President George Washington - History

President George Washington - History

President george Washington

Considered by all the father of our country, George Washington was both the commander of the Revolutionary Army and the President of the United States. Washington was elected unanimously after the Constitution was ratified.. Elected 1789,1792

The Early Years

Washington's early childhood is a mystery. His great grandfather, John Washington, sailed to America to buy tobacco, but when his ship sunk as he was about to return to England, he remained in Virginia.

Washington was born at 10 AM on February 22, 1732 at the family estate on the banks of the Potomac River, in Westmoreland County, Virginia. Washington's father died when he was 11 years old. Lawrence Washington, George's older brother, apparently became a surrogate father for George. At the age of 16, George moved in with Lawrence at his estate, Mt. Vernon. At 16, Washington helped survey the Shenandoah lands for Thomas, Lord Fairfax.

The next year, 1749, Washington received his first official appointment- as surveyor of Culpepper County, Virginia. In 1752, his brother died of tuberculosis and Washington inherited the Mt. Vernon estate. That same year, Washington received his first military commission - as a major in the Virginia militia.

During the French and Indian War he oversaw the construction of Fort Necessity in what is today Western Pennsylvania. After the fort was overrun by superior French and Indian troops, Washington resigned his commission. He returned to service in 1755 to serve as the aide-de-camp of General Braddock. Braddock's ill-fated attempt to seize Fort Duquesne from the French resulted in his death and the defeat of his forces. Washington assumed command, allowing the remaining British forces to retreat. After this battle, Washington was promoted to colonel and regimental commander.

In 1758, Colonel Washington resigned his commission after being elected to the Virginia House of Burgess. In his position with the Virginia assembly, he was a leader of those in the Virginia legislature pressing for strong action against England. Washington was a delegate to the First and Second Continental Congress. He was at first a supporter of measures that might bring about an understanding with England. However, he quickly decided that this was unlikely to work.

Washington chaired the committee whose task it was to find ways of arming the impending revolution. Washington became the unanimous choice to lead the new Continental Army. This was due both to his military experience and the prestige of having a prominent Virginian at the head of the army. As Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army, Washington led that army through its early success in liberating Boston to its loss in New York; through the hardship of Valley Forge to the ultimate victory at Yorktown. Washington was the overwhelming choice to be the President of the Constitutional Convention in 1787. He was a supporter of a strong federal government.

Accomplishments in Office

President Washington was a believer in a strong Presidency. As the first President, he could set many rules. Washington believed in working closely with his staff, and relied heavily on advice of his cabinet.

Due to Washington's popularity, Congress did not challenge any of his cabinet appointments. This established the principle that Presidents will automatically have their appointments approved. When the President came to Congress to "consult" on the making of foreign treaties, he felt he was treated beneath the dignity of the office of the Presidency. It was the last time he would consult Congress on a foreign policy decision, thus setting a precedent for future presidents, who rarely confer with Congress before foreign policy decisions.

During the Washington Presidency, two major political battles took place. The first battle was between those who believed in a strict interpretation of the American Constitution and those opposed. The second dispute was between those favoring England and those in support of France in the ongoing European War.

Those who believed in strict Constitutional interpretation were led by Madison. By strict interpretation, they intended the central government to be no stronger than those powers laid out for it in the constitution. The Federalists, led by Alexander Hamilton, believed that the government had implied power over the individual states. Hamilton proposed that the Federal Government establish a Bank of the United States to help fuel economic growth. The opposition stated that the government lacked such power under the constitution. Washington sided with the Federalists and the Bank was established.

Thomas Jefferson, then Secretary of State, sided with France in her war with England. Hamilton sided with England. Washington proclaimed a strict policy of neutrality that resulted in Jefferson's resignation. Washington's view was that the United Sates should attempt to stay out of European conflicts. In addition, he felt that it was essential that the United States have as many peacetime years as possible to increase its strength before fighting any further wars.

During his Presidency, Washington personally insured that the Whiskey Rebellion, in protest of a tax imposed on whiskey, was put down. He thus crushed the first challenge to federal authority.

Surprisingly, one of the major events to take place during the Washington Presidency was accomplished with much debate but little conflict. This was the ratification of the first 10 amendments to the constitution - known as the Bill of Rights.

Washington wanted to retire after his first term of office. He was persuaded to retain the Presidency in light of the partisan politics which he felt could undo much of the statebuilding he had accomplished. Washington retired from the Presidency on March 3, 1797.

The First Family

Father... Augustine Washington
Mother... Mary Ball Washington
Wife... Martha Dandridge Curtis

Major Events

Federal Government Assumes State Debt
Whiskey Rebellion
Bank of the U.S.
Bill of Rights Takes Effect
Proclamation of Neutrality
Cotton Gin Invented
Jay's Treaty
Pinckney's Treaty

The Cabinet

Secretaries of State: Thomas Jefferson, Edmund Randolph, Timothy Pickering
Secretaries of Treasury: Alexander Hamilton, Oliver Wolcott
Secretaries of War: Henry Knox, Timothy Pickering, Charles Lee
Attorney Generals: Edmund Randolph, William Bradford, Charles Lee


Washington served in the Revolutionary Army and led a force against the Whiskey Rebellion.

Did You Know?

Only President not to live in the D.C.

First appointment was Willian Short to be Charge D'affairs for France.

Granted first amnesty to those who partook in the Whiskey Rebellion.

George Washington

Our editors will review what you’ve submitted and determine whether to revise the article.

George Washington, also called Father of His Country, (born February 22 [February 11, Old Style], 1732, Westmoreland county, Virginia [U.S.]—died December 14, 1799, Mount Vernon, Virginia, U.S.), American general and commander in chief of the colonial armies in the American Revolution (1775–83) and subsequently first president of the United States (1789–97).

What is George Washington known for?

George Washington is often called the “Father of His (or Our) Country.” He not only served as the first president of the United States, but he also commanded the Continental Army during the American Revolution (1775–83) and presided over the convention that drafted the U.S. Constitution. The U.S. capital is named after Washington—as are many schools, parks, and cities. Today his face appears on the U.S. dollar bill and the quarter.

What political party did George Washington belong to?

Washington did not belong to a political party. He ran as a nonpartisan candidate in the presidential elections of 1789 and 1792. To this day, Washington is the only U.S. president to have been unanimously elected by the Electoral College.

Did George Washington own slaves?

In short, yes. Washington was born into a Virginia planter family. After his father’s death in 1743, Washington inherited 10 slaves. In 1761 Washington acquired a farmhouse (which he later expanded to a five-farm estate) called Mount Vernon. In 1760, 49 slaves lived and worked on the estate by 1799 that number had increased to over 300. The majority of the slaves that lived on Mount Vernon did not belong to Washington most were “dower slaves,” received upon marriage. Washington eventually freed the 123 slaves he owned. In his will he ordered that they be freed “upon the decease of my wife.”

How did George Washington die?

After serving two terms as president, Washington retired to his estate at Mount Vernon in 1797. Two years into his retirement, Washington caught a cold. The cold developed into a throat infection. Doctors cared for Washington as they thought best—by bleeding him, blistering him, and attempting (unsuccessfully) to give him a gargle of “molasses, vinegar, and butter.” Despite their efforts, Washington died on the night of December 14, 1799.

Did George Washington chop down his father’s cherry tree?

For years people have shared a story about the first U.S. president involving a hatchet, a cherry tree, and a young Washington who “cannot tell a lie.” The legend attests to Washington’s honesty, virtue, and piety—that is, if it is true. Alas, it is not. The legend was the invention of a 19th-century bookseller named Mason Locke Weems. The legend is one of many about Washington.

Washington’s father, Augustine Washington, had gone to school in England, tasted seafaring life, and then settled down to manage his growing Virginia estates. His mother was Mary Ball, whom Augustine, a widower, had married early the previous year. Washington’s paternal lineage had some distinction an early forebear was described as a “gentleman,” Henry VIII later gave the family lands, and its members held various offices. But family fortunes fell with the Puritan revolution in England, and John Washington, grandfather of Augustine, migrated in 1657 to Virginia. The ancestral home at Sulgrave, Northamptonshire, is maintained as a Washington memorial. Little definite information exists on any of the line until Augustine. He was an energetic, ambitious man who acquired much land, built mills, took an interest in opening iron mines, and sent his two eldest sons to England for schooling. By his first wife, Jane Butler, he had four children. By his second wife, Mary Ball, he had six. Augustine died April 12, 1743.

George Washington (1732 - 1799)

George Washington was born February 22 1732 at his parents' Pope's Creek Estate near present-day Colonial Beach in Westmoreland County, Virginia. He was the eldest son of Augustine Washington and his second wife, Mary Ball Washington.

George was 11 when his father died, so he went to live at Mount Vernon. The Potomac River plantation belonged to his half-brother Lawrence who left it to Washington after he died from tuberculosis in 1752.

Although he later served as 14th Chancellor of William and Mary, George was home-schooled by his father and older brother. He was also a self-taught woodsman, surveyor, and cartographer. His early work experience as a surveyor proved invaluable since he learned the terrain around Virginia.

Revolutionary War

On 14 June 1775, Congress created the Continental Army. The next day Washington was promoted to the position of Commander in Chief and unanimously approved by Congress. He served as the leader of the Continental Army for the duration of the war.


Washington met Martha Dandridge through her friends, while on leave during the French and Indian War. At the time, she was a widow living at the White House Plantation on the south shore of the Pamunkey River in New Kent County, Virginia. [1]

George visited her there twice before proposing to her three weeks after they met. Both were 27 years old when they married on 06 January 1759. The wedding was at the plantation, whose name was later shared with the future DC mansion. [1]

The newlyweds moved to Mount Vernon where Washington farmed, manufactured whiskey, and served in politics. They had a good marriage and together raised her two children by her first husband, Daniel Parke Custis. The children, John Parke Custis and Martha Parke Custis, were nicknamed "Jackie" and "Patsy." [1]

A bout with smallpox followed by tuberculosis may have left Washington unable to father children. He and Martha never had children, but they raised two of Martha's grandchildren: Eleanor Parke Custis ("Nelly") and George Washington Parke Custis ("Washy"), after their father died in 1781. [1]


Washington had 124 slaves. [2] They were freed when Martha died, except one who was freed in Washington's lifetime. "Of the eight presidents who owned slaves while in office, Washington is the only one who set all of them free." [3]

Bryant (2004), asserted that George Washington fathered a child with Venus, named West Ford (b. c.1785). [4] Venus was an enslaved woman who belonged to Washington's brother, John Augustine Ford. Morgan (2005), disputes the allegation and calls it doubtful. [5]


Washington's marriage to a wealthy widow greatly increased his property holdings and social standing, and after his marriage, George Washington was the wealthiest man in Virginia, if not the colonies. He acquired one-third of the 18,000 acre (73 km²) Custis estate upon marriage and managed the remainder on behalf of Martha's children.

Archaeologists and an excavation team led by Philip Levy, associate professor of history at the University of South Florida, and David Muraca, director of archaeology for the George Washington Foundation, owner of the National Historic Landmark site Ferry Farm, announced on July 2, 2008, the discovery of remains of George's boyhood home just across the Rappahannock River from Fredericksburg, Virginia, 50 miles (80 km) south of Washington.

Built in the 1740s 113-acre (0.46 km²) Ferry Farm, the county-level gentry house was a one and a half story residence perched on a bluff. George was six when the family moved to the farm in 1738. He inherited the farm and lived in the house until his early 20s, though he also stayed with his half-brother Lawrence at Mount Vernon. Washington's mother lived in the house until 1772, when she moved to Fredericksburg, and the farm was sold in 1777.

By 1775 Washington doubled the size of Mount Vernon to 6,500 acres (26 km²), with over 100 slaves. [6]


Washington was a member of the Anglican and Episcopal church. [7]

Eyewitness accounts exist of his private devotion. [8]


Washington has been consistently ranked by scholars as one of the greatest US presidents.

The majority of American states (31 out of 50) have named counties after George Washington, more states than for any other person. They are: Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia and WIsconsin. Vernon County, Louisiana and Vernon County, Wisconsin are named after Washington's plantation at Mt. Vernon, Virginia.


abt 1749:Appointed to first public office: surveyor of Culpeper County. Through half-brother Lawrence, Washington became interested in the Ohio Company, which aimed to exploit Western lands.
1751:George and Lawrence go to Barbados. They stayed at Bush Hill House, hoping Lawrence's tuberculosis would heal. [9]
1752:Lawrence dies. George inherits part of his estate. Takes over some of Lawrence's duties as colony adjutant.
1752:Appointed district adjutant general in Virginia militia. Makes major at 20. [10] "Master Mason" in the organization of Freemasons.[1]
1753:Joins Virginia Militia. [11]
Dec 1753:Asked by VA. Gov. Robert Dinwiddie to carry British ultimatum to French at Ohio frontier. [12]
1754:Dinwiddie commissions Lt. Col. Washington. Orders him to lead expedition to Fort Duquesne to drive out French. [13]
1755:Aide to British Gen. Edward Braddock on ill-fated Monongahela expedition. [14]
1758:Brigadier general in Forbes expedition. [15]

Resigns from active duty. Spends 16 years as Virginia planter and politician. [16]

George Washington's First Inaugural Address

In 1788, the Confederation Congress scheduled the first presidential inauguration for the first Wednesday in March of the following year. However, the early months of 1789 proved to be unseasonably cold and snowy and bad weather delayed many members of the First Federal Congress from arriving promptly in New York City, the temporary seat of government. Until a quorum could be established in both the House and the Senate, no official business could be conducted. Finally, on April 6, 1789 - over a month late - enough members had reached New York to tally the electoral ballots. The ballots were counted on April 6 and George Washington won unanimously with 69 electoral votes. Washington was then notified of his victory and traveled to New York City from his home in Virginia.

