Career before the presidency
French and Indian War, 1754 – 1763
Member of House of Burgesses (1759 – 1774)
Delegate to Continental Congress (1774 – 1775)
Commander of Chief of Continental Army during Revolution (1775 – 1783)
President of Constitutional Convention, 1787
Election as President, First Term, 1789
Election as President, Second Term, 1792
INAUGURAL ADDRESS (First)
INAUGURAL ADDRESS (Second)
Secretary of the treasury
Secretary of war
Proclamation of Neutrality, 1793
Whiskey Rebellion, 1794
Jay’s. Treaty, 1795
Pinckney’s Treaty, 1795
Farewell Address, 1796
Sates Admitted to the Union
Constitutional Amendments Ratified
SUPERME COURT APPOINTMENTS
Ranking in 1962 historians poll
Washington’s praise (speech)
Washington’s criticized (speech)
Washington’s quote(s) (speech)
: George Washington. He was probably named after George Eskridge, a lawyer in whose charge Washington's mother had been left when she was orphaned.
Washington was a large, powerful man—about 6 feet 2 inches tall, 175 pounds in his prime, up to more than 200 pounds in later years. Erect in bearing, muscular, broad shouldered, he had large hands and feet (size 13 shoes), a long face with high cheekbones, a large straight nose, determined chin, blue-gray eyes beneath heavy brows and dark brown hair, which on formal occasions he powdered and tied in a queue. His fair complexion bore the marks of smallpox he contracted as a young man. He lost his teeth, probably to gum disease, and wore dentures. According to Dr. Reidar Sognnaes, former dean of the University of California at Los Angeles School of Dentistry, who has made a detailed study of Washington's bridgework, he was fitted with numerous sets of dentures, fashioned variously from lead, ivory, and the teeth of humans, cows, and other animals, but not from wood, as was popularly believed. Moreover, he was not completely toothless. Upon his inauguration as president, Washington had one of his own teeth left to work alongside the dentures. He began wearing reading glasses during the Revolution. He dressed fashionably.
A man of quiet strength, he took few friends into complete confidence. His critics mistook his dignified reserve for pomposity. Life for Washington was a serious mission, a job to be tackled soberly, unremittingly. He had little time for humor. Although basically good-natured, he wrestled with his temper and sometimes lost. He was a poor speaker and could become utterly inarticulate without a prepared text. He preferred to express himself on paper. Still, when he did speak, he was candid, direct, and looked people squarely in the eye. Biographer Douglas Southall Freeman conceded that Washington's "ambition for wealth made him acquisitive and sometimes contentious." Even after Washington had established himself, Freeman pointed out, "he would insist upon the exact payment of every farthing due him" and was determined "to get everything that he honestly could." Yet neither his ambition to succeed nor his acquisitive nature ever threatened his basic integrity.
ANCESTORS: Through his paternal grandmother, Mildred Warner Washington, he descended from King Edward III (1312-1377) of England. His great-great-grandfather the Reverend Lawrence Washington (c. 1602-1653) served as rector of All Saints, Purleigh Parish, Essex, England, but was fired when certain Puritan members accused him of being a "common frequenter of Alehouses, not only himself sitting daily tippling there, but also encouraging others in that beastly vice." His great-grandfather John Washington sailed to America about 1656, intending to remain just long enough to take on a load of tobacco. But shortly after pushing off on the return trip, his ketch sank. Thus John remained in Virginia, where he met and married Anne Pope, the president's great-grandmother.
Augustine Washington (16947-1743), planter. Known to friends as Gus, he spent much of his time acquiring and overseeing some 10,000 acres of land in the Potomac region, running an iron foundry, and tending to business affairs in England. It was upon returning from one of these business trips in 1730 that he discovered that his wife, Jane Butler Washington, had died in his absence. On March 6, 1731, he married Mary Ball, who gave birth to George Washington 11 months later. Augustine Washington died when George was 11 years old. > Because business had kept Mr. Washington away from home so much, George remembered him only vaguely as a tall, fair, kind man.
Mary Ball Washington (c. 1709-1789). Fatherless at 3 and orphaned at 12, she was placed, in accordance with the terms of her mother's will, under the guardianship of George Eskridge, a lawyer. Washington's relationship with his mother was forever strained. Although she was by no means poor, she regularly asked for and received money and goods from George. Still she complained, often to outsiders, that she was destitute and neglected by her children, much to George's embarrassment. In 1755, while her son was away serving his king in the French and Indian War, stoically suffering the hardships of camp life, she wrote to him asking for more butter and a new house servant. Animosity between mother and son persisted until her death from cancer in the first year of his presidency.
SIBLINGS: By his father's first marriage, George Washington had two half brothers to live to maturity—Lawrence Washington, surrogate father to George after the death of their father, and Augustine "Austin" Washington. He also had three brothers and one sister to live to maturity—Mrs. Betty Lewis; Samuel Washington; John Augustine "Jack" Washington, father of Supreme Court Justice Bushrod Washington; and Charles Washington, founder of Charles Town, West "Virginia.
Washington was a half first cousin twice removed of President James Madison, a second cousin seven times removed of Queen Elizabeth II (1926-) of the United Kingdom, a third cousin twice removed of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, and an eighth cousin six times removed of Winston Churchill.
Washington had no natural children; thus, no direct descendant of Washington survives. He adopted his wife's two children from a previous marriage, John Parke Custis and Martha Parke Custis. John's granddaughter Mary Custis married Robert E. Lee.
