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George Washington
Gilbert Stuart Williamstown Portrait of George Washington


In office
April 30, 1789 – March 4, 1797
Vice President John Adams
Succeeded by John Adams

In office
June 15, 1775 – December 23, 1783
Appointed by Continental Congress
Succeeded by Henry Knoxb

In office
July 13, 1798 – December 14, 1799
President John Adams
Preceded by James Wilkinson
Succeeded by Alexander Hamilton

Born February 22, 1732(1732-02-22)
Westmoreland County, Colony of Virginia, British America
Died December 14, 1799 (aged 67)
Mount Vernon, Virginia, United States
Resting place Family vault, Mount Vernon, Virginia, United States
Nationality American
Political party None
Spouse Martha Dandridge Custis Washington
Children John Parke Custis (stepson)
Martha Parke Custis (stepdaughter)
Eleanor Parke Custis Lewis (step-granddaughter, raised by Washington)
George Washington Parke Custis (step-grandson, raised by Washington)
Occupation Farmer (Planter)
Soldier (General)
Religion Church of EnglandTemplate:\Episcopal
Signature George Washington signature
Military service
Allegiance Union flag 1606 (Kings Colors) Kingdom of Great Britain
US flag 13 stars – Betsy Ross United States
Years of service 1752–1758
1775–1783
1798–1799
Rank US-O12 insignia General of the Armies of the United States
Commands British Army's Virginia Regiment
Continental Army
United States Army
Battles/wars French and Indian War
*Battle of Jumonville Glen
*Battle of Fort Necessity
*Battle of the Monongahela
*Battle of Fort Duquesne
American Revolutionary War
*Boston campaign
*New York campaign
*New Jersey campaign
*Philadelphia campaign
*Yorktown campaign
Awards Congressional Gold Medal, Thanks of Congress
a See President of the United States, in Congress Assembled.
b General Knox served as the Senior Officer of the United States Army.

George Washington (February 22, 1732[1][2][3] – December 14, 1799) was the commander of the Continental Army in the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783) and served as the first President of the United States of America (1789–1797).[4]

The Continental Congress appointed Washington commander-in-chief of the American revolutionary forces in 1775. The following year, he forced the British out of Boston, lost New York City, and crossed the Delaware River in New Jersey, defeating the surprised enemy units later that year. As a result of his strategy, Revolutionary forces captured the two main British combat armies at Saratoga and Yorktown. Negotiating with Congress, the colonial states, and French allies, he held together a tenuous army and a fragile nation amid the threats of disintegration and failure. Following the end of the war in 1783, Washington returned to private life and retired to his plantation at Mount Vernon, prompting an incredulous King George III to state, "If he does that, he will be the greatest man in the world."[5]

He presided over the Philadelphia Convention that drafted the United States Constitution in 1787 because of general dissatisfaction with the Articles of Confederation. Washington became President of the United States in 1789 and established many of the customs and usages of the new government's executive department. He sought to create a nation capable of surviving in a world torn asunder by war between Britain and France. His unilateral Proclamation of Neutrality of 1793 provided a basis for avoiding any involvement in foreign conflicts. He supported plans to build a strong central government by funding the national debt, implementing an effective tax system, and creating a national bank. Washington avoided the temptation of war and began a decade of peace with Britain via the Jay Treaty in 1795; he used his prestige to get it ratified over intense opposition from the Jeffersonians. Although never officially joining the Federalist Party, he supported its programs and was its inspirational leader. Washington's farewell address was a primer on republican virtue and a stern warning against partisanship, sectionalism, and involvement in foreign wars.

Washington is seen as a symbol of the United States and republicanism in practice.[6] His devotion to civic virtue made him an exemplary figure among early American politicians.[6][7]

Washington was awarded the very first Congressional Gold Medal with the Thanks of Congress.[8]

Washington died in 1799, and the funeral oration delivered by Henry Lee stated that of all Americans, he was "first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen."[9] Washington has been consistently ranked by scholars as one of the greatest U.S. Presidents.