On April 30, 1789, George Washington took the oath as the first president of the United States. The oath was administered by Robert R. Livingston, the Chancellor of New York, on a second floor balcony of Federal Hall, above a crowd assembled in the streets to witness this historic event. President Washington and the members of Congress then retired to the Senate Chamber, where Washington delivered the first inaugural address to a joint session of Congress. Washington humbly noted the power of the nations' call for him to serve as president and the shared responsibility of the president and Congress to preserve "the sacred fire of liberty" and a republican form of government.

At that auspicious moment marking the birth of the federal government under the Constitution, Senator William Maclay of Pennsylvania observed that even the great Washington trembled when he faced the assembled representatives and senators. "This great man was agitated and embarrassed," Maclay added, "more than ever he was by the levelled Cannon or pointed Musket." After concluding his remarks, the President and Congress proceeded through crowds lined up on Broadway to St. Paul's Church, where a service was conducted. Social gatherings and festivities closed the nation's first inaugural day. [34]

George Washington

On April 30, 1789, George Washington, standing on the balcony of Federal Hall on Wall Street in New York, took his oath of office as the first President of the United States. “As the first of every thing, in our situation will serve to establish a Precedent,” he wrote James Madison, “it is devoutly wished on my part, that these precedents may be fixed on true principles.”

Born in 1732 into a Virginia planter family, he learned the morals, manners, and body of knowledge requisite for an 18th century Virginia gentleman.

He pursued two intertwined interests: military arts and western expansion. At 16 he helped survey Shenandoah lands for Thomas, Lord Fairfax. Commissioned a lieutenant colonel in 1754, he fought the first skirmishes of what grew into the French and Indian War. The next year, as an aide to Gen. Edward Braddock, he escaped injury although four bullets ripped his coat and two horses were shot from under him.

From 1759 to the outbreak of the American Revolution, Washington managed his lands around Mount Vernon and served in the Virginia House of Burgesses. Married to a widow, Martha Dandridge Custis, he devoted himself to a busy and happy life. But like his fellow planters, Washington felt himself exploited by British merchants and hampered by British regulations. As the quarrel with the mother country grew acute, he moderately but firmly voiced his resistance to the restrictions.

When the Second Continental Congress assembled in Philadelphia in May 1775, Washington, one of the Virginia delegates, was elected Commander in Chief of the Continental Army. On July 3, 1775, at Cambridge, Massachusetts, he took command of his ill-trained troops and embarked upon a war that was to last six grueling years.

He realized early that the best strategy was to harass the British. He reported to Congress, “we should on all Occasions avoid a general Action, or put anything to the Risque, unless compelled by a necessity, into which we ought never to be drawn.” Ensuing battles saw him fall back slowly, then strike unexpectedly. Finally in 1781 with the aid of French allies–he forced the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown.

Washington longed to retire to his fields at Mount Vernon. But he soon realized that the Nation under its Articles of Confederation was not functioning well, so he became a prime mover in the steps leading to the Constitutional Convention at Philadelphia in 1787. When the new Constitution was ratified, the Electoral College unanimously elected Washington President.

He did not infringe upon the policy making powers that he felt the Constitution gave Congress. But the determination of foreign policy became preponderantly a Presidential concern. When the French Revolution led to a major war between France and England, Washington refused to accept entirely the recommendations of either his Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, who was pro-French, or his Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton, who was pro-British. Rather, he insisted upon a neutral course until the United States could grow stronger.

To his disappointment, two parties were developing by the end of his first term. Wearied of politics, feeling old, he retired at the end of his second. In his Farewell Address, he urged his countrymen to forswear excessive party spirit and geographical distinctions. In foreign affairs, he warned against long-term alliances.

Washington enjoyed less than three years of retirement at Mount Vernon, for he died of a throat infection December 14, 1799. For months the Nation mourned him.

The Presidential biographies on are from “The Presidents of the United States of America,” by Frank Freidel and Hugh Sidey. Copyright 2006 by the White House Historical Association.

Learn more about George Washington’s spouse, Martha Dandridge Custis Washington.


One of the most important tools of the trade was a surveyor's compass. When mounted on a staff, the compass enabled the user to establish a line from a known reference point to the point of interest and determine its bearing. MVLA [W-579/A-B]

During George Washington’s early teenage years, he completed many school exercises in penmanship, comportment, and mathematics. Some exercises, such as the Art of Surveying and Measuring Land, provided instruction for practice surveys and included samples taken directly from William Leybourn's The Compleat Surveyor of 1657. The formal training Washington received in surveying was complemented by practical experience in the field.

In the mid-1740s, Washington surveyed five acres for A Plan of a Piece of Meadow called Hell Hole, Situate on the Potowmack near Little Hunting Creek. Along with many other plats, Washington drew A Plan of Major Law[rence] Washington's Turnip Field.

In 1748 Washington was invited to join a survey party organized by his neighbor and friend George William Fairfax of Belvoir. Fairfax assembled an experienced team to layout lots within a large tract along the western frontier of Virginia. Over their month-long expedition, Washington learned even more about surveying and gained important experience of living on the frontier.

Washington's career as a professional surveyor began in 1749. He received a commission as a surveyor for the newly formed Culpeper County, probably at the behest of William Fairfax who was then serving on the Governor's Council.

Little is known about Washington&aposs childhood, which fostered many of the fables later biographers manufactured to fill in the gap. Among these are the stories that Washington threw a silver dollar across the Potomac and after chopping down his father&aposs prize cherry tree, he openly confessed to the crime. 

It is known that from age seven to 15, Washington was home-schooled and studied with the local church sexton and later a schoolmaster in practical math, geography, Latin and the English classics. 

But much of the knowledge he would use the rest of his life was through his acquaintance with woodsmen and the plantation foreman. By his early teens, he had mastered growing tobacco, stock raising and surveying.

Washington’s father died when he was 11 and he became the ward of his half-brother, Lawrence, who gave him a good upbringing. Lawrence had inherited the family&aposs Little Hunting Creek Plantation and married Anne Fairfax, the daughter of Colonel William Fairfax, patriarch of the well-to-do Fairfax family. Under her tutelage, Washington was schooled in the finer aspects of colonial culture.

In 1748, when he was 16, Washington traveled with a surveying party plotting land in Virginia’s western territory. The following year, aided by Lord Fairfax, Washington received an appointment as the official surveyor of Culpeper County. 

For two years he was very busy surveying the land in Culpeper, Frederick and Augusta counties. The experience made him resourceful and toughened his body and mind. It also piqued his interest in western land holdings, an interest that endured throughout his life with speculative land purchases and a belief that the future of the nation lay in colonizing the West.

In July 1752, Washington&aposs brother, Lawrence, died of tuberculosis, making him the heir apparent of the Washington lands. Lawrence’s only child, Sarah, died two months later and Washington became the head of one of Virginia&aposs most prominent estates, Mount Vernon. He was 20 years old. 

Throughout his life, he would hold farming as one of the most honorable professions and he was most proud of Mount Vernon. Washington would gradually increase his landholdings there to about 8,000 acres


Following the Philadelphia Constitutional Convention of 1787, a fatigued Washington returned to his estate in Virginia, Mount Vernon. He seemed intent on resuming his retirement and letting others govern the nation with its new frame of government. [2] The American public at large, however, wanted Washington to be the nation's first president. [3] The first U.S. presidential campaign was in essence what today would be called a grassroots effort to convince Washington to accept the office. [3] Letters poured into Mount Vernon – from the people, from former comrades in arms, and from across the Atlantic – informing him of public sentiment and imploring him to accept. Gouverneur Morris urged Washington to accept, writing "[Among the] thirteen horses now about to be coupled together, there are some of every race and character. They will listen to your voice and submit to your control. You therefore must, I say must mount this seat." [4] Alexander Hamilton was one of the most dedicated in his efforts to get Washington to accept the presidency, as he foresaw himself receiving a powerful position in the administration. [5] The comte de Rochambeau urged Washington to accept, as did the Marquis de Lafayette, who exhorted Washington to "not to deny your acceptance of the office of President for the first years." Washington replied, "Let those follow the pursuits of ambition and fame, who have a keener relish for them, or who may have more years, in-store, for the enjoyment." [6] In an October 1788 letter, Washington further expounded on his feelings regarding the election, stating,

I should unfeignedly rejoice, in case the Electors, by giving their votes to another person would save me from the dreaded dilemma of being forced to accept or refuse. If that may not be–I am, in the next place, earnestly desirous of searching out the truth, and knowing whether there does not exist a probability that the government would be just as happily and effectually carried into execution without my aid." [7]

Less certain was the choice for the vice presidency, which contained little definitive job description in the constitution. The only official role of the vice president was as the president of the United States Senate, a duty unrelated to the executive branch. The Constitution stipulated that the position would be awarded to the runner-up in the presidential election, or the person with the second highest number of electoral votes. [8] Being from Virginia, Washington (who remained neutral on the candidates) assumed that a vice president would be chosen from Massachusetts to ease sectional tensions. [9] In an August 1788 letter, Thomas Jefferson wrote that he considered John Adams, John Hancock, John Jay, James Madison, and John Rutledge to be contenders for the vice presidency. [10] In January 1789, upon hearing that Adams would probably win the vice presidency, Washington wrote to Henry Knox, saying "[I am] entirely satisfied with the arrangement for filling the second office." [9] [11]

Each state's presidential electors gathered in their state's capital on February 4, 1789, to cast their votes for the president. As the election occurred before ratification of the Twelfth Amendment, each elector cast two votes for the presidency, though the electors were not allowed to cast both votes for the same person. Under the terms of the constitution, the individual who won the most electoral votes would become president while the individual with the second-most electoral votes would become vice president. Each state's votes were sealed and delivered to Congress to be counted. [12] [a]

Before the votes were counted, Washington had declared his willingness to serve, and was preparing to leave Mount Vernon for New York City, the nation's capital. [6] On April 6, 1789, the House and Senate, meeting in joint session, counted the electoral votes and certified that Washington had been elected President of the United States with 69 electoral votes. They also certified that Adams, with 34 electoral votes, had been elected as vice president. [12] [13] The other 35 electoral votes were divided among: John Jay (9), Robert H. Harrison (6), John Rutledge (6), John Hancock (4), George Clinton (3), Samuel Huntington (2), John Milton (2), James Armstrong (1), Benjamin Lincoln (1), and Edward Telfair (1). [15] Informed of his election on April 14, [12] Washington wrote in a letter to Edward Rutledge that in accepting the presidency, he had given up "all expectations of private happiness in this world." [16]

The Congress of the Confederation had set March 4, 1789 as the date for the beginning of operations of the federal government under the new U.S. Constitution. Owing to the formidable difficulties of long-distance travel in 18th century America, Congress was unable to reach a quorum until April. [17] The House would not achieve a quorum until April 1, and the Senate on April 6, at which time the electoral votes were counted. [18] [19] [20] Washington and Adams were certified as having been elected president and vice president respectively. [21] [22]

Adams arrived in New York on April 20, [23] and was inaugurated as vice president on the next day. [24] On his way to New York City, Washington received triumphal welcomes in almost every town he passed through, including Alexandria, Virginia Georgetown, Maryland Baltimore Philadelphia and Trenton. [25] He arrived in New York City on April 23, where he was greeted by New York Governor George Clinton as well as many congressmen and citizens. [26] Washington was inaugurated as the first President of the United States on April 30, 1789, at Federal Hall in New York, then the nation's capitol. As judges of the federal courts had not yet been appointed, the presidential oath of office was administered by Chancellor Robert Livingston, the highest judicial officer in the state of New York. [27] Washington took the oath on the building's second floor balcony, in view of throngs of people gathered on the streets. [18] The Bible used in the ceremony was from St. John's Lodge No. 1, Ancient York Masons, and was opened at random to Genesis 49:13 ("Zebulun shall dwell at the haven of the sea and he shall be for an haven of ships and his border shall be unto Zidon"). [28] [29] Afterward, Livingston shouted "Long live George Washington, President of the United States!" [16] Historian John R. Alden indicates that Washington added the words "so help me God" to the oath prescribed by the constitution. [30]

In his inaugural address (Full text ), Washington again touched upon his reluctance to accept the presidency.