Washington was born at the family estate on the south bank of the Potomac River near the mouth of Pope's Creek, Westmoreland County, Virginia, at 10 A.M. on February 22, 1732 (Old Style February 11, the date Washington always celebrated as his birthday; in 1752 England and the colonies adopted the New Style, or Gregorian, calendar to replace the Old Style, or Julian, calendar). He was christened on April 5, 1732.
Little is known of Washington's childhood. The legendary cherry tree incident and his inability to tell lies, of course, sprang wholly from the imagination of Parson Weems. Clearly the single greatest influence on young George was his half brother Lawrence, 14 years his senior. Having lost his father when he was 11, George looked upon Lawrence as a surrogate father and undoubtedly sought to emulate him. Lawrence thought a career at sea might suit his little brother and arranged for his appointment as midshipman in the British navy. George loved the idea. Together they tried to convince George's mother of the virtues of such service, but Mary Washington was adamantly opposed. George, then 14, could have run away to sea, as did many boys of his day, but he reluctantly respected his mother's wishes and turned down the appointment. At 16 George moved in with Lawrence at his estate, which he called Mount Vernon, after Admiral Edward Vernon, commander of British forces in the West Indies while Captain Lawrence Washington served with the American Regiment there. At Mount Vernon George honed his surveying skills and looked forward to his twenty-first birthday, when he was to receive his inheritance from his father's estate—the Ferry Farm, near Fredericksburg, where the family had lived from 1738 and where his mother remained until her death; half of a 4,000-acre tract; three lots in Fredericksburg; 10 slaves; and a portion of his father's personal property.
Perhaps because she did not want to part with her eldest son for an extended period, perhaps because she did not want to spend the money, the widow Washington refused to send George to school in England, as her late husband had done for his older boys, but instead exposed him to the irregular education common in colonial Virginia. Just who instructed George is unknown, but by age 11 he had picked up basic reading, writing, and mathematical skills. Math was his best subject. Unlike many of the Founding Fathers, Washington never found time to learn French, then the language of diplomacy, and did not attend university. He applied his mathematical mind to surveying, an occupation much in demand in colonial Virginia, where men's fortunes were reckoned in acres of tobacco rather than pounds of gold.
Episcopalian. However, religion played only a minor role in his life. He fashioned a moral code based on his own sense of right and wrong and adhered to it rigidly. He referred rarely to God or Jesus in his writings but rather to Providence, a rather amorphous supernatural substance that controlled men's lives. He strongly believed in fate, a force so powerful, he maintained, as "not to be resisted by the strongest efforts of human nature."
Washington learned billiards when young, played cards, and especially enjoyed the ritual of the fox hunt. In later years, he often spent evenings reading newspapers aloud to his wife. He walked daily for exercise.
Washington was somewhat stiff and awkward with girls, probably often tongue-tied. In his mid-teens he vented his frustration in such moonish doggerel as, "Ah! woe's me, that I should love and conceal,/ Long have
I wish'd, but never dare reveal,/ Even though severely Loves Pains I feel."
Before he married Martha, Washington's love life was full of disappointment.
The daughter of a justice and burgess from Richmond County, Virginia, she was but 16 when she attracted Washington, then 20. He pressed his suit repeatedly, but, repulsed at every turn, he finally gave up.
During a trip to Boston to straighten out a military matter in 1756, Washington stopped off in New York and there met Mary Philipse, 26, daughter of Frederick Philipse, a wealthy landowner. Whether he was taken with her charms or her 51,000 acres is unknown, but he remained in the city a week and is said to have proposed. She later married Roger Morris, and together they were staunch Tories during the American Revolution.
From the time he met Sarah Gary "Sally" Fairfax as the 18-year-old bride of his friend and neighbor George William Fairfax, Washington was infatuated with her easy charm, graceful bearing, good humor, rare beauty, and intelligence. Although the relationship almost certainly never got beyond flirtation, the two had strong feelings for each other and corresponded often. In one letter written to her in 1758, at a time when he was engaged to Martha, he blurted his love, albeit cryptically lest the note fall into the wrong hands. He confessed he was in love with a woman well known to her and then continued, "You have drawn me, dear Madam, or rather I have drawn myself, into an honest confession of a simple Fact. Misconstrue not my meaning; doubt it not, nor expose it. The world has no business to know the object of my Love, declared in this manner to you, when I want to conceal it." As heartbroken as Washington appears to have been over the hopelessness of the relationship, the anguish might have been greater had he pressed the affair, for the Fairfaxes would not come to share Washington's passion for an independent America. In 1773, the year American resentment over British taxes erupted in the Boston Tea Party, Sally and George Fairfax left Virginia for England, where they settled permanently, loyal subjects to the end.