Early life and educationEdit

Main article: George Washington's early life
File:Gwstatue waterford.jpg

George Washington was born on Template:OldStyleDateDY[1] the first son of Augustine Washington and his second wife, Mary Ball Washington, on the family's Pope's Creek Estate near present-day Colonial Beach in Westmoreland County, Virginia. Moving to Ferry Farm in Stafford County at age six, George was educated in the home by his father and older brother.[10] The growth of tobacco as a commodity in Virginia could be measured by the quantity of slaves imported to cultivate it. When Washington was born, the population of the colony was 50 percent black, mostly enslaved Africans and African Americans.[11]

In his youth, Washington worked as a surveyor, and acquired what would become invaluable knowledge of the terrain around his native Colony of Virginia.[12]

CareerEdit

Washington embarked upon a career as a planter, which historians defined as those who held 20 or more slaves. In 1748 he was invited to help survey Lord Fairfax's lands west of the Blue Ridge. In 1749, he was appointed to his first public office, surveyor of newly created Culpeper County.[10][13] Through his half-brother, Lawrence Washington, he became interested in the Ohio Company, which aimed to exploit Western lands. In 1751, George and his half-brother traveled to Barbados, staying at Bush Hill House,[14] hoping for an improvement in Lawrence's tuberculosis. This was the only time George Washington traveled outside what is now the United States.[15] After Lawrence's death in 1752, George inherited part of his estate and took over some of Lawrence's duties as adjutant of the colony.[16]

Washington was appointed a district adjutant general in the Virginia militia in 1752,[10] which appointed him Major Washington at the age of 20. He was charged with training the militia in the quarter assigned to him.[17] At age 21, in Fredericksburg, Washington became a Master Mason in the organization of Freemasons, a fraternal organization that was a lifelong influence.[18][19]

In December 1753, Washington was asked by Governor Robert Dinwiddie of Virginia to carry a British ultimatum to the French on the Ohio frontier.[10] Washington assessed French military strength and intentions, and delivered the message to the French at Fort Le Boeuf in present day Waterford, Pennsylvania. The message, which went unheeded, called for the French to abandon their development of the Ohio country. The two colonial powers were heading toward worldwide conflict. Washington's report on the affair was widely read on both sides of the Atlantic.

French and Indian War (Seven Years War)Edit

Main article: George Washington in the French and Indian War
File:Washington 1772.jpg

In 1754, Dinwiddie commissioned Washington a lieutenant colonel and ordered him to lead an expedition to Fort Duquesne to drive out the French.[10] With his American Indian allies led by Tanacharison, Washington and his troops ambushed a French scouting party of some 30 men, led by Joseph Coulon de Jumonville.[20] Washington and his troops were overwhelmed at Fort Necessity by a larger and better positioned French and Indian force. The terms of surrender included a statement that Washington had assassinated Jumonville after the ambush. Washington could not read French, and, unaware of what it said, signed his name.[21] Released by the French, Washington returned to Virginia, where he was cleared of blame for the defeat, but resigned because he did not like the new arrangement of the Virginia Militia.[21]

In 1755, Washington was an aide to British General Edward Braddock on the ill-fated Monongahela expedition.[10] This was a major effort to retake the Ohio Country. While Braddock was killed and the expedition ended in disaster, Washington distinguished himself as the Hero of the Monongahela.[22] While Washington's role during the battle has been debated, biographer Joseph Ellis asserts that Washington rode back and forth across the battlefield, rallying the remnant of the British and Virginian forces to a retreat.[23] Subsequent to this action, Washington was given a difficult frontier command in the Virginia mountains, and was rewarded by being promoted to colonel and named commander of all Virginia forces.[10]

In 1758, Washington participated as a brigadier general in the Forbes expedition that prompted French evacuation of Fort Duquesne, and British establishment of Pittsburgh.[10] Later that year, Washington resigned from active military service and spent the next sixteen years as a Virginia planter and politician.[24]

Between the warsEdit

File:Martha Dandridge Custis.jpg

On January 6, 1759, Washington married the widow Martha Dandridge Custis. Surviving letters suggest that he may have been in love at the time with Sally Fairfax, the wife of a friend. Some historians believe George and Martha were distantly related.