As the presidential election of 1792 approached, Washington, pleased with the progress his administration had made in establishing a strong, stable federal government, [31] hoped to retire rather than seek a second term. [32] He complained of old age, sickness, the in-fighting plaguing his cabinet, and the increasing hostility of the partisan press. [33] The members of his cabinet—especially Jefferson and Hamilton—worked diligently through the summer and autumn to persuade Washington not to retire. [34] They apprised him of the potential impact the French Revolutionary Wars might have on the country and insisted that only someone with his popularity and moderation could lead the nation effectively during the volatile times ahead. [3] [35] In the end, "Washington never announced his candidacy in the election of 1792," wrote John Ferling in his book on Washington, "he simply never said that he would not consider a second term." [36]

The 1792 elections were the first ones in U.S. history to be contested on anything resembling a partisan basis. In most states, the congressional elections were recognized in some sense as a "struggle between the Treasury department and the republican interest", as Jefferson strategist John Beckley wrote. [37] Because few doubted that Washington would receive the greatest number of electoral votes, the vice presidency became a focus of popular attention. The speculation here also tended to be organized along partisan lines – Hamiltonians supported Adams and Jeffersonians favored New York governor George Clinton. [38] [39] Both were technically candidates for president competing against Washington, as electoral rules of the time required each presidential elector to cast two votes without distinguishing which was for president and which for vice president. The recipient of the most votes would then become president, and the runner-up vice president. [40]

Washington was unanimously re-elected president, receiving 132 electoral votes (one from each elector), and Adams was re-elected vice president, receiving 77 votes. The other 55 electoral votes were divided among: George Clinton (50), Thomas Jefferson (4), and Aaron Burr (1). [33]

Washington's second inauguration took place in the Senate Chamber of Congress Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on March 4, 1793. The presidential oath of office was administered by Supreme Court associate justice William Cushing. Washington's inaugural address was just 135 words, the shortest ever. [41] The short and simple inauguration was viewed in a stark contrast to that of 1789, which was perceived by many as almost a monarchical coronation. [36]

Although his second term began simultaneously with Washington's, John Adams was sworn into office for that term on December 2, 1793, when the Senate reconvened, in the Senate Chamber of Congress Hall. The vice-presidential oath was administered by the president pro tempore of the Senate John Langdon. [24]

Cabinet Edit

The Washington Cabinet
PresidentGeorge Washington1789–1797
Vice PresidentJohn Adams1789–1797
Secretary of StateJohn Jay (acting)1789–1790
Thomas Jefferson1790–1793
Edmund Randolph1794–1795
Timothy Pickering1795–1797
Secretary of the TreasuryAlexander Hamilton1789–1795
Oliver Wolcott Jr.1795–1797
Secretary of WarHenry Knox1789–1794
Timothy Pickering1795
James McHenry1796–1797
Attorney GeneralEdmund Randolph1789–1794
William Bradford1794–1795
Charles Lee1795–1797

The new Constitution empowered the president to appoint executive department heads with the consent of the Senate. [42] Three departments had existed under the Articles of Confederation: the Department of War, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Finance Office. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs was re-established on July 27, 1789, and would be renamed to the Department of State in September. The Department of War was retained on August 7, while the Finance office was renamed as the Department of the Treasury on September 2. [43] Congress also considered establishing a Home Department to oversee Native American affairs, the preservation of government documents, and other matters, but the proposed department's duties were instead folded into the State Department. [44] In September 1789, Congress established the positions of Attorney General, to serve as the chief legal adviser to the president and Postmaster General, to serve as the head of the postal service. [b] Initially, Washington met individually with the leaders of the executive departments and the Attorney General, but he began to hold joint meetings in 1791, with the first meeting occurring on November 26. [45] The four positions of Secretary of War, Secretary of State, Secretary of Treasury, and Attorney General became collectively known as the cabinet, and Washington held regular cabinet meetings throughout his second term. [46]

Edmund Randolph became the first Attorney General, while Henry Knox retained his position as head of the Department of War. Washington initially offered the position of Secretary of State to John Jay, who had served as the Secretary of Foreign Affairs since 1784 and acted as the interim Secretary of State. After Jay expressed his preference for a judicial appointment, Washington selected Thomas Jefferson as the first permanent Secretary of State. [47] For the key post of Secretary of the Treasury, which would oversee economic policy, Washington chose Alexander Hamilton, after his first choice, Robert Morris, declined. Morris had recommended Hamilton instead, writing "But, my dear general, you will be no loser by my declining the secretaryship of the Treasury, for I can recommend a far cleverer fellow than I am for your minister of finance in the person of your aide-de-camp, Colonel Hamilton." [48] Washington's initial cabinet consisted of one individual from New England (Knox), one individual from the mid-Atlantic (Hamilton), and two Southerners (Jefferson and Randolph). [49]

Washington considered himself to be an expert in both foreign affairs and the Department of War, and as such, according to Forrest McDonald, "he was in practice his own Foreign Secretary and War Secretary." [50] Jefferson left the cabinet at the end of 1793, [51] and was replaced by Randolph, while William Bradford took over as Attorney General. [52] Like Jefferson, Randolph tended to favor the French in foreign affairs, but he held very little influence in the cabinet. [53] Knox, Hamilton, and Randolph all left the cabinet during Washington's second term Randolph was forced to resign during the debate over the Jay Treaty. Timothy Pickering succeeded Knox as Secretary of War, while Oliver Wolcott became Secretary of the Treasury and Charles Lee took the position of Attorney General. [54] In 1795, Pickering became the Secretary of State, and James McHenry replaced Pickering as Secretary of War. [55]

Hamilton and Jefferson had the greatest impact on cabinet deliberations during Washington's first term. Their deep philosophical differences set them against each other from the outset, and they frequently sparred over economic and foreign policy issues. [56] With Jefferson's departure, Hamilton came to dominate the cabinet, [57] and he remained very influential within the administration even after he left the cabinet during Washington's second term to practice law in New York City. [58]

Vice presidency Edit

During his two vice-presidential terms, Adams attended few cabinet meetings, and the President sought his counsel only infrequently. Nonetheless, the two men, according to Adams biographer, John E. Ferling, "jointly executed many more of the executive branch's ceremonial undertakings than would be likely for a contemporary president and vice-president." [59] [60] In the Senate, Adams played a more active role, particularly during his first term. He often participated in debates in the Senate. On at least one occasion, Adams persuaded senators to vote against legislation he opposed, and he frequently lectured the body on procedural and policy matters. He supported Washington's policies by casting 29 tie-breaking votes. [59]

His first incursion into the legislative realm occurred shortly after he assumed office, during the Senate debates over titles for the president and executive officers of the new government. Although the House of Representatives agreed in short order that the president should be addressed simply as George Washington, President of the United States, the Senate debated the issue at some length. [61] Adams favored the adoption of the style of Highness (as well as the title of Protector of Their [the United States'] Liberties) for the president. [62] Others favored the variant of Electoral Highness or the lesser Excellency. [63] Anti-federalists objected to the monarchical sound of them all. All but three senators eventually agreed upon His Highness the President of the United States and Protector of the Rights of the Same. [64] In the end, Washington yielded to the various objections and the House decided that the title of "Mr. President" would be used. [65]

While Adams brought energy and dedication to the presiding officer's chair, he found the task "not quite adapted to my character." [59] [66] Ever cautious about going beyond the constitutional limits of the vice-presidency or of encroaching upon presidential prerogative, Adams often ended up lamenting what he viewed as the "complete insignificance" of his situation. [67] To his wife Abigail he wrote, "My country has in its wisdom contrived for me the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man . . . or his imagination contrived or his imagination conceived and as I can do neither good nor evil, I must be borne away by others and meet the common fate." [68]

First presidential veto Edit

The Constitution granted the president the power to veto legislation, but Washington was reluctant to encroach on legislative affairs, and he only exercised his veto power twice. [69] He exercised his presidential veto power for the first time on April 5, 1792, to stop an apportionment act from becoming law. The bill would have redistributed House seats among the states in a way that Washington considered unconstitutional. [70] [71] After attempting but failing to override the veto, Congress soon wrote new legislation, the Apportionment Act of 1792, which Washington signed into law on April 14. [72]

Salary Edit

On September 24, 1789, Congress voted to pay the president a salary of $25,000 a year, and the vice president an annual salary of $5,000. [73] [74] Washington's salary was equal to two percent of the total federal budget in 1789. [75]

Article Three of the Constitution established the judicial branch of the federal government, but left several issues to the discretion of Congress or the president. Unresolved issues included the size of the Supreme Court, the identity of the first Supreme Court Justices, the number and establishment of federal courts below the Supreme Court, and the relationship between state and federal courts. In September 1789, Congress passed the Judiciary Act of 1789, primarily written by Connecticut Senator Oliver Ellsworth. [76] Through the Judiciary Act, Congress established a six-member Supreme Court, composed of one Chief Justice and five Associate Justices. The act also created thirteen judicial districts, along with district courts and circuit courts for each district. [77]

As the first president, Washington was responsible for appointing the entire Supreme Court. As such, he filled more vacancies on the Court than any other president in American history. On September 24, 1789, Washington nominated John Jay as the first Chief Justice and nominated John Rutledge, William Cushing, James Wilson, John Blair, and Robert Harrison as Associate Justices. All were quickly confirmed by the Senate, but after Harrison declined the appointment, Washington appointed James Iredell in 1790. [78] The Court's first term began on February 2, 1790, at the Royal Exchange in New York City. With no cases on the docket and little pressing business (a few procedural matters decided and 26 attorneys and counselors admitted to the federal bar), the term lasted for only eight days. [79]

As Associate Justices left the court in subsequent years, Washington appointed Thomas Johnson, William Paterson, and Samuel Chase. [80] Jay stepped down as Chief Justice in 1795 and was replaced by Rutledge, who received a recess appointment as Chief Justice. Rutledge served for six months but resigned after his nomination was rejected by the Senate in December 1795 Rutledge had alienated several Senators with his criticism of the Jay Treaty. [81] [c] After the rejection of Rutledge's nomination, Washington appointed Oliver Ellsworth as the third Chief Justice of the United States. [78]

The Judiciary Act also created 13 judicial districts within the 11 states that had then ratified the Constitution, with Massachusetts and Virginia each being divided into two districts. Both North Carolina and Rhode Island were added as judicial districts in 1790 after they ratified the Constitution, as were the subsequent states that Congress admitted to the Union. The act also established circuit courts and district courts within these districts. The circuit courts, which were composed of a district judge and (initially) two Supreme Court justices "riding circuit", had jurisdiction over more serious crimes and civil cases and appellate jurisdiction over the district courts, while the single-judge district courts had jurisdiction primarily over admiralty cases, along with petty crimes and lawsuits involving smaller claims. The circuit courts were grouped into three geographic circuits to which justices were assigned on a rotating basis. [82] Washington appointed 38 judges to the federal district courts during his two terms in office. [80] [83]

Selection of permanent U.S. capital Edit

The subject of a permanent capital city had been discussed several times, but the Continental Congress could never agree on a site due to regional loyalties and tensions. [84] New York City had served as the nation's temporary capital since 1785 but had never been intended to serve as a permanent capital. The city made numerous improvements in preparation for the new government, and the old City Hall was remodeled by Pierre L'Enfant to become Federal Hall. [85] The Constitution said nothing about where the permanent capital would be. Interest in attracting the capital grew as people realized the commercial benefits and prestige that were at stake. [84] There was much maneuvering by interstate coalitions that were formed and dissolved almost daily, as Congress debated the matter. [84] More than 30 locations, including the Hudson Valley Trenton, New Jersey Wilmington, Delaware Baltimore, Maryland Norfolk, Virginia and several locations in Pennsylvania, were proposed as the site of the capital. [86] In 1789, discussions narrowed to a site on the Potomac River near Georgetown, a site on the Susquehanna River near Wrights Ferry (now Columbia, Pennsylvania), and a site on the Delaware River near Germantown, Pennsylvania. Both Pennsylvania sites nearly won congressional approval as the site of the permanent capital, but divisions between Pennsylvania's two senators, along with deft maneuvering by Congressman James Madison, postponed consideration of the topic into 1790. [87]

Washington, Jefferson, and Madison all supported a permanent capital on the Potomac Hamilton backed a temporary capital in New York City, and a permanent one in Trenton, New Jersey. At the same time, Hamilton's funding proposal, a plan in which the federal government would assume debts incurred by states in waging the Revolutionary War was failing to garner enough support to pass. Jefferson, understanding that Hamilton needed southern votes to pass his funding plan, and keenly aware that the Potomac capital concept would fail without additional northern support, made use of an opportunity provided by an encounter with Hamilton to stage an informal dinner meeting at which interested parties could discuss a "mutual accommodation." [84] The deal subsequently struck, known as the Compromise of 1790, cleared the way for passage, in July 1790, of the Residence Act. The act transferred the federal capital to Philadelphia for 10 years, while a permanent capital along the Potomac was under construction. Hamilton's debt assumption plan became law with the passage of the Funding Act of 1790. [88]

The Residence Act authorized the president to select a specific site along the Potomac for the permanent seat of government. It also authorized him to appoint three commissioners to survey and acquire property for the federal city. Washington announced his selection of a site on January 24, 1791, and planning for the new city began afterward. [89] Washington personally oversaw this effort through the end of his presidency. In September 1791, the commissioners named the nascent city Washington, in the president's honor, and the district Columbia, which was a poetic name for the United States commonly in use at that time. [90]

