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TIL The US Congress voted to pay George Washington $25,000 a year. He declined since he valued his image as a selfless public servant but ultimately accepted to avoid a precedent where the presidency would be perceived as limited only to wealthy individuals who could serve without pay.(r/todayilearned)
It is not a joke. His expense bill was very large, and many people in the Continental Congress were upset.
In searching for documentation, I found there is a book called George Washington’s Expense Account.
>In George Washington’s Expense Account — the best-selling expense account in history — Kitman shows how Washington brilliantly turned his noble gesture of refusing payment for his services as commander in chief of the Continental Army into an opportunity to indulge his insatiable lust for fine food and drink, extravagant clothing, and lavish accommodations.
From another source:
>Sir, I beg leave to assure the Congress that as no pecuniary consideration could have tempted me to have accepted this arduous employment, I do not wish to make any profit from it. I will keep an exact account of my expenses. Those I doubt not they will discharge, and that is all I desire.
>”Expenses”, eh? Latter-day patriots, infused with nationalistic fervor, might assume this meant Washington would only take the barest hint of sustenance for his labors. As Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army, Washington might expect a comfortable salary. For a little perspective, the very day Washington accepted his commission, Congress drew up the pay for officers and privates. A private made $6 2/3 a month, a captain $20, and a major general $166. Seems to us Washington was giving up a decent sum in exchange for this promise of discharging these expenses. He was well-regarded for stonily taking this economic hit for the team.
>Fortunately for posterity, a complete record of Washington’s account exists. You can even look at scans of it, in entirety, online. The father of the United States, it seems, was magnificent at padding his accounts.
>Take, for example, the entry on June 22, 1775:
>To cash paid for Sadlery, a Letter Case, Maps, Glasses, &c &c &c. for the use of my Command… $831.45
>Eight hundred dollars? Ten times what a private made for saddles? That must have been some pretty damn nice tackwork. £3, or about $81, went to the letter case, which was made of Russian leather. We’re sure it kept his letters very dry. As for those “&c”s, they were probably worth a couple hundred each. Washington was a great fan of “&c” and “Ditto”. There are innumerable “ditto”s in the account, most of which cost at least a hundred dollars. Other bits of finery are equally outlandish:
>To sundry Exp.’s paid by myself at different times and places… on the Retreat of the Army thro’ the Jerseys into Pennsylvania & while there… $3,776.
>Yes, George Washington charged thousands of dollars to retreat from the enemy. He also gave loans to his friends that were never repaid, he bought limes by the crateload (400 at one point), and he treated himself to every “sundry” good available. From July 21-22 1775, he bought a pig, an unreadable number of ducks, “1 dozen pigeons, veal, 1 dozen squash, 2 dozen eggs, hurtleberries, biscuit and a cork cask.” The Washington family diet for the month of August included chickens, oysters, whortleberries, pears, cucumbers, veal, mutton, bread, and milk. In October, they bought nearly 32 dozen eggs. Washington’s taste for Madeira wine shows up with mindnumbing regularity: from September 1775 to March 1776, Washington spent over six thousand dollars on booze.] He was careful enough to note a change in his wine supplier no less than three times.