Nevertheless, George and Martha made a good marriage, and together raised her two children from her previous marriage, John Parke Custis and Martha Parke Custis, affectionately called "Jackie" and "Patsy". Later the Washingtons raised two of Mrs. Washington's grandchildren, Eleanor Parke Custis and George Washington Parke Custis. George and Martha never had any children together—his earlier bout with smallpox followed, possibly, by tuberculosis may have made him sterile. The newlywed couple moved to Mount Vernon, where he took up the life of a planter and political figure.[25]

Washington's marriage to Martha, a wealthy widow, greatly increased his property holdings and social standing. He acquired one-third of the 18,000 acre (73 km²) Custis estate upon his marriage, and managed the remainder on behalf of Martha's children. He frequently purchased additional land in his own name. In addition, he was granted land in what is now West Virginia as a bounty for his service in the French and Indian War. By 1775, Washington had doubled the size of Mount Vernon to Template:Convert/acre, and had increased the slave population there to more than 100 persons. As a respected military hero and large landowner, he held local office and was elected to the Virginia provincial legislature, the House of Burgesses, beginning in 1758.[26]

File:Mtvernon1.jpg

Washington lived an aristocratic lifestyle—fox hunting was a favorite leisure activity. Like most Virginia planters, he imported luxuries and other goods from England and paid for them by exporting his tobacco crop. Extravagant spending and the unpredictability of the tobacco market meant that many Virginia planters of Washington's day were losing money. (Thomas Jefferson, for example, would die deeply in debt.)

Washington began to pull himself out of debt by diversification. By 1766, he had switched Mount Vernon's primary cash crop from tobacco to wheat, a crop which could be sold in America, and diversified operations to include flour milling, fishing, horse breeding, spinning, and weaving. Patsy Custis's tragic death in 1773 from epilepsy enabled Washington to pay off his British creditors, since half of her inheritance passed to him.[27]

During these years, Washington concentrated on his business activities and remained somewhat aloof from politics. Although he expressed opposition to the 1765 Stamp Act, the first direct tax on the colonies, he did not take a leading role in the growing colonial resistance until after protests of the Townshend Acts (enacted in 1767) had become widespread. In May 1769, Washington introduced a proposal drafted by his friend George Mason, which called for Virginia to boycott English goods until the Acts were repealed. Parliament repealed the Townshend Acts in 1770, and, for Washington at least, the crisis had passed. However, Washington regarded the passage of the Intolerable Acts in 1774 as "an Invasion of our Rights and Privileges". In July 1774, he chaired the meeting at which the "Fairfax Resolves" were adopted, which called for, among other things, the convening of a Continental Congress. In August, Washington attended the First Virginia Convention, where he was selected as a delegate to the First Continental Congress.[28]

American RevolutionEdit

Main article: George Washington in the American Revolution
Portrait of George Washington

Portrait of George Washington in military uniform, painted by Rembrandt Peale.

After fighting broke out in April 1775, Washington appeared at the Second Continental Congress in military uniform, signaling that he was prepared for war. Washington had the prestige, the military experience, the charisma and military bearing, the reputation of being a strong patriot, and he was supported by the South, especially Virginia. Although he did not explicitly seek the office of commander and even claimed that he was not equal to it, there was no serious competition. Congress created the Continental Army on June 14, 1775; the next day, on the nomination of John Adams of Massachusetts, Washington was appointed Major General and elected by Congress to be Commander-in-chief.[10]

Washington assumed command of the Continental Army in the field at Cambridge, Massachusetts in July 1775,[10] during the ongoing siege of Boston. Realizing his army's desperate shortage of gunpowder, Washington asked for new sources. British arsenals were raided (including some in the Caribbean) and some manufacturing was attempted; a barely adequate supply (about 2.5 million pounds) was obtained by the end of 1776, mostly from France.[29] Washington reorganized the army during the long standoff, and forced the British to withdraw by putting artillery on Dorchester Heights overlooking the city. The British evacuated Boston and Washington moved his army to New York City.