Construction on the White House (then called the President's House) was begun in 1792. [91] [92] Washington laid the cornerstone for the United States Capitol (then called the Congress House) on September 18, 1793. [93] [94] John Adams, Washington's successor, moved into the White House in November 1800 [95] that same month, Congress held its first session in the Capitol. [96] The following February, Congress approved the District of Columbia Organic Act of 1801, which officially organized the District of Columbia, and, in accordance with the Constitution, named Congress as its exclusive governing authority. [97]

Tariff of 1789 Edit

One of the most pressing issues facing the First Congress during its inaugural session was the issue of how to raise revenue for the federal government. Because direct taxes were politically unfeasible, Congress turned to the tariff as the main source of funding. The tariffs could also protect nascent American manufacturing by increasing the cost of imported goods, many of which came from Britain. Each region sought favorable terms for the duties on various goods. [98] Because the federal government would be unable to even pay the salaries of its officials without passage of the bill, members of Congress were strongly motivated to reach a compromise. In July, Congress finally passed the Tariff of 1789, which Washington signed into law. The act created a uniform impost on goods carried by foreign ships, while also establishing a much smaller tax on goods carried by American-owned ships. [99] The tariffs established by this and later acts would make up the vast majority of government revenue more than 87 percent of the federal government's revenue between 1789 and 1800 came from import duties. [100]

To enable the federal government to collect the import duties, Congress also passed the Collection Act of 1789, which established the United States Customs Service and designated ports of entry. [101] One year later, the Revenue-Marine was established when Washington signed legislation authorizing construction of ten cutters to enforce federal tariff and trade laws and to prevent smuggling. Until Congress established the Navy Department in 1798, it served as the nation's only armed force afloat. Renamed a century later as the Revenue Cutter Service, it and the U.S. Life-Saving Service were merged in 1915 to form the United States Coast Guard. [102] [103]

Hamiltonian economic program Edit

After the passage of the Tariff of 1789, various other plans were considered to address the debt issues during the first session of Congress, but none were able to generate widespread support. In September 1789, with no resolution in sight and the close of that session drawing near, Congress directed Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton to prepare a credit report. [104] In his Report on the Public Credit, Hamilton estimated that the state and federal governments had a combined debt of $79 million he projected that the federal government's annual income would be $2.8 million. Drawing on the ideas of Robert Morris and others, Hamilton proposed the most ambitious and far-reaching economic plan that had ever been advanced by an American, calling for the federal assumption of state debt and the mass issuance of federal bonds. [105] Hamilton believed that these measures would restore the ailing economy, ensure a stable and adequate money stock, and make it easier for the federal government to borrow during emergencies such as wars. [106] He also proposed redeeming the promissory notes issued by the Continental Congress during the American Revolution at full value, thereby establishing the precedent that the government would uphold the value of its securities. Hamilton's proposal drew opposition from Madison, who was reluctant to reward the speculators who had bought up many of the promissory notes at a fraction of their value after the Revolutionary War. [107]

Congressional delegations from Virginia, Maryland, and Georgia, which had lower or no debts, and whose citizens would effectively pay a portion of the debt of other states if the federal government assumed it, were disinclined to accept the proposal. Many in Congress argued that the plan was beyond the constitutional power of the new government. James Madison led the effort to block the provision and prevent the plan from gaining approval. [108] Others contended that the debts should be repudiated, and the United States should refuse to pay them. [109] Washington supported Hamilton's plan but refused to become involved in the congressional debate, and opposition mounted in the House of Representatives. [110] The debate over assumption became entangled with the simultaneous debate over the site of the nation's capital. In the Compromise of 1790, Hamilton's assumption plan was adopted as the Funding Act of 1790, as several southern congressmen voted for the bill in exchange for a capital located on the Potomac River. [111]

Later in 1790, Hamilton issued another set of recommendations in his Second Report on Public Credit. The report called for the establishment of a national bank and an excise tax on distilled spirits. Hamilton's proposed national bank would provide credit to fledgling industries, serve as a depository for government funds, and oversee one nationwide currency. In response to Hamilton's proposal, Congress passed the Bank Bill of 1791, establishing the First Bank of the United States. [112] Madison and Attorney General Randolph lobbied Washington to veto the bill as unconstitutional extension of the federal government's authority. Washington, having ten days to sign or veto the bill, sent their objections to Hamilton for comment. Hamilton persuasively argued that the Constitution granted Congress the power to establish the national bank. [113] He asserted that the Constitution guaranteed "implied as well as express powers", and that government would be paralyzed should the latter not be acknowledged and exercised. After receiving Hamilton's letter, Washington still harbored some doubts, but he nonetheless signed the bill into law that evening. [114]

The following year, Congress passed the Coinage Act of 1792, establishing the United States Mint and the United States dollar, and regulating the coinage of the United States. [115] Historian Samuel Morison points to Hamilton's 1790 bank report as turning Jefferson against Hamilton. [116] Jefferson feared that the creation of the national bank would lead to political, economic, and social inequality, with Northern financial interests dominating American society much as aristocrats dominated European society. [117]

In December 1791, Hamilton published the Report on Manufactures, which recommended numerous policies designed to protect U.S. merchants and industries to increase national wealth, induce artisans to immigrate, cause machinery to be invented, and employ women and children. [118] Hamilton called for federally-supervised infrastructure projects, the establishment of state-owned munitions factories and subsidies for privately owned factories, and the imposition of a protective tariff. [119] Though Congress had adopted much of Hamilton's earlier proposals, his manufacturing proposals fell flat, even in the more-industrialized North, as merchant-shipowners had a stake in free trade. [118] There were also questions raised about the constitutionality of these proposals, [120] and opponents such as Jefferson feared that Hamilton's expansive interpretation of the Necessary and Proper Clause would grant Congress the power to legislate on any subject. [121]

In 1792, with their relationship completely ruptured, Jefferson unsuccessfully tried to convince Washington to remove Hamilton, but Washington largely supported Hamilton's ideas, believing that they had led to social and economic stability. [122] Dissonance over Hamilton's proposals also irrevocably broke the relationship between Washington and Madison, who had served as the president's foremost congressional ally during the first year of his presidency. [123] Opponents of Hamilton and the administration won several seats in the 1792 Congressional elections, and Hamilton was unable to win Congressional approval of his ambitious economic proposals afterward. [119]

Whiskey Rebellion Edit

Despite the additional import duties imposed by the Tariff of 1790, a substantial federal deficit remained – chiefly due to the federal assumption of state revolution-related debts under the Funding Act. [124] By December 1790, Hamilton believed import duties, which were the government's primary source of revenue, had been raised as high as was feasible. [125] He therefore promoted passage of an excise tax on domestically distilled spirits. This was to be the first tax levied by the national government on a domestic product. [126] Both Hamilton and Madison believed that an excise tax on spirits was the least objectionable tax that the government could levy at that time a direct tax on land would be even more unpopular. [127] The tax had the support of some social reformers, who hoped that the tax would discourage alcohol consumption. [128] The Distilled Spirits Duties Act, commonly known as the "Whiskey Act", became law on March 3, 1791, and went into effect on June 1. [129] [130]

The tax on whiskey was bitterly and fiercely opposed on the frontier from the day it was passed. Western farmers considered it to be both unfair and discriminatory. As the Lower Mississippi River had been closed to American shipping for nearly a decade, farmers in western Pennsylvania were forced to turn their grain into whiskey. The substantial reduction in volume resulting from the distillation of grain into whiskey greatly reduced the cost to transport their crops to the populous east coast, which was the only place where there were markets for their crops. [124] In mid-1794, the government began to crackdown on tax evasion, launching prosecutions against dozens of distilleries. [131]

On July 15, 1794, tax collector John Neville and his slaves fired at a militia that had surrounded his house, killing a member of the militia. [132] The next day, a group of militia members seeking Neville fired on a group of federal soldiers, causing casualties on both sides. Following this confrontation, the militia captured a federal marshal and continued to clash with federal forces. [133] As word of this rebellion spread across the frontier, a whole series of loosely organized resistance measures were taken, including robbing the mail, stopping court proceedings, and the threat of an assault on Pittsburgh. [134]

Washington, alarmed by what appeared to be an armed insurrection in Western Pennsylvania, asked his cabinet for written opinions about how to deal with the crisis. Hamilton, Knox and Attorney General Bradford all favored using a militia to crush the rebellion, while Secretary of State Randolph urged peaceful reconciliation. [135] Washington heeded the advice of both factions of his cabinet – he sent commissioners to meet with the rebels, while at the same time preparing soldiers to march into Western Pennsylvania. [136] When the final report of the commissioners recommended the use of the militia to enforce the laws, [137] the president invoked the Militia Law of 1792 to summon the militias of Pennsylvania, Virginia and several other states. The governors sent the troops and Washington took command as Commander-in-Chief. [138]

Washington commanded a militia force of 12,950 men, roughly the same size of the Continental Army he had commanded during the Revolutionary War. Under the personal command of Washington, Hamilton and Revolutionary War hero General Henry "Light-Horse Harry" Lee, the army assembled in Harrisburg and marched into Western Pennsylvania (to what is now Monongahela, Pennsylvania) in October 1794. The insurrection collapsed quickly with little violence, and the resistance movements disbanded. [134] The men arrested for rebellion were imprisoned, where one died, while two were convicted of treason and sentenced to death by hanging. Later, Washington pardoned all the men involved. [139] [140]

The suppression of the Whiskey Rebellion met with widespread popular approval. [141] This was the first time the new government had been directly opposed, and through a clear show of federal authority, Washington established the principle that federal law is the supreme law of the land, [142] and demonstrated that the federal government had both the ability and willingness to suppress violent resistance to the nation's laws. The government's response to the rebellion was, therefore, viewed by the Washington administration as a success, a view that has generally been endorsed by historians. [143]

Rise of political parties Edit

Initially, Jefferson and Hamilton enjoyed a friendly working relationship. While never close, they seldom clashed during the first year in the Washington administration. Even so, deep philosophical differences soon caused a rift between them, and finally drove them apart. [144] [145] Hamilton believed that a vigorous use of the central government was essential for the task of nation-building. [146] He also believed that "a flourishing merchant economy would sow opportunities for all, resulting in a more philanthropic, knowledgeable and enterprising people." In Jefferson's view, centralized government was "simply European-style tyranny waiting to happen again." He idealized the yeoman farmers, for they "controlled their own destinies, and also a republic that, resting on the yeoman farmer, would keep 'alive that sacred fire' of personal liberty and virtue." [144] These differences gained their clearest expression in the debate about the Bank of the United States. [146]

As a split grew proponents and critics of Hamilton's economic policies, Jefferson and Madison sought to counter the influence of a Hamilton-aligned newspaper, the Gazette of the United States. They convinced Philip Freneau to establish the National Gazette, which recast the national politics not as a battle between Federalists and Anti-Federalists, but as a debate between aristocrats and republicans. By the end of 1792, political observers had begun to note the emergence of two political parties. [147] In May 1792, Hamilton himself wrote, "Mr. Madison cooperating with Mr. Jefferson is at the head of a faction decidedly hostile to me and my administration." [148] Washington sought to alleviate the rising tension between Jefferson and Hamilton, as well as prevent the partisan polarization of national politics, but by the end of 1792 Jefferson and his followers completely distrusted Hamilton. [149] The faction aligned with Hamilton became known as the Federalists, while those aligned with Jefferson and Madison became known as the Republicans (often referred to as the Democratic-Republican Party to avoid confusion with the modern Republican Party). Political leaders of both groups, but especially the Federalists, were reluctant to label their own faction as a political party. Nonetheless, distinct and consistent voting blocs emerged in Congress in 1793. [150] The Democratic-Republicans were strongest in the South, and many of the party's leaders were wealthy Southern slaveowners. The Democratic-Republicans also attracted middle-class Northerners, such as artisans, farmers, and lower-level merchants, who were eager to challenge the power of the local elite. [151] The Federalists had broad support in New England, but in other places they relied on wealthy merchants and landowners. [152]

While economic policies were the original motivating factor in the growing partisan split, foreign policy also became a factor. Though most Americans supported the French Revolution before the Execution of Louis XVI, some of Hamilton's followers began to fear the radical egalitarianism of the revolution as it became increasingly violent. Washington particularly feared British entrance into the war, as he worried that sympathy for France and hatred for Britain would propel the United States into the French Revolutionary Wars, to the ruin of the American economy. [153] In 1793, after Britain entered the French Revolutionary Wars, several Democratic-Republican Societies were formed. These societies, centered on the middle class of several eastern cities, opposed Hamilton's economic policies and supported France. Conservatives came to fear these societies as populist movements that sought to re-make the class order. That same year, the British began seizing American merchantmen who were trading with France, fanning the flames of anti-British sentiment. As Washington continued to seek peace with Great Britain, critics finally began to attack the president himself. [154]