Washington, 26, married Martha Dandridge Custis, 27, a widow with two children, on January 6, 1759, at her estate, known as the White House, on the Pamunkey River northwest of Williamsburg. Born in New Kent County, Virginia, on June 21, 1731, the daughter of John Dandridge, a planter, and Frances Jones Dandridge, Martha was a rather small, pleasant-looking woman, practical, with good common sense if not a great intellect. At 18 she married Daniel Parke Custis, a prominent planter of more than 17,000 acres. By him she had four children, two of whom survived childhood. Her husband died intestate in 1757, leaving Martha reputedly the wealthiest marriageable woman in Virginia. It seems likely that Washington had known Martha and her husband for some time. In March 1758 he visited her at White House twice; the second time he came away with either an engagement of marriage or at least her promise to think about his proposal. Their wedding was a grand affair. The groom appeared in a suit of blue and silver with red trimming and gold knee buckles. After the Reverend Peter Mossum pronounced them man and wife, the couple honeymooned at White House for several weeks before setting up housekeeping at Washington's Mount Vernon. Their marriage appears to have been a solid one, untroubled by infidelity or clash of temperament. During the American Revolution she endured considerable hardship to visit her husband at field headquarters. As the First Lady, Mrs. Washington hosted many affairs of state at New York and Philadelphia (the capital was moved to Washington in 1800 under the Adams administration). After Washington's death in 1799, she grew morose and died on May 22, 1802.
Washington served in the Virginia militia (1752-1754, 1755-1758), rising from major to colonel, and as commander in chief of the Continental army (1775-1783), with the rank of general. See "Career before the Presidency."
CAREER BEFORE THE PRESIDENCY:
In 1749 Washington accepted his first appointment, that of surveyor of Culpepper County, Virginia, having gained much experience in that trade the previous year during an expedition across the Blue Ridge Mountains on behalf of Lord Fairfax. Two years later he accompanied his half brother Lawrence to Barbados. Lawrence, dying of tuberculosis, had hoped to find a cure in the mild climate. Instead, George came down with a near-fatal dose of smallpox. With the deaths of Lawrence and Lawrence's daughter in 1752, George inherited Mount Vernon, an estate that prospered under his management and one that throughout his life served as welcome refuge from the pressures of public life.
French and Indian War, 1754-1763. In 1752 Washington received his first military appointment as a major in the Virginia militia. On a mission for Governor Robert Dinwiddie during October 1753-January 1754, he delivered an ultimatum to the French at Fort Le Boeuf, demanding their withdrawal from territory claimed by Britain. The French refused. The French and the Ohio Company, a group of Virginians anxious to acquire western lands, were competing for control of the site of present-day Pittsburgh. The French drove the Ohio Company from the area and at the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers constructed Fort Duquesne. Promoted to lieutenant colonel in March 1754, Washington oversaw construction of Fort Necessity in what is now Fayette County, Pennsylvania. However, he was forced to surrender that outpost to superior French and Indian forces in July 1754, a humiliating defeat that temporarily gave France control of the entire region. Later that year, Washington, disgusted with officers beneath his rank who claimed superiority because they were British regulars, resigned his commission. He returned to service, however, in 1755 as an aide-de-camp to General Edward Braddock. In the disastrous engagement at which Braddock was mortally wounded in July 1755, Washington managed to herd what was left of the force to orderly retreat, as twice his horse was shot out from under him. The next month he was promoted to colonel and regimental commander. He resigned from the militia in December 1758 following his election to the Virginia House of Burgesses.
Member of House of Burgesses,
1759-1774. In July 1758 Colonel Washington was elected one of Frederick County's two representatives in the House of Burgesses. He joined those protesting Britain's colonial policy and in 1769 emerged a leader of the Association, created at an informal session of the House of Burgesses, after it had been dissolved by the royal governor, to consider the most effective means of boycotting British imports. Washington favored cutting trade sharply but opposed a suspension of all commerce with Britain. He also did not approve of the Boston Tea Party of December 1773. But soon thereafter he came to realize that reconciliation with the mother country was no longer possible. Meanwhile, in 1770, Washington undertook a nine-week expedition to the Ohio country where, as compensation for his service in the French and Indian War, he was to inspect and claim more than 20,000 acres of land for himself and tens of thousands more for the men who had served under him. He had taken the lead in pressing the Virginia veterans' claim. “I might add, without much arrogance,” he later wrote, “that if it had not been for my unremitted attention to every favorable circumstance, not a single acre of land would ever have been obtained”.
Delegate to Continental Congress,
1774-1775. A member of the Virginia delegation to the First and Second Continental Congresses, Washington served on various military preparedness committees and was chairman of the committee to consider ways to raise arms and ammunition for the impending Revolution. He voted for measures designed to reconcile differences with Britain peacefully but realized that such efforts now were futile. John Adams of Massachusetts, in a speech so effusive in its praise that Washington rushed in embarrassment from the chamber, urged that Washington be named commander in chief of the newly authorized Continental army. In June 1775, delegates unanimously approved the choice of Washington, both for his military experience and, more pragmatically, to enlist a prominent Virginian to lead a struggle that heretofore had been spearheaded largely by northern revolutionaries.
Commander in chief of Continental Army during Revolution,
1775-1783. With a poorly trained, undisciplined force comprised of short-term militia, General Washington took to the field against crack British regulars and Hessian mercenaries. In March 1776 he thrilled New Englanders by flushing the redcoats from Boston, but his loss of New York City and other setbacks later that year dispelled any hope of a quick American victory. Sagging American morale got a boost when Washington slipped across the Delaware River to New Jersey and defeated superior enemy forces at Trenton (December 1776) and Princeton (January 1777). But humiliating defeats at Brandywine (September 1777) and Germantown (October 1777) and the subsequent loss of Philadelphia undermined Washington's prestige in Congress. Richard Henry Lee, Benjamin Rush, and others conspired to remove Washington and replace him with General Horatio Gates, who had defeated General John Burgoyne at the Battle of Saratoga (October 1777). Washington's congressional supporters rallied to quash the so-called Conway Cabal. Prospects for victory seemed bleak as Washington settled his men into winter quarters at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, in December 1777.