Although negative toward the patriots in the Continental Congress, British newspapers routinely praised Washington's personal character and qualities as a military commander.[30] Moreover, both sides of the aisle in Parliament found the American general's courage, endurance, and attentiveness to the welfare of his troops worthy of approbation and examples of the virtues they and most other Britains found wanting in their own commanders. Washington's refusal to become involved in politics buttressed his reputation as a man fully committed to the military mission at hand and above the factional fray.

In August 1776, British General William Howe launched a massive naval and land campaign designed to seize New York and offer a negotiated settlement. The Continental Army under Washington engaged the enemy for the first time as an army of the newly declared independent United States at the Battle of Long Island, the largest battle of the entire war. This and several other British victories sent Washington scrambling out of New York and across New Jersey, leaving the future of the Continental Army in doubt. On the night of December 25, 1776, Washington staged a counterattack, leading the American forces across the Delaware River to capture nearly 1,000 Hessians in Trenton, New Jersey. Washington followed up his victory at Trenton with another one at Princeton in early January. These winter victories quickly raised the morale of the army, secured Washington's position as Commander, and inspired young men to join the army.

British forces defeated Washington's troops in the Battle of Brandywine on September 11, 1777. Howe outmaneuvered Washington and marched into Philadelphia unopposed on September 26. Washington's army unsuccessfully attacked the British garrison at Germantown in early October. Meanwhile, Burgoyne, out of reach from help from Howe, was trapped and forced to surrender his entire army at Saratoga, New York. France responded to Burgoyne's defeat by entering the war, openly allying with America and turning the Revolutionary War into a major worldwide war. Washington's loss of Philadelphia prompted some members of Congress to discuss removing Washington from command. This attempt failed after Washington's supporters rallied behind him.[31]

Washington's army camped at Valley Forge in December 1777, staying there for the next six months. Over the winter, 2,500 men of the 10,000-strong force died from disease and exposure. The next spring, however, the army emerged from Valley Forge in good order, thanks in part to a full-scale training program supervised by Baron von Steuben, a veteran of the Prussian general staff. The British evacuated Philadelphia to New York in 1778 but Washington attacked them at Monmouth and drove them from the battlefield. Afterwards, the British continued to head towards New York. Washington moved his army outside of New York.

In the summer of 1779 at Washington's direction, General John Sullivan carried out a decisive scorched earth campaign that destroyed at least forty Iroquois villages throughout present-day central and upstate New York in retaliation for Iroquois and Tory attacks against American settlements earlier in the war. Washington delivered the final blow to the British in 1781, after a French naval victory allowed American and French forces to trap a British army in Virginia. The surrender at Yorktown on October 17, 1781 marked the end of most fighting. Though known for his successes in the war and of his life that followed, Washington suffered many defeats before achieving victory.

File:General George Washington Resigning his Commission.jpg

In March 1783, Washington used his influence to disperse a group of Army officers who had threatened to confront Congress regarding their back pay. By the Treaty of Paris (signed that September), Great Britain recognized the independence of the United States. Washington disbanded his army and, on November 2, gave an eloquent farewell address to his soldiers.[32]

On November 25, the British evacuated New York City, and Washington and the governor took possession. At Fraunces Tavern on December 4, Washington formally bade his officers farewell and on December 23, 1783, he resigned his commission as commander-in-chief, emulating the Roman general Cincinnatus. He was an exemplar of the republican ideal of citizen leadership who rejected power. During this period, the United States was governed without a President under the Articles of Confederation, the forerunner to the Constitution.

Washington's retirement to Mount Vernon was short-lived. He made an exploratory trip to the western frontier in 1784,[10] was persuaded to attend the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in the summer of 1787, and was unanimously elected president of the Convention. He participated little in the debates involved (though he did vote for or against the various articles), but his high prestige maintained collegiality and kept the delegates at their labors. The delegates designed the presidency with Washington in mind, and allowed him to define the office once elected. After the Convention, his support convinced many, including the Virginia legislature, to vote for ratification; the new Constitution was ratified by all 13 states.