After crushing the Whiskey Rebellion, Washington publicly blamed the Democratic-Republican Societies for the rebellion, and Jefferson began to view Washington as "the head of a party" rather than "the head of a nation." Hamilton's followers, who coalesced into the Federalist Party, were thrilled by Washington's remarks, and the party sought to closely associate itself with Washington. The passage of the Jay Treaty further inflamed partisan warfare, resulting in a hardening of the divisions between the Federalists and the Democratic-Republicans. [154] By 1795–96, election campaigns—federal, state and local—were waged primarily along partisan lines between the two national parties, although local issues continued to affect elections, and party affiliations remained in flux. [155]

Constitutional amendments Edit

Congress approved 12 amendments to the U.S. Constitution on September 25, 1789, establishing specific constitutional guarantees of personal freedoms and rights, clear limitations on the government's power in judicial and other proceedings, and explicit declarations that all powers not specifically delegated to Congress by the Constitution are reserved for the states or the people, and submitted them to the state legislatures for ratification. [156] Congressional approval of the amendments was led by James Madison. Madison had previously opposed amending the constitution, but he hoped to prevent more far-reaching reforms by passing his own package of constitutional amendments. [157] With the support of Washington, Madison put together a package of relatively uncontroversial amendments that won the backing of both Federalist and Anti-Federalist members of Congress. Congress passed a package of constitutional amendments that were largely based on Madison's original proposals, though some of Madison's ideas were not adopted. [158]

Although some Anti-Federalists continued to call for a new federal constitutional convention and ridiculed them, by December 15, 1791, 10 of the 12 proposed amendments had been ratified by the requisite number of states (then 11), and became Amendments One through Ten of the Constitution collectively they are known as the Bill of Rights. [159] [160] [d]

On March 4, 1794, in response to the ruling in Chisholm v. Georgia, Congress approved an amendment to the United States Constitution clarifying judicial power over foreign nationals, and limiting the ability of citizens to sue states in federal courts and under federal law, and submitted it to the state legislatures for ratification. [163] The Eleventh Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified by the requisite number of states (then 12) on February 7, 1795, to become part of the Constitution. [164]

Slavery Edit

In 1790, the Pennsylvania Abolition Society engaged in an unprecedented lobbying campaign to abolish slavery. Their efforts faced intense opposition from most southern congressmen, who blocked any attempt to abolish an institution that was important to their plantation economy. After a contentious debate, congressional leaders put the proposals aside without voting on them, setting a precedent in which Congress generally avoided discussing slavery. [165] Congress passed two acts related to slavery during the Washington administration: the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793, which made it a federal crime to assist an escaping slave, and established the legal system by which escaped slaves would be returned to their masters [166] and the Slave Trade Act of 1794, which limited the United States' involvement in the transportation of slaves by prohibiting the export of slaves from the country. [167]

Northwest Indian War Edit

Following adoption of the Land Ordinance of 1785, American settlers began freely moving west across the Allegheny Mountains and into the Native American-occupied lands beyond – land Great Britain had ceded to U.S. control at the end of the Revolutionary War (the Northwest Territory). As they did, they encountered unyielding and often violent resistance from a confederation of tribes. In 1789 (before Washington entered office), an agreement that was supposed to address the grievances of the tribes, the Treaty of Fort Harmar, was signed. This new treaty did almost nothing to stop the rash of violence along the frontier from confrontations between settlers and Native Americans and, the following year, Washington directed the United States Army to enforce U.S. sovereignty. Secretary of War Henry Knox ordered Brigadier General Josiah Harmar to launch a major offensive against the Shawnee and Miami Natives living in the region. In October 1790, his force of 1,453 men was assembled near present-day Fort Wayne, Indiana. Harmar committed only 400 of his men under Colonel John Hardin to attack a Native American force of some 1,100 warriors, who easily defeated Hardin's forces. At least 129 soldiers were killed. [168]

Determined to avenge the defeat, the president ordered Major General Arthur St. Clair, who was serving as the governor of the Northwest Territory, to mount a more vigorous effort by the third quarter of 1791. After considerable trouble finding men and supplies, St. Clair was finally ready. At dawn on November 4, 1791, [169] his poorly trained force, accompanied by about 200 camp followers, was camped near the present-day location of Fort Recovery, Ohio. A Native American force consisting of around 2,000 warriors led by Little Turtle, Blue Jacket, and Tecumseh, struck with swift and overwhelming displays of force, and, paralyzing the Americans with fear, soon overran their perimeter. St. Clair's army was almost annihilated during the three-hour encounter. The American casualty rate included 632 of 920 soldiers and officers killed (69%) and 264 wounded. Nearly all of the 200 camp followers were slaughtered, for a total of about 832. [170]

British officials in Upper Canada were delighted and encouraged by the success of the Natives, whom they had been supporting and arming for years, and in 1792 Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe proposed that the entire territory, plus a strip of New York and Vermont be erected into an Indian barrier state. While the British government did not take this proposal up, it did inform the Washington administration that it would not relinquish the Northwest forts, even if the U.S. paid its overdue debts. [171] [172] Also, early in 1794, the British built a new garrison, Fort Miami, along the Maumee River as a show of presence and support for the resistance. [173]

Outraged by news of the defeat, Washington urged Congress to raise an army capable of conducting a successful offense against the Native confederacy, which it did in March 1792 – establishing more Army regiments (the Legion of the United States), adding three-year enlistments, and increasing military pay. [174] The following month the House of Representatives conducted investigative hearings into the debacle. This was the first special Congressional investigation under the federal Constitution. [175] Afterward, Congress passed two Militia Acts: the first empowered the president to call out the militias of the several states the second required that every free able-bodied white male citizen of the various states, between the ages of 18 and 45, enroll in the militia of the state in which they reside. [176]

Next, Washington put General "Mad" Anthony Wayne in command of the Legion of the United States and ordered him to launch a new expedition against Western Confederacy. Wayne spent months training his troops at the army's first formal basic training facility in Legionville, Pennsylvania, in military skills, forest warfare tactics and discipline, then led them west. In late 1793, the Legion began construction of Fort Recovery at the location of St. Clair's defeat and, on June 30 – July 1, 1794, successfully defended it from a Native American attack led by Little Turtle. [177]

Taking the offensive, the legion marched north through the forest, and, upon reaching the confluence of the Auglaize and Maumee rivers—about 45 miles (72 km) southwest of Fort Miami— on August 8, built Fort Defiance, a stockade with blockhouse bastions. There he offered peace, which was rejected. [171] Wayne's soldiers advanced toward Fort Miami and on August 20, 1794, encountered Native American confederacy forces led by Blue Jacket, in what has become known as the Battle of Fallen Timbers. The first assault on Wayne's Legion was successful, but were able to regroup quickly and pressed the attack with a bayonet charge. The cavalry outflanked Blue Jacket's warriors, who were easily routed. They fled towards Fort Miami but were surprised to find the gates closed against them. The British commander of the fort refused to assist them, unwilling to start a war with the United States. Wayne's army had won a decisive victory. The soldiers spent several days destroying the nearby Native villages and crops, before withdrawing. [178]

With the door slammed shut on them by their old allies, Native American resistance quickly collapsed. [178] Delegates from the various confederation tribes, 1130 persons total, gathered for a peace conference at Fort Greene Ville in June 1795. The conference lasted for six weeks, resulting, on August 3, 1795, in the Treaty of Greenville between the assembled tribes and the "15 fires of the United States." [171] Under its terms, the tribes ceded most of what is now Ohio for American settlement, recognized the United States (rather than Great Britain) as the ruling power in the region, and turned ten chiefs over to the U.S. government as hostages until all white prisoners were returned. This, along with the recently signed Jay Treaty, which provided for the British withdrawal from pre-Revolutionary War forts in the region it had not yet relinquished, solidified U.S. sovereignty over the Northwest Territory. [179] Believing that the Natives were on the verge of extinction due to uncontrolled white settlement in protected lands, Washington and Knox sought to assimilate them into American society. [180] In the Southwest, Washington pursued this policy of assimilation through treaties such as the Treaty of New York (1790) and the Treaty of Holston. [181]

French Revolution Edit

Public debate Edit

With the Storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789, the French Revolution erupted. The American public, remembering the aid provided by the French during the Revolutionary War, was largely enthusiastic, and hoped for democratic reforms that would solidify the existing Franco-American alliance and transform France into a republican ally against aristocratic and monarchical Great Britain. [182] Shortly after the Bastille fell, the main prison key was turned over to the Marquis de Lafayette, a Frenchman who had served under Washington in the American Revolutionary War. In an expression of optimism about the revolution's chances for success, Lafayette sent the key to Washington, who displayed it prominently in the executive mansion. [183] In the Caribbean, the revolution destabilized the French colony of Saint-Domingue (present-day Haiti), as it split the government into royalist and revolutionary factions, and aroused the people to demand civil rights for themselves. Sensing an opportunity, the slaves of northern St. Domingue organized and planned a massive rebellion which began on August 22, 1791. Their successful revolution resulted in the establishment of the second independent country in the Americas (after the United States). [184] Soon after the revolt began, the Washington administration, at French request, agreed to send money, arms, and provisions to Saint-Domingue to assist distressed slave-owning colonists. [185] Reacting to reports spread by fleeing Frenchmen of Haitian slaves murdering people, many Southerners believed that a successful slave revolt in Haiti would lead to a massive race war in America. [186] American aid to Saint-Domingue formed part of the US repayment of Revolutionary War loans, and eventually amounted to about $400,000 and 1,000 military weapons. [187]

From 1790 to 1794, the French Revolution became increasingly radical. [182] In 1792 the revolutionary government declared war on several European nations, including Great Britain, starting the War of the First Coalition. A wave of bloody massacres spread through Paris and other cities late that summer, leaving more than one thousand people dead. On September 21, 1792, France declared itself a republic, and the deposed King Louis XVI was guillotined on January 21, 1793. Then followed a period labeled by some historians as the "Reign of Terror", between the summer of 1793 and the end of July 1794, during which 16,594 official death sentences were carried out against those accused of being enemies of the revolution. [188] Among the executed were persons who had aided the American rebels during the Revolutionary War, such as the navy commander Comte D'Estaing. [189] Lafayette, who was appointed commander-in-chief of the National Guard following the storming of the Bastille, fled France and ended up in captivity in Austria, [190] while Thomas Paine, in France to support the revolutionaries, was imprisoned in Paris. [191]

Though originally most Americans were in support of the revolution, the political debate in the U.S. over the nature of the revolution soon exacerbated pre-existing political divisions and resulted in the alignment of the political elite along pro-French and pro-British lines. Thomas Jefferson became the leader of the pro-French faction that celebrated the revolution's republican ideals. Though originally in support of the revolution, Alexander Hamilton soon led the faction which viewed the revolution with skepticism (believing that "absolute liberty would lead to absolute tyranny") and sought to preserve existing commercial ties with Great Britain. [182] [192] When news reached America that France had declared war on the British, people were divided on whether the U.S. should enter the war on the side of France. Jefferson and his faction wanted to aid the French, while Hamilton and his followers supported neutrality in the conflict. Jeffersonians denounced Hamilton, Vice President Adams, and even the president as friends of Britain, monarchists, and enemies of the republican values that all true Americans cherish. [193] [194] Hamiltonians warned that Jefferson's Republicans would replicate the terrors of the French revolution in America – "crowd rule" akin to anarchy, and the destruction of "all order and rank in society and government." [195]

American neutrality Edit

Although the president, who believed that the United States was too weak and unstable to fight another war with a major European power, wished to avoid any foreign entanglements, [196] a sizable portion of the American public was ready to help the French and their fight for "liberty, equality, and fraternity." In the days immediately following Washington's second inauguration, the revolutionary government of France sent diplomat Edmond-Charles Genêt, called "Citizen Genêt", to America. Genêt's mission was to drum up support for the French cause. Genêt issued letters of marque and reprisal to American ships so they could capture British merchant ships. [197] He attempted to turn popular sentiment towards American involvement in the French war against Britain by creating a network of Democratic-Republican Societies in major cities. [198]

Washington was deeply irritated by this subversive meddling, and when Genêt allowed a French-sponsored warship to sail out of Philadelphia against direct presidential orders, Washington demanded that France recall Genêt. By this time the revolution had taken a more violent approach and Genêt would have been executed had he returned to France. He appealed to Washington, and Washington allowed him to remain, making him the first political refugee to seek sanctuary in the United States. [199] Genêt's actual effectiveness has been contested, with Forrest McDonald writing that "Genêt was almost obsolete by the time he arrived in Charleston on April 8, 1793." [200]

During the Genêt episode, Washington, after consulting his Cabinet, issued a Proclamation of Neutrality on April 22, 1793. In it, he declared the United States neutral in the conflict between Great Britain and France. He also threatened legal proceedings against any American providing assistance to any of the warring countries. Washington eventually recognized that supporting either Great Britain or France was a false dichotomy. He would do neither, thereby shielding the fledgling U.S. from, in his view, unnecessary harm. [201] The Proclamation was formalized into law by the Neutrality Act of 1794. [202]