"To see men without clothes to cover their nakedness," Washington wrote in tribute to the men who suffered with him at Valley Forge, "without blankets to lay on, without shoes, by which their marches might be traced by the blood from their feet, and almost as often without provisions as with; marching through frost and snow, and at Christmas taking up their winter quarters within a day's march of the enemy, without a house or hut to cover them till they could be built, and submitting to it without a murmur, is a mark of patience and obedience which in my opinion can scarce be paralleled." Of course, some did grumble— and loudly. "No pay! no clothes! no provisions! no rum!" some chanted. But remarkably there was no mass desertion, no mutiny. Patriotism, to be sure, sustained many, but no more so than did confidence in Washington's ability to see them through safely. With the snow-clogged roads impassable to supply wagons, the men stayed alive on such fare as pepper pot soup, a thin tripe broth flavored with a handful of peppercorns. Many died there that winter. Those that survived drew fresh hope with the greening of spring and the news, announced to them by General Washington in May 1778, that France had recognized the independence of America. Also encouraging was the arrival of Baron Friedrich von Steuben, who, at Washington's direction, drilled the debilitated Valley Forge survivors into crack troops. Washington's men broke camp in June 1778, a revitalized army that, with aid from France, took the war to the British and in October 1781 boxed in General Charles Cornwallis at Yorktown, thus forcing the surrender of British forces.
General Washington imposed strict, but not punitive, surrender terms: All weapons and military supplies must be given up; all booty must be returned, but the enemy soldiers could keep their personal effects and the officers could retain their sidearms. British doctors were allowed to tend to their own sick and wounded. Cornwallis accepted, but instead of personally leading his troops to the mutually agreed-upon point of surrender on October 19, 1781, he sent his deputy Brigadier Charles O'Hara. As he made his way along the road flanked by American and French forces, O'Hara came face to face with Washington and the Comte de Rochambeau, the latter decked out in lavish military regalia. O'Hara mistook Rochambeau for the senior commander, but the French officer quickly pointed to Washington, and O'Hara, probably somewhat embarrassed, turned to the American. Unwilling to deal with a man of lesser rank, Washington directed O'Hara to submit the sword of capitulation to his aide General Benjamin Lincoln. In his victory dispatch to Congress, Washington wrote with obvious pride, “Sir, I have the Honor to inform Congress, that a Reduction of the British Army under the Command of Lord Cornwallis, is most happily effected. The unremitting Ardor which actuated every Officer and Soldier in the combined Army in this Occasion, has principally led to this Important Event, at an earlier period than my most sanguine Hope had induced me to expect”. In November 1783, two months after the formal peace treaty was signed, Washington resigned his commission and returned home to the neglected fields of Mount Vernon.
President of Constitutional Convention, 1787. Washington, a Virginia delegate, was unanimously elected president of the convention. He was among those favoring a strong federal government. After the convention he promoted ratification of the Constitution in Virginia. According to the notes of Abraham Baldwin, a Georgia delegate, which were discovered only recently and made public in 1987, Washington said privately that he did not expect the Constitution to last more than 20 years.
ELECTION AS PRESIDENT, FIRST TERM, 1789: Washington, a Federalist, was the obvious choice for the first president of the United States. A proven leader whose popularity transcended the conflict between Federalists and those opposed to a strong central government, the man most responsible for winning independence, a modest country squire with a winsome aversion to the limelight, he so dominated the political landscape that not 1 of the 69 electors voted against him. Thus, he carried all 10 states—Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia. (Neither North Carolina nor Rhode Island had ratified the Constitution yet. New York was unable to decide in time which electors to send.) Washington was the only president elected by a unanimous electoral vote. John Adams of Massachusetts, having received the second-largest number of votes, 34, was elected vice president.
election as president, second term, 1792: Despite the growing strength of Democratic-Republicans, Washington continued to enjoy virtually universal support. Again he won the vote of every elector, 132, and thus carried all 15 states—Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Vermont, and Virginia. John Adams of Massachusetts received the second-highest number of votes, 77, and thus again became vice president.
INAUGURAL ADDRESS (FIRST): New York City, April 30, 1789. ". . . When I was first honored with a call into the service of my country, then on the eve of an arduous struggle for its liberties, the light in which I contemplated my duty required that I should renounce every pecuniary compensation. From this resolution I have in no instance departed; and being still under the impressions which produced it, I must decline as inapplicable to myself any share in the personal emoluments which may be indispensably included in a permanent provision for the executive department, and must accordingly pray that the pecuniary estimates for the station in which I am placed may during my continuance in it be limited to such actual expenditures as the public good may be thought to require. ..."
INAUGURAL ADDRESS (SECOND): Philadelphia, March 4, 1793. (This was the shortest inaugural address, just 135 words.) "Fellow Citizens: I am again called upon by the voice of my country to execute the functions of its Chief Magistrate. When the occasion proper for it shall arrive, I shall endeavor to express the high sense I entertain of this distinguished honor, and of the confidence which has been reposed in me by the people of united America.
"Previous to the execution of any official act of the President the Constitution requires an oath of office. This oath I am now about to take, and in your presence: That if it shall be found during my administration of the Government I have in any instance violated willingly or knowingly the injunctions thereof, I may (besides incurring constitutional punishment) be subject to the upbraidings of all who are now witnesses of the present solemn ceremony."