Presidency: 1789–1797Edit

Main article: Presidency of George Washington
File:George Washington 1795.jpg

The Electoral College elected Washington unanimously in 1789, and again in the 1792 election; he remains the only president to receive 100% of the electoral votes. At his inauguration, he insisted on having Barbados Rum served.[33] John Adams was elected vice president. Washington took the oath of office as the first President under the Constitution for the United States of America on April 30, 1789 at Federal Hall in New York City although, at first, he had not wanted the position.[34]

The 1st United States Congress voted to pay Washington a salary of $25,000 a year—a large sum in 1789. Washington, already wealthy, declined the salary, since he valued his image as a selfless public servant. At the urging of Congress, however, he ultimately accepted the payment, to avoid setting a precedent whereby the presidency would be perceived as limited only to independently wealthy individuals who could serve without any salary. Washington attended carefully to the pomp and ceremony of office, making sure that the titles and trappings were suitably republican and never emulated European royal courts. To that end, he preferred the title "Mr. President" to the more majestic names suggested.[35]

Washington proved an able administrator. An excellent delegator and judge of talent and character, he held regular cabinet meetings to debate issues before making a final decision. In handling routine tasks, he was "systematic, orderly, energetic, solicitous of the opinion of others but decisive, intent upon general goals and the consistency of particular actions with them."[36]

Washington reluctantly served a second term as president. He refused to run for a third, establishing the customary policy of a maximum of two terms for a president which later became law by the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution.[37]

Domestic issuesEdit

Washington was not a member of any political party and hoped that they would not be formed, fearing conflict and stagnation. His closest advisors formed two factions, setting the framework for the future First Party System. Secretary of Treasury Alexander Hamilton had bold plans to establish the national credit and build a financially powerful nation, and formed the basis of the Federalist Party. Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, founder of the Jeffersonian Republicans, strenuously opposed Hamilton's agenda, but Washington favored Hamilton over Jefferson.

The Residence Act of 1790, which Washington signed, authorized the President to select the specific location of the permanent seat of the government, which would be located along the Potomac River. The Act authorized the President to appoint three commissioners to survey and acquire property for this seat. Washington personnally oversaw this effort throughout his term in office. In 1791, the commissioners named the permanent seat of government "The City of Washington in the Territory of Columbia" to honor Washington. In 1800, the Territory of Columbia became the District of Columbia when the federal government moved to the site in accordance with the provisions of the Residence Act.[38][39]

In 1791, Congress imposed an excise on distilled spirits, which led to protests in frontier districts, especially Pennsylvania. By 1794, after Washington ordered the protesters to appear in U.S. district court, the protests turned into full-scale riots known as the Whiskey Rebellion. The federal army was too small to be used, so Washington invoked the Militia Act of 1792 to summon the militias of Pennsylvania, Virginia, and several other states. The governors sent the troops and Washington took command, marching into the rebellious districts.[40] There was no fighting, but Washington's forceful action proved the new government could protect itself. It also was one of only two times that a sitting President would personally command the military in the field. These events marked the first time under the new constitution that the federal government used strong military force to exert authority over the states and citizens.

Foreign affairsEdit

File:George Washington P1190516.jpg

In 1793, the revolutionary government of France sent diplomat Edmond-Charles Genêt, called "Citizen Genêt," to America. Genêt issued letters of marque and reprisal to American ships so they could capture British merchant ships. 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. Washington rejected this interference in domestic affairs, demanded the French government recall Genêt, and denounced his societies.

Hamilton and Washington designed the Jay Treaty to normalize trade relations with Britain, remove them from western forts, and resolve financial debts left over from the Revolution. John Jay negotiated and signed the treaty on November 19, 1794. The Jeffersonians supported France and strongly attacked the treaty. Washington and Hamilton, however, mobilized public opinion and won ratification by the Senate by emphasizing Washington's support. The British agreed to depart their forts around the Great Lakes, the Canadian-U.S. boundary was adjusted, numerous pre-Revolutionary debts were liquidated, and the British opened their West Indies colonies to American trade. Most importantly, the treaty delayed war with Britain and instead brought a decade of prosperous trade with that country. This angered the French and became a central issue in political debates.