The public had mixed opinions about Washington's Proclamation of Neutrality. Those who supported Madison and Jefferson were far more likely to be in support of the French Revolution, as they saw it as an opportunity for a nation to achieve liberty from tyrannical rule. Several merchants were extremely happy that the President decided to remain impartial to the revolution. They believed that if the government took a stance on the war, it would ruin their trade relations with the British completely. This economic element was a primary reason for many Federalist supporters wanting to avoid increased conflict with the British. [203] Hamilton supported the Proclamation of Neutrality, defending it both in cabinet meetings, [204] and in newspapers under the pseudonym "Pacificus." [205] He encouraged Washington to issue the Proclamation, lecturing him about the need for a "continuance of the peace, the desire of which may be said to be both universal and ardent." [206]

Relations with Great Britain Edit

Seizures and economic retaliation Edit

Upon going to war against France, the British Royal Navy began intercepting ships of neutral countries bound for French ports. The French imported large amounts of American foodstuffs, and the British hoped to starve the French into defeat by intercepting these shipments. [207] In November 1793, the British government widened the scope of these seizures to include any neutral ships trading with the French West Indies, including those flying the American flag. [208] By the following March, more than 250 U.S. merchant ships had been seized. [209] Americans were outraged, and angry protests erupted in several cities. [210] Many Jeffersonians in Congress demanded a declaration of war, but Congressman James Madison instead called for strong economic retaliation, including an embargo on all trade with Britain. [211] Further inflaming anti-British sentiment in Congress, news arrived while the matter was under debate that the Governor General of British North America, Lord Dorchester, had made an inflammatory speech inciting Native tribes in the Northwest Territory against the Americans. [208] [211] [e]

Congress responded to these "outrages" by passing a 30-day embargo on all shipping, foreign and domestic, in American harbours. [209] In the meantime, the British government had issued an order in council partially repealing effects of the November order. This policy change did not defeat the whole movement for commercial retaliation, but it cooled passions somewhat. The embargo was later renewed for a second month but then was permitted to expire. [213] In response to Britain's more conciliatory policies, Washington named Supreme Court Chief Justice John Jay as special envoy to Great Britain to avoid war. [214] [f] This appointment provoked the ire of Jeffersonians. Although confirmed by a comfortable margin in the U.S. Senate (18–8), debate on the nomination was bitter. [218]

Jay Treaty Edit

Jay was instructed by Alexander Hamilton to seek compensation for the seizure of American ships and to clarify the rules governing the British seizure of neutral ships. He was also to insist that the British relinquish their posts in the Northwest. In return, the U.S. would take responsibility for pre-Revolution debts owed to British merchants and subjects. He also asked Jay, if possible, to seek limited access for American ships to the British West Indies. [208] Jay and the British Foreign Secretary, Lord Grenville, began negotiations on July 30, 1794. The treaty that emerged several weeks later, commonly known as the Jay Treaty, was, in Jay's words "equal and fair." [219] Both sides achieved many objectives several issues were sent to arbitration. For the British, America remained neutral and economically grew closer to Britain. The Americans also guaranteed favorable treatment to British imports. In return, the British agreed to evacuate the western forts, which they had been supposed to do by 1783. They also agreed to open their West Indies ports to smaller American ships, allow small vessels to trade with the French West Indies, and set up a commission that would adjudicate American claims against Britain for seized ships, and British claims against Americans for debts incurred before 1775. As the treaty contained neither concessions on impressment nor a statement of rights for American sailors, another commission was later established to settle both those and boundary issues. [220]

Once the treaty arrived in Philadelphia in March 1795, Washington—who had misgivings about the treaty's terms—kept its contents confidential until June, when a special session of the Senate convened to give its advice and consent. Peter Trubowitz writes that during these several months Washington wrestled with "a strategic dilemma", balancing geopolitics and domestic politics. "If he threw his support behind the treaty, he risked destroying his fragile government from within due to partisan rage. If he shelved the treaty to silence his political detractors, there would likely be war with Great Britain, which had the potential to destroy the government from the outside." [221] Submitted on June 8, debate on the treaty's 27 articles was carried out in secret, and lasted for more than two weeks. [222] Republican senators, who wanted to pressure Britain to the brink of war, [223] denounced the Jay Treaty as an insult to American prestige, and a repudiation of the 1778 treaty with France New York's Aaron Burr argued point-by-point why the whole agreement should be renegotiated. On June 24, the Senate approved the treaty by a vote of 20–10 – the precise two-thirds majority vote necessary for ratification. [222]

Although the Senate hoped to keep the treaty secret until Washington had decided whether or not to sign it, it was leaked to a Philadelphia editor who printed it in full on June 30. [222] Once the public became aware of the terms of the agreement, in the words of Samuel Morison, "a howl of rage went up that Jay had betrayed his country." [224] The reaction to the treaty was the most negative in the South. Southern planters, who owed the pre-Revolution debts to the British and who were now not going to collect for the slaves who had escaped to them during the Revolutionary War, viewed it as a great indignity. As a result, the Federalists lost most of the support they had among planters. [225] Protests, organized by Republicans, included petitions, incendiary pamphlets, and a series of public meetings held in the larger cities, each of which addressed a memorial to the president. [226] As protests from treaty opponents intensified, Washington's initial neutral position shifted to a solid pro-treaty stance, aided by Hamilton's elaborate analysis of the treaty and his two-dozen newspaper essays promoting it. [227] The British, to promote the signing of the treaty, delivered a letter in which Randolph was revealed to have taken bribes from the French. Randolph was forced to resign from the cabinet, his opposition to the treaty became worthless. On August 24, Washington signed the treaty. [228] There was a temporary lull in the Jay Treaty furor thereafter. By late 1796, the Federalists had gained twice as many signatures in favor of the treaty as had been gathered against. Public opinion had been swayed in favor of the treaty. [229] The following year, it flared up again when the House of Representatives inserted itself into the debate. The new debate was not only over the merits of the treaty, but also about whether the House had the power under the Constitution to refuse to appropriate the money necessary for a treaty already ratified by the Senate and signed by the president. [226] Citing its constitutional fiscal authority (Article I, Section 7), the House requested that the president turn over all documents that related to the treaty, including his instructions to Jay, all correspondence, and all other documents relating to the treaty negotiations. He refused to do so, invoking what later became known as executive privilege, [142] and insisted that the House did not have the Constitutional authority to block treaties. [222] [230] A contentious debate ensued, during which Washington's most vehement opponents in the House publicly called for his impeachment. [225] Through it all, Washington responded to his critics by using his prestige, political skills, and the power of office in a sincere and straightforward fashion to broaden public support for his stance. [227] The Federalists heavily promoted the passage, waging what Forrest McDonald calls "The most intensive campaign of pressure politics the nation had yet known." [231] On April 30, the House voted 51–48 to approve the requisite treaty funding. [222] Jeffersonians carried their campaign against the treaty and "pro-British Federalist policies" into the political campaigns (both state and federal) of 1796, where the political divisions marking the First Party System became crystallized. [232]

The treaty pushed the new nation away from France and towards Great Britain. The French government concluded that it violated the Franco-American treaty of 1778 and that the U.S. government had accepted the treaty despite the overwhelming public sentiment against it. [232] This set up a series of diplomatic and political conflicts over the ensuing four years, culminating in the Quasi-War. [222] [233] The Jay Treaty also helped ensure American control of its own frontier lands. After the signing of the treaty, the British withdrew their support from several Native American tribes, while the Spanish, fearing that the Jay Treaty signaled the creation of an Anglo-American alliance, sought to appease the United States. [234]

Barbary pirates Edit

Following the end of the Revolutionary War, the ships of the Continental Navy were gradually disposed of, and their crews disbanded. The frigate Alliance, which had fired the last shots of the war in 1783, was also the last ship in the Navy. Many in the Continental Congress wanted to keep the ship in active service, but the lack of funds for repairs and upkeep, coupled with a shift in national priorities, eventually prevailed over sentiment. The ship was sold in August 1785, and the navy disbanded. [235] At around the same time American merchant ships in the Western Mediterranean and Southeastern North Atlantic began having problems with pirates operating from ports along North Africa's so-called Barbary Coast – Algiers, Tripoli, and Tunis. In 1784–85, Algerian pirate ships seized two American ships (Maria and Dauphin) and held their crews for ransom. [236] [237] Thomas Jefferson, then Minister to France, suggested an American naval force to protect American shipping in the Mediterranean, but his recommendations were initially met with indifference, as were later recommendations of John Jay, who proposed building five 40-gun warships. [236] [237] Beginning late in 1786, the Portuguese Navy began blockading Algerian ships from entering the Atlantic Ocean through the Strait of Gibraltar, which provided temporary protection for American merchant ships. [236] [238]

Piracy against American merchant shipping had not been a problem before 1776, when ships from the Thirteen Colonies were protected by British warships and treaties (nor was it a problem during the revolution, as the French Navy assumed the responsibility as part of the alliance treaty). Only after the U.S. achieved its independence did Barbary pirates begin capturing American ships and demanding ransom or tribute. [238] Also, once the French Revolution started, the British Navy began intercepting American merchant ships suspected of trading with France, and France began intercepting American merchant ships suspected of trading with Great Britain. Defenseless, the American government could do little to resist. [239] Even given these events there was great resistance in Congress to the formation of a naval force. Opponents asserted that payment of tribute to the Barbary states was a better solution than building a navy, which they argued would only lead to calls for a navy department, and the staff to operate it. This would then lead to more appropriations of funds, which would eventually spiral out of control, giving birth to a "self-feeding entity." [240] [241] Then, in 1793, a truce negotiated between Portugal and Algiers ended Portugal's blockade of the Strait of Gibraltar, freeing the Barbary pirates to roam the Atlantic. Within months, they had captured 11 American vessels and more than a hundred seamen. [235] [238]

The cumulation of all these events led Washington to request Congress to establish a standing navy. [242] [243] After a contentious debate, Congress passed the Naval Armament Act on March 27, 1794, authorizing construction of six frigates (to be built by Joshua Humphreys). These ships were the first ships of what eventually became the present-day United States Navy. [235] [240] Soon afterward, Congress also authorized funds to obtain a treaty with Algiers and to ransom Americans held captive (199 were alive at that time, including a few survivors from the Maria and the Dauphin). Ratified in September 1795, the final cost of the return of those held captive and peace with Algiers was $642,000, plus $21,000 in annual tribute. The president was unhappy with the arrangement, but realized the U.S. had little choice but to agree to it. [244] Treaties were also concluded with Tripoli, in 1796, and Tunis in 1797, each carrying with it an annual U.S. tribute payment obligation for protection from attack. [245] The new Navy would not be deployed until after Washington left office the first two frigates completed were: United States, launched May 10, 1797 and Constitution, launched October 21, 1797. [246]

Relations with Spain Edit

In the late 1780s, Georgia grew eager to firm up its trans-Appalachian land claim, and meet citizen demands that the land be developed. The territory claimed by Georgia, which it called the "Yazoo lands", ran west from the Appalachian Mountains to the Mississippi River, and included most of the present-day states of Alabama and Mississippi (between 31° N and 35° N). The southern portion of this region was also claimed by Spain as part of Spanish Florida. One of Georgia's efforts to accomplish its goals for the region was a 1794 plan developed by governor George Mathews and the Georgia General Assembly. It soon became a major political scandal, known as the Yazoo land scandal. [247] [248]

Spain had, since 1763, controlled the lands west of the Mississippi River. Those lands consisted of Spanish Louisiana and New Orleans. Great Britain, from 1763 to 1783, controlled the lands east of the Mississippi, British Florida, north from the Gulf of Mexico. Spain gained possession of British Florida south of 31° N and claimed the rest of it – north to 32° 22′ (the junction of the Mississippi and Yazoo Rivers). Thereafter, Spain attempted to slow the migration of American settlers into the region, and to lure those already there to secede from the United States. [249] Toward this end, in 1784 the Spanish closed New Orleans to American goods coming down the Mississippi, which was the only viable outlet for the goods produced by many American settlers, and began selling weapons to the Native tribes in the Yazoo. [250]

After Washington issued his 1793 Proclamation of Neutrality he became concerned that Spain, which later that year joined Britain in war against France, might work in concert with Britain to incite insurrection in the Yazoo against the U.S., using the opening of trade on the Mississippi as an enticement. [250] At that same time though, mid-1794, Spain was attempting to extract itself from its alliance with the British, and to restore peace with France. As Spain's prime minister, Manuel de Godoy, was attempting to do so, he learned of John Jay's mission to London and became concerned that those negotiations would result in an Anglo-American alliance and an invasion of Spanish possessions in North America. Sensing the need for rapprochement, Godoy sent a request to the U.S. government for a representative empowered to negotiate a new treaty Washington sent Thomas Pinckney to Spain in June 1795. [251]

Eleven months after the signing of the Jay Treaty, the United States and Spain agreed to the Treaty of San Lorenzo, also known as Pinckney's Treaty. Signed on October 27, 1795, the treaty established intentions of peace and friendship between the U.S. and Spain established the southern boundary of the U.S. with the Spanish colonies of East Florida and West Florida, with Spain relinquishing its claim on the portion of West Florida north of the 31st parallel and established the western U.S. border as being along the Mississippi River from the northern U.S. to the 31st parallel. [252]