VICE PRESIDENT: John Adams (1735-1826), of Massachusetts, served 1789-1797. See "John Adams, 2d President."
Secretary of State. (1) Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), of Virginia, served 1790-1793. See "Thomas Jefferson, 3d President," "Career before the Presidency." (2) Edmund Jennings Randolph (1753-1813), of Virginia, served 1794-1795. Author of the Randolph (or Virginia) plan, favoring the large states, at the Constitutional Convention of 1787. Transferred from attorney general, he remained aloof of the struggle between Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton. Denounced by supporters of both, he was largely ineffective and was forced to resign amid unfounded charges that he had misused his office for private gain. (3) Timothy Pickering (1745-1829), of Massachusetts, served 1795-1800. Transferred from war secretary, he was a staunch Hamiltonian and stayed on in the Adams administration.
Secretary of the Treasury.
(1) Alexander Hamilton (c. 1755-1804), of New York, served 1789-1795. President Washington's closest advisor, he was a great admirer of British institutions and a master of power politics. He saw his role in the government as that of prime minister. His influence went beyond economics to include foreign affairs, legal matters, and long-range social planning. He advocated and helped create a strong central government at the expense of states' rights. He put the infant nation on sound financial footing by levying taxes to retire the national debt and promoted the creation of a national bank. He also advocated tariffs to insulate fledgling American manufacturing from foreign competition. Hamilton's vision of America's future encompassed the evolution from a largely agrarian society to an industrial giant, a national transportation program to facilitate commerce and blur regional differences, a strong permanent national defense, and a sound, conservative monetary system. Even after resigning his post, he kept his hands on the controls of power. Washington continued to consult him. Hamilton's successor, Oliver Wolcott, and others in the cabinet took his advice. He even helped draft Washington's Farewell address. The foremost conservative leader of his day, he was anathema to Thomas Jefferson and his supporters. (2) Oliver Wolcott (1760-1833), of Connecticut, served 1795-1800. A lawyer and Hamilton supporter, he stayed on in the Adams administration.
Secretary of War.
(1) Henry Knox (1750-1806), of Massachusetts, served 1789-1794. Chief of artillery and close adviser to General Washington during the Revolution and war secretary under the Articles of Confederation, he was a natural choice for this post. He pressed for a strong navy. Fort Knox was named after him. (2) Timothy Pickering (1745-1829), of Massachusetts, served January-December, 1795. A lawyer and veteran of the Revolution, he strengthened the navy. He resigned to serve as secretary of state. (3) James McHenry (1753-1816), of Maryland, served 1796-1800. He had served as a surgeon during the Revolution and was a prisoner of war. He stayed on in the Adams administration. Fort McHenry at Baltimore was named after him.
(1) Edmund Jennings Randolph (1753-1813), of Virginia, served 1789-1794. He helped draft President Washington's proclamation of neutrality. Washington disregarded his opinion that a national bank was unconstitutional. He resigned to become secretary of state. (2) William Bradford (1755-1795), of Pennsylvania, served 1794-1795. He was a state supreme court justice at the time of his appointment. (3) Charles Lee (1758-1815), of Virginia, served 1795-1801. He was a brother of Henry "Light-Horse Harry" Lee. He urged, unsuccessfully, that the United States abandon its policy of neutrality and declare war on France. He stayed on in the Adams administration.
ADMINISTRATION: April 30, 1789-March 3, 1797.
Precedents. "Many things which appear of little importance in themselves and at the beginning," President Washington observed, "may have great and durable consequences from their having been established at the commencement of a new general government."10 With this in mind, then, he proceeded cautiously, pragmatically, acting only when it seemed necessary to flesh out the bare-bones framework of government described so sparingly in the Constitution: (1) In relying on department heads for advice, much as he had used his war council during the Revolution, he set the pattern for future presidents to consult regularly with their cabinet. (2) Because Congress did not challenge his appointments, largely out of respect for him personally rather than out of principle, the custom evolved that the chief executive generally has the right to choose his own cabinet. Congress, even when controlled by the opposition party, usually routinely confirms such presidential appointments. (3) How long should a president serve? The Constitution did not then say. Washington nearly set the precedent of a single term, for he had originally decided to retire in 1793, but remained for a second term when it became clear that the nonpartisan government he had so carefully fostered was about to fragment. Thus he set the two-term standard that lasted until 1940. (4) When John Jay resigned as chief justice, Washington went outside the bench for a successor rather than to elevate one of the sitting justices to the top position, as many had expected him to do. In disregarding seniority as a necessary qualification to lead the Supreme Court, Washington established the precedent that has enabled his successors to draw from a much more diverse and younger talent pool than that of a handful of aging incumbent jurists.
Indian Affairs. In 1791 President Washington dispatched forces under General Arthur St. Clair to subdue the Indians who had been resisting white settlement of the Northwest Territory. St. Clair failed, having been routed by Miami Chief Little Turtle on the Wabash River. Washington then turned to Revolutionary War veteran "Mad" Anthony Wayne, who before launching the expedition spent many months training regular troops in Indian warfare. He marched boldly into the region, constructed a chain of forts, and on August 20, 1794, crushed the Indians under Little Turtle in the Battle of Fallen Timbers near present-day Toledo, Ohio. Under the terms of the Treaty of Greenville (1795), the defeated tribes ceded disputed portions of the Northwest Territory to the United States and moved west. Through diplomacy, President Washington tried with limited success to make peace with the Creeks and other tribes in the South. In 1792 the president entertained the tribal leaders of the Six Nations confederation, including Seneca Chief Red Jacket, whom Washington presented with a silver medal, a token that the Indian treasured the rest of his life. Red Jacket, who had led his warriors against Washington's army during the Revolution, rallied to the American cause during the War of 1812.
