George Washington left instructions in his will to free all of the enslaved people he owned. Washington owned 123 of the 317 enslaved people who lived at Mount Vernon in 1799. Martha Washington made the decision not to wait until she died. On January 1, 1801, she signed a deed of manumission for Washington’s enslaved people, who were freed.
On December 12, Washington was out on horseback supervising farm activities when it began snowing. When he got home, he didn’t change out of his wet clothes and went straight to dinner. Washington had a sore throat by the next morning. His condition deteriorated, and George Washington died of quinsy late in the evening on December 14, 1799. He had cleared to select trees for removal by enslaved workers. The sound of Washington’s voice became increasingly hoarse throughout the day.
George Washington died between ten and eleven on December 14, 1799. He was surrounded by people close to him, including his wife, Martha Washington, who sat at the foot of the bed, his physician and good friend, Dr. James Craik, and his personal secretary, Tobias Lear. (Source: Mount Vernon)
Image From: History