Perhaps most importantly, Pinckney's Treaty granted both Spanish and American ships unrestricted navigation rights along the entire Mississippi River, as well as duty-free transport for American ships through the Spanish port of New Orleans, opening much of the Ohio River basin for settlement and trade. Agricultural produce could now flow on flatboats down the Ohio River to the Mississippi and on to New Orleans. From there the goods could be shipped around the world. Spain and the United States further agreed to protect the vessels of the other party anywhere within their jurisdictions and to not detain or embargo the other's citizens or vessels. [253]

The final treaty also voided Spanish guarantees of military support that colonial officials had made to Native Americans in the disputed regions, greatly weakening those communities' ability to resist encroachment upon their lands. [251] The treaty represented a major victory for the Washington administration and placated many of the critics of the Jay Treaty. It also enabled and encouraged American settlers to continue their movement west, by making the frontier areas more attractive and lucrative. [254] The region that Spain relinquished its claim to through the treaty was organized by Congress as the Mississippi Territory on April 7, 1798. [255]

Residences Edit

Washington's wife Martha managed the presidential household in the federal capital, in addition to supervising affairs at Mount Vernon. Often referred to as "lady Washington" (the term "First Lady" did not come into common use until the mid 19th century [256] ), she also organized weekly public salons, where she met with visiting dignitaries, members of Congress, and citizens from the local community. These receptions made Martha, as Abigail Adams wrote, "the object of Veneration and Respect." [257] Martha coordinated weekly levees for the president as well. Designed to give the public access to the president and to project a dignified public image of the presidency, these receptions also elicited criticism. Opposition newspapers derided them as monarchical and wasteful. Nonetheless, the gatherings became a fixture in the capital's social scene, and continued throughout Washington's presidency. [258]

Washington and his household lived in three executive mansions during his presidency:

Residence and location Time span Notes
Samuel Osgood House
3 Cherry Street
New York, New York
April 23, 1789

February 23, 1790 [259]
Congress leased the house from Samuel Osgood for a sum of $845 per year. [260] [261]
Alexander Macomb House
39–41 Broadway
New York, New York
February 23, 1790

August 30, 1790 [259]
The "first family" moved into this larger and more conveniently located house when Elénor-François-Elie, Comte de Moustier returned to France. [261]
President's House
524–30 Market Street
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
November 27, 1790

March 10, 1797 [262] [263]
Washington brought nine of his numerous slaves to Philadelphia, circumventing the 1788 amendments to Pennsylvania's Gradual Abolition law by rotating them between the capital and Mount Vernon. [264]

Tours Edit

Washington made three major tours around the country. The first was to New England (1789), the second to Rhode Island and New York City (1790), and the third to the Southern states of Maryland, Virginia, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina (1791). [265] His main goals were to educate himself about "the principal character and internal circumstances" of the different regions of the country, as well as meet "well-informed persons, who might give him useful information and advice on political subjects." [266]

Because he was himself from the South, Washington decided to visit the Northern states first. After Congress went into recess in September 1789, Washington traveled to New England, making his first stop in New Haven, Connecticut. Washington then traveled to Boston, where a large crowd greeted him. From Boston, Washington traveled north, stopping in Marblehead and Salem, Massachusetts. About a week after arriving in Boston, he traveled north to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and circled back to New York, stopping in Waltham and Lexington. The trip was a success, serving to consolidate his popularity and improve his health. During his time in New England, Washington inspected possible sites for roads and canals and observed textile mills. [267] After Rhode Island ratified the Constitution in 1790, Washington promptly took another tour to visit it. Along with Jefferson and New York governor George Clinton, he first stopped in Newport, Rhode Island, then traveled to Providence, Rhode Island. [268]

In 1791, Washington toured the South, largely to promote national unity amid uproar over Hamilton's economic plan and slavery. The trip began on March 20, 1791, when Washington and a small group of aides began sailing down the Severn River. After sailing through a large storm, they arrived in Annapolis. From Annapolis they traveled to Mount Vernon, and from there to Colchester, Virginia, to Richmond, Virginia. After leaving Richmond, they went to Petersburg, then Emporia, Virginia. They left Virginia and went to Craven County, North Carolina, then New Bern. The group's last stop in North Carolina was Wilmington, after which they traveled to Georgetown, South Carolina, subsequently stopping in Charleston. Washington had never traveled south of North Carolina before 1791, and he was warmly received in Charleston. After South Carolina, Washington and his party arrived in Georgia, going to (among others) Augusta. In late May, the group turned around, stopping at many Revolutionary War battle sites. On June 11, 1791, they arrived back at Mount Vernon. [269] [270]

When the federal government began operations under the new form of government in the spring of 1789, two states—North Carolina and Rhode Island—were not yet members of the Union as neither had ratified the Constitution. [271] [272] Both did so while Washington was in office, thereby joining the Union: North Carolina, November 21, 1789 [273] [274] and Rhode Island, May 29, 1790. [274] While North Carolina joined of its own accord, Rhode Island only joined the Union after the federal government threatened to break off trade relations. [273] [275]

Three new states were admitted to the Union (each on an equal footing with the existing states) while Washington was in office: Vermont, on March 4, 1791 [276] [g] Kentucky, on June 1, 1792 [278] [h] and Tennessee, on June 1, 1796. [279] [i]

Farewell Address Edit

As his second term entered its final year in 1796, Washington was exhausted from years of public service. Though he remained in fine mental condition, his physical health had begun to decline. He was also bothered by the constant attacks from the Democratic-Republican press, which had escalated after the signing of the Jay Treaty. Perhaps most importantly, Washington believed that he had accomplished his major goals as president. The nation had a stable economy, a strong grip over its Western territories, and peaceful relations with foreign powers. [280] Against the wishes of most Federalists, who hoped that the president would seek re-election, Washington decided early in 1796 that he would retire unless compelled to run by a national emergency. He delayed a formal announcement until later in the year, but began drafting his Farewell Address. [281]

Washington's retirement was a momentous decision, as at that time in the western world, national leaders rarely relinquished their titles voluntarily. [282] In making the announcement and then following through on it, Washington established a precedent for the democratic transfer of executive power. [283] His departure from office after two terms set a pattern for subsequent U.S. presidents. [282] [283] [j]

In 1792, when Washington had considered retiring after one term, he turned to James Madison for help composing a "valedictory address" to the public. Now, four years later, he turned to Alexander Hamilton for guidance. Over the course of several months, Hamilton and the president collaborated on the form and wording of the address. One of Hamilton's drafts included pointedly sharp criticism of the newspapers and the press of the day, something subsequently not included in the final, finished letter. [285] The final product, wrote Hamilton biographer Marie Hecht, "was a true marriage of minds, the peak of amity and understanding between the two men." Most historians believe that while the language is primarily Hamilton's, the ideas are essentially Washington's. [283] The address was published on September 19, 1796, in David Claypoole's American Daily Advertiser. It was immediately reprinted in newspapers and as a pamphlet throughout the United States. [286]

Washington makes clear at the outset that he was not running for a third term, and then thanks his fellow citizens for the opportunity to serve as their president. [287] He then writes about the preservation of the Union, the core of American nationhood, and which, along with the Constitution binds all Americans together and provides for the popular well-being. Concerned about the obstacles and potential hazards that lay ahead for the nation, Washington urges the nation's people to cherish and safeguard their hard-won system of republican government despite their many differences. [288]

The unity of government which constitutes you one people is also now dear to you. It is justly so for it is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence, the support of your tranquility at home, your peace abroad, of your safety, of your prosperity, of that very liberty which you so highly prize. But as it is easy to foresee that, from different causes and from different quarters, much pains will be taken, many artifices employed, to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth as this is the point in your political fortress against which the batteries of internal and external enemies will be most constantly and actively (though often covertly and insidiously) directed, it is of infinite moment that you should properly estimate the immense value of your national Union to your collective and individual happiness that you should cherish a cordial, habitual, and immovable attachment to it accustoming yourselves to think and speak of it as of the palladium of your political safety and prosperity watching for its preservation with jealous anxiety discountenancing whatever may suggest even a suspicion that it can in any event be abandoned and indignantly frowning upon the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest, or to enfeeble the sacred ties which now link together the various parts. [289] Full text

The address is largely a statement of his policies while in office, with some comments mixed in to highlight certain points, [287] in which he builds a case for the steps needed to perpetuate the union, a concept that began to germinate among and between the states during the Revolutionary War. In doing so he lifts a well-formed and functioning Constitution (the rule of law), along with the proper habits and dispositions (both intellectual and religious) of the people as essential. Washington also lays out the greatest threats he sees to the Union, warning Americans to distrust the passions of political factionalism, be wary of foreign interference in the nation's domestic affairs, and avoid an entangling foreign policy. [288]

After Washington died in 1799, the address was reprinted in newspapers, and included in schoolbooks and collections of Washington's writings and biographies throughout the country. [283] A quarter-century later, both Jefferson and Madison placed it on the primary reading list at the University of Virginia, describing it as one of the "best guides" to the "distinctive principles" of American government. [288] It became one of the "great state papers of American history", often read in classrooms and other venues long after Washington left office. [290] The U.S. Senate observes Washington's Birthday (February 22) each year by selecting one of its members, alternating parties, to read the address in legislative session. [291]

Today the address is primarily remembered for its words concerning non-involvement in European wars and politics. For much of the 19th century, the expanse of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans had made it possible for the U.S. to enjoy a kind of "free security" and remain largely detached from Old World conflicts, [292] and social conventions made international travel by incumbent politicians taboo. [293] The restriction began to erode and break down in the early 20th century, as policy makers at the federal level began to reevaluate the nation's role in international affairs. The first international presidential trip was made in 1906 by Theodore Roosevelt, [294] and subsequently, during World War I, Woodrow Wilson made a case for U.S. intervention in the conflict and a U.S. interest in maintaining a peaceful world order. [292] Since then, the U.S. has signed numerous treaties of alliance with foreign nations. [295]

Election of 1796 Edit

Washington's announcement on September 19, 1796, that he would not be a candidate for a third term was, in the words of congressman Fisher Ames, "a signal, like dropping a hat, for the party racers to start." During the ensuing ten weeks, partisans from both factions sprang into action in an intensive and focused effort to influence the outcome of the electoral vote. Like the previous two presidential elections, no candidates were put forward for voters to choose between in 1796. The Constitution provided for the selection of electors, [k] who would then elect a president. [297] The clear favorite of Democratic-Republicans was Thomas Jefferson, although he was very reluctant to run. [298] John Adams was the choice of a large majority of the Federalists. [297]

The Democratic-Republicans in Congress held a nominating caucus and named Jefferson and Aaron Burr as their presidential choices. Jefferson at first declined the nomination, but he agreed to run a few weeks later. Federalist members of Congress held an informal nominating caucus and named Adams and Thomas Pinckney as their candidates for president. [298] [299] The campaign, was, for the most part, unorganized and sporadic, confined to newspaper attacks, pamphlets and political rallies [297] of the four contenders, only Burr actively campaigned. [296]

In early November, France's ambassador to the U.S., Pierre Adet, inserted himself into the political debate on behalf of Jefferson, publishing statements designed to arouse anti-British sentiment and to leave the impression that a Jefferson victory would result in improved relations with France. [297] [300] Then, late in the campaign, Alexander Hamilton, desiring "a more pliant president than Adams", maneuvered to tip the election to Pinckney. He coerced South Carolina Federalist electors, pledged to vote for "favorite son" Pinckney, to scatter their second votes among candidates other than Adams. Hamilton's scheme was undone when several New England state electors heard of it, conferred, and agreed not to vote for Pinckney. [301]

The electoral votes were counted during a Joint Session of Congress on February 8, 1797 Adams won the presidency by a narrow margin, garnering 71 electoral votes to 68 for Jefferson (who became the vice president). [298] [302] The balance of the Electoral College votes were dispersed among: Thomas Pinckney (59), Aaron Burr (30), Samuel Adams (15), Oliver Ellsworth (11), George Clinton (7), John Jay (5), James Iredell (3), John Henry (2), Samuel Johnston (2), George Washington (2), and C. C. Pinckney (1). [15]

George Washington's presidency has generally been viewed as one of the most successful, and he is often considered to be one of the three greatest American presidents ever. [303] [304] When historians began ranking the presidents in 1948, Washington ranked 2nd in Arthur M. Schlesinger Sr.'s poll, [305] and has subsequently been ranked 3rd in the Riders-McIver Poll (1996), [306] and 2nd in the 2017 survey by C-SPAN. [307]

Washington has been heavily written about, with more than 900 books having been written about him. [ citation needed ] Forrest McDonald concluded that "George Washington was indispensable, but only for what he was, not for what he did. He was the symbol of the presidency [but]. Washington had done little in his own right, had often opposed the best measures of his subordinates, and had taken credit for his achievements that he had no share in bringing about." [308] By contrast, in his piece on Washington, Stephen Knott wrote "Literally the 'Father of the Nation,' Washington almost single-handedly created a new government—shaping its institutions, offices, and political practices. Washington's profound achievements built the foundations of a powerful national government that has survived for more than two centuries." [309] Knotts adds that historians generally consider Washington's inability to prevent the outbreak of heated partisan battles to be his greatest failure. [142] Ron Chernow considers Washington's presidency to be "simply breathtaking" writing: [310]

He had restored American credit and assumed state debt created a bank, a mint, a coast guard, a customs service, and a diplomatic corps introduced the first accounting, tax, and budgetary procedures maintained peace at home and abroad inaugurated a navy, bolstered the army, and shored up coastal defenses and infrastructure proved that the country could regulate commerce and negotiate binding treaties protected frontier settlers, subdued Indian uprisings, and established law and order amid rebellion, scrupulously adhering all the while to the letter of the Constitution . Most of all he had shown a disbelieving world that republican government could prosper without being spineless or disorderly or reverting to authoritarian rule.