Proclamation of Neutrality, 1793. In the war between France, on one side, and Britain, Austria, Prussia, Sardinia, and the Netherlands, on the other, President Washington in 1793 declared the United States to be "friendly and impartial toward the belligerent powers." Although he avoided using the word neutrality, his intention was clear. Critics denounced the proclamation as reneging on the U.S. commitment to its first ally, France. However, it kept the nation out of a war it was ill-prepared to fight. The French minister to the United States, Edmond Genet, pointedly ignoring Washington's policy, fomented pro-French sentiment among Americans and arranged for American privateers to harass British ships—activities that prompted President Washington to demand his recall.
Whiskey Rebellion, 1794. To help pay off the national debt and put the nation on a sound economic basis, President Washington approved an excise tax on liquor. Pennsylvania farmers, who regularly converted their corn crop to alcohol to avoid the prohibitive cost of transporting grain long distances to market, refused to pay it. On Hamilton's advice, Washington ordered 15,000 militia to the area and personally inspected troops in the field. This show of strength crushed this first real challenge to federal authority.
Jay'5 Treaty, 1795. Washington was roundly criticized by Jeffersonians for this treaty with Great Britain. To forestall further conflict with the former mother country and impel Britain to withdraw its forces from outposts in the Northwest Territory, as it had promised under the terms of the Treaty of Paris concluding the American Revolution, Washington relinquished the U.S. right to neutrality on the seas. Any American ship suspected of carrying contraband to the shores of Britain's enemies was subject to search and seizure by the British navy. And Britain regarded as contraband virtually any useful product, including foodstuffs. Moreover, Jay's Treaty failed to resolve one of the key disputes standing in the way of rapprochement with Britain—impressment. Britain's policy of "once an Englishman, always an Englishman" meant that even after renouncing allegiance to the crown and becoming a duly naturalized U.S. citizen, a British immigrant was not safe from the king's reach. If while searching an American ship for contraband, the British spotted one of their own among the crew, they routinely dragged him off and pressed him into the Royal Navy. But for all this, and despite the added strain on relations with France in the wake of Jay's Treaty, the pact did postpone the inevitable conflict with Britain until 1812, when America was better prepared militarily. After the Senate ratified the treaty, the House asked the president to release all pertinent papers relating to its negotiation. Washington refused on the constitutional ground that only the upper chamber had approval rights over treaties. He thereby set the precedent for future presidents to resist such congressional petitions.
Pinckney's Treaty, 1795. Under its terms, Washington normalized relations with Spain by establishing the boundary between the United States and Spanish Florida at the thirty-first parallel. Even more importantly for the future of American commerce, the pact granted U.S. vessels free access to the entire length of the Mississippi River and to the port of New Orleans for the purpose of export.
In other acts of lasting importance, President Washington signed into law bills creating or providing for:
1789 Oaths of allegiance to be sworn by federal and state officials
First tariffs to protect domestic manufacturers
Department of State and War and the Treasury
Office of postmaster general
Supreme Court, circuit and federal district courts, and position of
attorney general (Judiciary Act). Washington, of course, appointed
all the first judges to these courts.
1790 First federal census
Patent and copyright protection
Removal of the capital to Philadelphia in December 1790 and to Washington
10 years later
1791 Bank of the United States
1792 Presidential succession, which placed the president pro tempore of the
Senate and the Speaker of the House next behind the vice president in
line of succession to the presidency
U.S. Mint of Philadelphia
1795 Naturalization law, which lengthened residency requirement from two to
Farewell Address, 1796 President Washington announced his retirement in his celebrated Farewell Address, a pronouncement that was printed in the Philadelphia American Daily Advertiser on September 17, 1796, but never was delivered orally. In it he warned against the evils of political parties and entangling alliances abroad. Throughout his term he had tried to prevent the rise of partisanship, but he had succeeded only in postponing such division by serving a second term. The Federalists under Hamilton and Adams and the Democratic-Republicans under Jefferson joined battle soon after he announced his retirement. Washington's warning to remain aloof from European struggles Was better heeded. "The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations," he advised, "is, in extending our commercial relations to have with them as little political connection as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith. Here let us stop." Isolationism remained the dominant feature in American foreign policy for the next 100 years.
States Admitted to the Union. Vermont (1791), Kentucky (1792), Tennessee (1796).
Constitutional Amendments Ratified. Bill of Rights (first 10 amendments, 1791): (1) Freedom of religion, of speech, of the press, to assemble and petition for redress of grievances. (2) Right to bear arms. (3) Restrictions on quartering soldiers in private homes. (4) Freedom from unreasonable search and seizure. (5)Ban on double jeopardy and self-incrimination; guarantees due process of law. (6) Right to speedy and public trial. (7) Right to trial by jury. (8) Ban on excessive bail or fines or cruel and unusual punishment. (9) Natural rights unspecified in the Constitution to remain unabridged. (10) Individual states or the people retain all powers not specifically delegated to the federal government or denied to states by the Constitution. Eleventh Amendment (1795): A citizen from one state cannot sue another state.