Washington faced death bravely

George Washington was a human being, as flawed as anyone. But you could never accuse him of cowardice. After repeatedly demonstrating his bravery when facing both bullets and opposing politicians, Washington had one last opportunity to prove his bravery — and he did not disappoint.

First, when Washington began to feel very unwell, his wife, Martha, suggested she go to fetch a doctor. According to The Washington Library, the former First Lady had just recovered from an illness herself, and Washington wouldn't let her go out into the cold to do so. After feeling worse and worse over the course of hours and enduring painful treatments, Washington was all business. He reviewed his will and calmly issued instructions for his burial.

Later, as author Frank E. Grizzard notes, Washington called his personal physician and old friend James Craik over to him and said, "Doctor, I die hard but I am not afraid to go I believed from my first attack that I should not survive it my breath can not last long." After facing death as calmly as anyone possibly could, Washington took the time — while dying — to thank the three physicians who had tried so hard to save him, proving that not even death could strip Washington of proper etiquette.

George Washington

On February 22, 1732, George was born to Augustine and Mary Ball Washington. He spent most of his childhood at Ferry Farm on the Rappahannock River. All of the homes and plantations where Washington lived were maintained by enslaved labor. When George was eleven, his father died and he became a slave owner. As a result, George did not receive a formal education like his older half-brothers. Instead, he helped his mother on the farm and attended a local school in Fredericksburg. For the rest of his life, Washington supplemented his education with reading and self-guided study.

At seventeen-years old, George used his family connections to secure appointment as the surveyor for Culpeper County. This position offered adventure, a steady income, and the opportunity to view and purchase unclaimed land. His surveying experience also instilled in George a firm conviction in the importance of westward expansion to the future of the colonies, and later the United States.

In 1753, Lieutenant Governor of Virginia Robert Dinwiddie sent twenty-one-year-old Washington, now a Major in the Virginia Regiment, to deliver a message to the French, demanding they abandon the Ohio Valley. Washington later published his account of the trip, giving him an international reputation. A few months later, Washington again marched out west with 150 men to enforce Virginia’s claim. The mission ended in a humiliating surrender at Fort Necessity, followed by Washington’s resignation of his commission. Two years later, Washington again witnessed fighting in the Ohio Country, this time as an aide-de-camp in British General Edward Braddock’s official family. Braddock’s army suffered an overwhelming defeat near the Monongahela River, but Washington was commended for rallying the survivors in the face of chaos.

On January 6, 1758, George married Martha Dandridge Custis, a beautiful and charming widow from Virginia. George acquired significant wealth and a partner for the next four decades through the marriage. Between 1759 and 1775, George served many terms in the Virginia House of Burgesses and devoted himself to improving farming practices at his plantation through the labor of the growing enslaved community.

After supporting the colonies’ protests against British tax measures in the 1770s, Washington was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army by Congress in June 1775. For the next eight years, Washington remained with the army, only leaving camp to attend summons by Congress. Under Washington’s command, the Continental Army lost more battles than it won, constantly struggling to obtain the necessary food, supplies, and ammunition. But the army persisted—and the colonies’ fight for independence could not be extinguished. Washington also served a critical role ensuring that military power remained subordinate to civilian government. He never used his authority to challenge Congress and ended potential military coups within the army’s ranks.

When the Treaty of Paris ended the Revolutionary War, Washington resigned his commission to Congress. Washington’s relinquishing of power was nearly unprecedented and made him an international hero.

In 1787, Washington was again called to serve when Virginia appointed him as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention. The delegates crafted a Constitution that created a government with significantly more authority and centralized power. They hoped the new government would address the economic, diplomatic, and domestic calamities that had besieged the nation for over a decade under the Articles of Confederation. Unsurprisingly, the delegates trusted Washington with the presidency. To this day, he is the only president to be unanimously elected.

On April 16, 1789, George Washington left his home at Mount Vernon to travel to New York City to be inaugurated as the first President of the United States. During Washington’s presidency, at least ten enslaved people worked at the president’s houses in New York City and Philadelphia: Ona, Hercules, Moll, Giles, Austin, Richmond, Paris, Joe, Christopher Sheels, and William Lee. They tended the horses and carriages in the stables, escorted Washington and his family when they left the house, cooked in the kitchen, did laundry, cleaned the home, cared for the Washingtons’ grandchildren, helped the Washingtons dress in the morning, greeted guests, and more. Click here to learn more about the enslaved household of President George Washington.

During Washington’s presidency, he established countless precedents that guided his successors, including creating the president’s cabinet, asserting executive privilege, and using the veto for the first time. He also expanded executive authority over diplomatic and domestic issues, crafting foreign policy during the Neutrality Crisis in 1793 and subduing the Whiskey Rebellion in 1794. Perhaps most importantly, Washington again relinquished his power when he retired after two terms in office. This precedent was reinforced by Thomas Jefferson and followed by every successive president until Franklin D. Roosevelt. In 1951, the states ratified the 22 nd Amendment, which limits presidents to two terms in office.

After retiring from public office, Washington returned to Mount Vernon for a few short years. On December 14, 1799, Washington died of a throat infection. His will included a provision to immediately free William Lee, his enslaved valet who served with him during the American Revolution. He also stipulated that the other 122 enslaved people owned by him receive their freedom upon Martha’s passing. While Washington was a slave owner for 56 years, he was the only Founding Father president to free all of the enslaved people he held in bondage.

President George Washington - History

Every American knows that George Washington was the first president of the United States of America. It is a name known by every American citizen and of all other figures and personalities throughout the history of the United States. His name is arguably the one that is most commonly associated with the very foundation of America. But what most people may not be aware of is that apart from being the first president of the country, he also had various achievements in military and politics to the extent that he is a much-admired individual in several aspects. Up to this day, people call him “The Father of the Nation” which only goes to show that they regard him as the founder of the United States.

In the political aspect, George Washington proved to be an excellent leader throughout his career and his entire life. Being a leader of a democratic government which he pioneered himself, his responsibilities were countless and challenging. Dictatorship didn’t appeal to him at all, which was in contrast to most leaders during his time. Some of the qualities that a great leader possesses are perseverance and courage. George Washington had both. There were numerous moments in his life when he had to persevere and be courageous and such moments defined him not only as a leader but also a person.

Early Life

George Washington was born on the 22nd of February, 1732 in a small county of Westmoreland, which can be found in Virginia. He was the eldest son of Augustine and Mary Washington. His father and older brother decided to have him home-schooled but both died when he was only eleven years old. Through self-education and dedication, he became an expert woodsman and mapmaker. He got married in 1759 to a rich widow named Martha Curtis. The couple didn’t have children of their own although Curtis had two children who were from her previous marriage.

George Washington’s Education

Compared to most leaders of his time, George Washington’s education was considerably limited. While his two older half-brothers went to England to pursue education, he stayed at home. In fact, he never had any experience of going to college or studying an additional language. It can be said that his education ended when he was about 16 years old. History couldn’t tell for sure about who taught Washington or where he attended school. The only proof that he got some education was his school papers. These papers can prove that he had a useful education which helped him later on in life.
In his own words, Washington described his education as something that was “defective.” Although his education continued all through the rest of his life, the fact that his formal education was short-lived made him a very self-conscious individual. Books, studying the people he respected, and learning from others were among the ways he was able to learn.

Washington as a Military Leader

In 1753, Washington joined the military forces. He became a military adjunct for one of Virginia’s districts. His first task was to carry out a warning to the French that they were encroaching upon the British territory. He also had a military role in the 1754 French and Indian War. Around the same year, he was responsible for attacking a French scouting party when he was travelling to Fort Duquesne. His platoon was able to kill 12 soldiers and wounded 22. This event signalled the start of the war.

On July 3, 1754 at Fort Necessity, Washington decided to surrender after being forced to do so. Around the end of the year, he left his post but the following year, he enlisted again, making him part of British General Braddock’s forces that replaced Fort Duquesne in 1758. His losses and victories were integral in shaping his future endeavours, especially in the Revolutionary War.

He became Commander in Chief of the Continental Forces in June of 1775 and his first task included training of more than 10,000 new recruits. During the remaining months of the next year, he lost New York City to the British but they evaded capture since he successfully evacuated his troops. In an attempt to take Trenton from the British, Washington and his men crossed the Delaware River on Christmas night of 1776. He did not fail as he was able to take Princeton in early January of 1777. His troops suffered from the harsh winter of 1777 to 1778 but he persevered on keeping their spirits aflame.

Washington was awarded with leadership assistance from Prussian Barron von Steuben and the French Marquis de Lafayette in the spring of 1778. A few years later, the turmoil moved to the South. Finally, after several years of fighting and blood bath, the British colony was defeated in 1781. With Washington’s surrender, the Revolutionary war came to a close. There were two things noteworthy for the granting of their independence – Washington’s unique military and combative strategies and the assistance of the French.

The Constitutional Convention and the First President

Washington was present during the 1787 Constitutional Convention which was held in Philadelphia Pennsylvania. This was an important milestone in the history because this was when the United States Constitution was originally drafted. It was the Constitution that served as the primary outline of how the government should function. A year later, the Constitution was approved but it didn’t take into effect under 1789.

Washington emerged as the top leader when the time came for voters to select their first leader in 1789. The vote as the first President of the U.S. was unanimous. His second term in 1792 was also voted unanimously by the American people who believed in his leadership. Even though he accomplished a lot during his eight-year presidency, the Bill of Rights which was adopted in 1791 is considered as his most paramount accomplishment was that of the Bill of Rights. People’s admiration only got stronger when he refused to serve a third term. In his farewell speech, he explained that serving in a third term can only give one leader too much power.

The Remaining Days of His life

In March of 1797, Washington retired from politics and returned to Mt. Vernon where he spent most of time tending the field. His health started deteriorating terribly in mid-1799, and he kicked the bucket at his home on the 14th of December, 1799. It is believed that he died of acute case of laryngitis and pneumonia. A few people know about the details of his death, which is non-essential because what really matters most are his various achievements and contributions as a leader.

Washington’s Perseverance

One of George Washington‘s greatest qualities as a leader was perseverance. He pursued his various endeavours in life with perseverance, beginning with self-education after he was prohibited from attending school. Self-education is not a small feat because it can take a lot of patience and perseverance especially during desperate times. It can also mean being able to suppress mounting frustrations caused by several things, one of which is not knowing something. A determined person would hardly get frustrated even if he lacked the knowledge to do his task or he couldn’t figure something out.

George Washington learned through self-study and it showed braveness. Brave people have the courage to teach themselves as nobody can come to the rescue if you’re stuck with something. At some point in his life, Washington might have been stuck and there was nowhere to run to get help so, he would essential rely on himself and try hard to get everything right. With self-education, learning can be pretty hard. When you’re in school, you can easily get help from the teacher who can help you keep on track.

George Washington basically challenged himself to read books and use common sense to understand what the book was saying. You can imagine how he would have to read everything over and over to fully understand the thought or idea written on the book he was reading. If for instance he was trying to solve a mathematical problem and didn’t know the correct answer, he would resort to asking the people in his household, but if they didn’t have the correct answer themselves, George would need to try harder and persevere so he could learn.

Another way that George Washington was able to show admirable perseverance was through the important role in achieving national independence. He had to join in battle, fight in the revolutionary war, negotiate with opposing countries, and create a strong government. Creating a new government needs perseverance because nothing goes perfectly and as such, changes have to be made. Even the people during Washington’s time didn’t have an idea that running a democratic government was better than a dictatorial one. He declined the tempting offer to be the king was offered to be king, but he denied because he wanted the United States to be a democracy with voting.

In creating a new government, he also showed perseverance by convincing several thousands of people that a democratic government was what we needed. Even in current times, the U.S. still fails to convince other countries to shift the government from dictatorial to democracy. Moreover, gaining independence doesn’t happen overnight, so changes have to be made in order for the desired independence to be gained. Lastly, any attempt at gaining independence means having to argue and convince majority of people by making them understand why independence is needed.

Washington’s Courage

Another great quality of George Washington was his admirable courage. In most history books, George Washington is described as a courageous leader. Fighting in the Revolutionary War for example can take a lot of courage and war requires brave men to say the least because when you join in the fight, you are basically putting your life on the line for something that you believe in. Being in the Revolutionary War means braveness, audacity and courage because we are defending our country against those who want to take it away from us. If George Washington and his men didn’t have the courage to fight, the United States may not be as it is today.