SUPREME COURT APPOINTMENTS: (1) John Jay (1745-1829), of New York, served as chief justice 1789-1795. As the first chief justice, he established court procedure. While on the bench he negotiated Jay's Treaty (see "Administration"). He resigned to serve as governor of New York. (2) John Rutledge (1739-1800), of South Carolina, served as associate justice 1789-1791. His appointment as chief justice in 1795 was rejected by the Senate. (3) William Gushing (1732-1810), of Massachusetts, served as associate justice 1789-1810. He was the only Supreme Court justice to persist in wearing the formal wig popular among British jurists. (4) James Wilson (1742-1798), of Pennsylvania, served as associate justice 1789-1798. A Scottish immigrant, he was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Speaking for the Court in Chisholm v. Georgia (1793), he ruled that a citizen of one state was entitled to sue another state, a decision so unpopular that it prompted passage of the Eleventh Amendment (1795), specifically nullifying it. (5) John Blah- (1732-1800), of Virginia, served as associate justice 1789-1796. A friend of Washington—they had served together as Virginia delegates to the Constitutional Convention—he brought to the bench many years of experience on Virginia state courts. (6) James Iredell (1751-1799), of North Carolina, served as associate justice 1790-1799. An English immigrant, he was at 38 the youngest member of the original Supreme Court. His lone dissent in Chisholm v. Georgia (1793) formed the basis of the Eleventh Amendment (1795). (7) Thomas Johnson (1732-1819), of Maryland, served as associate justice 1791-1793. A friend of Washington since the Revolution, he served as the first governor of Maryland and chief judge of the state's General Court. He resigned from the Supreme Court for health reasons. (8) William Paterson (1745-1806), of New Jersey, served as associate justice 1793-1806. He helped draft the Judiciary Act of 1789 creating the federal court system. In Van Home's Lessee v. Dorrance (1795) he established the Court's authority to strike down as unconstitutional a duly enacted state law, a precedent that anticipated judicial review of federal laws. (9) Samuel Chase (1741-1811), of Maryland, served as associate justice 1796-1811. Irascible and acid tongued, his gratuitous attacks on President Jefferson in 1803 led the House to impeach him, but the Senate fell four votes short of the two-thirds necessary for conviction. He was the only Supreme Court justice to be impeached. Speaking for a unanimous Court in Ware v. Hilton (1796), he established the supremacy of national treaties over state laws. (10) Oliver Ellsworth (1745-1807), of Connecticut, served as chief justice 1796-1800. He was the principal architect of the Judiciary Act of 1789, creating the federal court system. In United States v. La Vengeance (1796), he spoke for the majority in extending federal authority to all inland rivers and lakes.
RANKING IN 1962 HISTORIANS POLL: Washington ranked second of 31 presidents and second of 5 "great" presidents. He ranked above Franklin Roosevelt and below Lincoln.
RETIREMENT: March 4, 1797-December 14, 1799. Washington, 65, returned to Mount Vernon to oversee much-needed repairs. He played host, often reluctantly, to an endless parade of visitors, many longtime friends, others perfect strangers there just to ogle the former president and his family. Briefed on affairs of state by War Secretary McHenry and others, he maintained a keen interest in the course of the country. With tensions between the United States and France threatening to erupt into war in the wake of the XYZ Affair (see "John Adams, 2d President," "Administration"), Washington was commissioned lieutenant general and commander in chief of American forces on July 4, 1798, the only former president to hold such a post. He accepted the commission on the condition that he would take to the field only in case of invasion and that he had approval rights over the composition of the general staff. He promised the cause "all the blood that remains in my veins." Fortunately the undeclared "Quasi-War" that followed was limited to naval encounters and Washington's services were not required. In his last year Washington faced a liquidity crisis: Money owed him from the sale or rental of real estate was past due at a time when his taxes and entertainment bills were climbing. As a result, at age 67 he was compelled for the first time in his life to borrow money from a bank.
DEATH: December 14, 1799, after 10 P.M., Mount Vernon, Virginia. On the morning of December 12, Washington set out on horseback around the plantation. With temperatures hovering around freezing, it began to snow; this turned to sleet, then rain, and back to snow by the time Washington returned indoors five hours later. Still in his cold, wet clothes, he tended to some correspondence and ate dinner. Next morning he awoke with a sore throat, and later in the day his voice grew hoarse. About 2 A.M. on December 14 he awoke suddenly with severe chills and was having trouble breathing and speaking. Three doctors attended him—his personal physician and longtime friend Dr. James Craik and consultants Drs. Gustavus Richard Brown and Elisha Cullen Dick. They diagnosed his condition as inflammatory quinsy. The patient was bled on four separate occasions, a standard practice of the period. Washington tried to swallow a concoction of molasses, vinegar, and butter to soothe his raw throat but could not get it down. He was able to take a little calomel and tartar emetic and to inhale vinegar vapor, but his pulse remained weak throughout the day. The physicians raised blisters on his throat and lower limbs as a counter-irritant and applied a poultice, but neither was effective. Finally, Washington told his doctors to give up and about 10 P.M. spoke weakly to Tobias Lear, his fide, "I am just going. Have me decently buried and do not let my body be put into a vault in less than two days after I am dead. Do you understand me?" "Yes, sir," replied Lear. "'Tis well,"12 said Washington. These were his last words. Soon thereafter he died while taking his own pulse. After a lock of his hair was removed, his body was placed in a mahogany coffin bearing the Latin inscriptions Surge Ad Judicium and Gloria Deo. The funeral services, con ducted by the Reverend Thomas Davis on December 18, were far from the simple ceremony Washington had requested. A procession of mourners filed between two long rows of soldiers, a band played appropriate music, guns boomed in tribute from a ship anchored in the Potomac, and the Masonic order to which Washington belonged sent a large contingent. His remains were deposited in the family tomb at Mount Vernon. In his last will and testament, a 42-page document executed in his own hand in July 1799, Washington provided his widow with the use and benefit of the estate, valued at more than $500,000, during her lifetime. He freed his personal servant William with a $30 annuity and ordered the rest of the slaves freed upon Martha's death. He left his stock in the Bank of Alexandria to a school for poor and orphaned children and ordered his stock in the Potomac Company to be applied toward the construction of a national university. He forgave the debts of his brother Samuel's family and that of his brother-in-law Bartholomew Dandridge. He also ensured that his aide Tobias Lear would live rent free for the rest of his life. To nephew Bushrod Washington he left Mount Vernon, his personal papers, and his library. His grandchildren Mrs. Nellie Lewis and George Washington Parke Custis received large, choice tracts. In sundry other bequests, the gold-headed cane Benjamin Franklin had given him went to his brother Charles, his writing desk and chair to Doctor Craik, steel pistols taken from the British during the Revolution to Lafayette, and a sword to each of five nephews on the assurance that they will never "unsheath them for the purpose of shedding blood except it be for self-defence, or in defence of their country and its rights, and in the latter case to keep them unsheathed, and prefer falling with them in their hands, to the relinquishment thereof."
"A gentleman whose skill and experience as an officer, whose independent fortune, great talents and excellent universal character would command the approbation of all America and unite the cordial exertions of all the Colonies better than any other person in the union."—John Adams, in proposing Washington as commander in chief of the Continental army, 1775.
"You would, at this side of the sea [in Europe], enjoy the great reputation you have acquired, pure and free from those little shades that the jealousy and envy of a man's countrymen and contemporaries are ever endeavouring to cast over living merit. Here you would know, and enjoy, what posterity will say of Washington. For a thousand leagues have nearly the same effect with a thousand years. The feeble voice of those grovelling passions cannot extend so far either in time or distance. At present I enjoy that pleasure for you, as I frequently hear the old generals of this martial country [France] (who study the maps of America and mark upon them all your operations) speak with sincere approbation and great applause of your conduct; and join in giving you the character of one of the greatest captains of the age." – Benjamin Franklin, 1780.
"More than any other individual, and as much as to one individual was possible, has he contributed to found this, our wide spreading empire, and to give to the Western World independence and freedom."—John Marshall.
"To the memory of the Man, first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen."—Henry "Light-Horse Harry" Lee, 1799.
"If ever a nation was debauched by a man, the
American nation has been debauched by Washington. If ever a nation was
deceived by a man, the American nation has been deceived by Washington. Let his conduct, then, be an example to future ages; let it serve to be a warning that no man may be an idol."17—Philadelphia
"An Anglican monarchical, and aristocratical party has sprung up, whose avowed object is to draw over us the substance, as they have already done the forms, of the British government. ... It would give you a fever were I to name to you the apostates who have gone over to these heresies, men who were Samsons in the field and Solomons in the council, but who have had their heads shorn by the harlot England."—Thomas Jefferson, in the wake of Washington's support of Jay's Treaty, 1796.
"You commenced your Presidential career by encouraging and swallowing the grossest adulation, and you travelled America from one end to the other, to put yourself in the way of receiving it. You have as many addresses in your chest as James the II. ... The character which Mr. Washington has attempted to act in this world, is a sort of non-describable, camelion-colored thing, called prudence. It is, in many cases, a substitute for principle, and is so nearly allied to hypocrisy, that it easily slides into it. ... And as to you, sir, treacherous to private friendship (for so you have been to me, and that in the day of danger) and a hypocrite in public life, the world will be puzzled to decide whether you are an apostate or an imposter, whether you have abandoned good principles, or whether you ever had any?"—Thomas Paine, in an open letter to Washington, 1796.
"It is easy to make acquaintances but very difficult to shake them off, however irksome and unprofitable they are found after we have once committed ourselves to them. ... Be courteous to all but intimate with few, and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence; true friendship is a plant of slow growth."
"As the sword was the last resort for the preservation of our liberties, so it ought to be the first to be laid aside when those liberties are firmly established."—1776
"Precedents are dangerous things; let the reins of government then be braced and held with a steady hand, and every violation of the Constitution be reprehended: if defective let it be amended, but not suffered to be trampled upon whilst it has an existence."—1786
"[Political parties] serve to organize faction, to give it an artificial and extraordinary force to put, in the place of the delegated will of the Nation, the will of a party; often a small but artful and enterprizing minority of the community; and according to the alternate triumphs of different parties, to make the public administration the mirror of the ill-concerted and incongruous projects of faction, rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans digested by common counsels, and modified by mutual interests. However combinations or associations of the above description may now and then answer Popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the Power of the People and to usurp for themselves the reins of Government; destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion."—1796 (Farewell Address).'
BOOKS ABOUT WASHINGTON.
Childrens Britanica “Presidents of the USA”
The complete book of U.S. Presidents”
American’s First President. “Focus on the U.S.A.”
George Washington: Man and Monument”. (Cunliffe, Marcus)
James T. Flexner. “George Washington: A Biography”.