Farewell AddressEdit

Washington's Farewell Address (issued as a public letter in 1796) was one of the most influential statements of American political values.[41] Drafted primarily by Washington himself, with help from Hamilton, it gives advice on the necessity and importance of national union, the value of the Constitution and the rule of law, the evils of political parties, and the proper virtues of a republican people. While he declined suggested versions[42] that would have included statements that there could be no morality without religion, he called morality "a necessary spring of popular government". He said, "Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle."[43]

Washington's public political address warned against foreign influence in domestic affairs and American meddling in European affairs. He warned against bitter partisanship in domestic politics and called for men to move beyond partisanship and serve the common good. He warned against 'permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world' "[44] , saying the United States must concentrate primarily on American interests. He counseled friendship and commerce with all nations, but warned against involvement in European wars and entering into long-term "entangling" alliances. The address quickly set American values regarding religion and foreign affairs.

Retirement and deathEdit

After retiring from the presidency in March 1797, Washington returned to Mount Vernon with a profound sense of relief. He devoted much time to farming.

On July 4, 1798, Washington was commissioned by President John Adams to be Lieutenant General and Commander-in-chief of the armies raised or to be raised for service in a prospective war with France. He served as the senior officer of the United States Army between July 13, 1798 and December 14, 1799. He participated in the planning for a Provisional Army to meet any emergency that might arise, but did not take the field.[10][45]

On December 12, 1799, Washington spent several hours inspecting his farms on horseback, in snow and later hail and freezing rain. He sat down to dine that evening without changing his wet clothes. The next morning, he awoke with a bad cold, fever, and a throat infection called quinsy that turned into acute laryngitis and pneumonia. Washington died on the evening of December 14, 1799, at his home aged 67, while attended by Dr. James Craik, one of his closest friends, Dr. Gustavus Richard Brown, Dr. Elisha C. Dick, and Tobias Lear V, Washington's personal secretary. Lear would record the account in his journal, writing that Washington's last words were "'Tis well."

Modern doctors believe that Washington died largely because of his treatment, which included calomel and bloodletting, resulting in a combination of shock from the loss of five pints of blood, as well as asphyxia and dehydration.[46] Washington's remains were buried at Mount Vernon. To protect their privacy, Martha Washington burned the correspondence between her husband and herself following his death. Only three letters between the couple have survived.

Throughout the world men and women were saddened by Washington's death. Napoleon ordered ten days of mourning throughout France and in the United States thousands wore mourning clothes for months.[45][47] On December 18, 1799, a funeral was held at Mount Vernon.[48]

During the United States Bicentennial year, George Washington was posthumously appointed to the grade of General of the Armies of The United States by the congressional joint resolution Public Law 94-479 of January 19, 1976, approved by President Gerald Ford on October 11, 1976, and formalized in Department of the Army Order Number 31-3 of March 13, 1978 with an effective appointment date of July 4, 1976.[10] This restored Washington's position as the highest ranking military officer in U.S. history.

Administration, Cabinet and Supreme Court Appointments 1789–1797Edit

The Washington Cabinet
Office Name Term
President George Washington 1789–1797
Vice President John Adams 1789–1797
Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson 1790–1793
Edmund Randolph 1794–1795
Timothy Pickering 1795–1797
Secretary of Treasury Alexander Hamilton 1789–1795
Oliver Wolcott, Jr. 1795–1797
Secretary of War Henry Knox 1789–1794
Timothy Pickering 1794–1795
James McHenry 1796–1797
Attorney General Edmund Randolph 1789–1794
William Bradford 1794–1795
Charles Lee 1795–1797

Chief Justice

Associate Justice

During his tenure as President, Washington appointed more Justices to the Supreme Court of the United States than any other President succeeding him.

States joining the Union:</u>

States admitted to the Union:</u>

LegacyEdit

Main article: George Washington's legacy

Congressman Henry Lee, a Revolutionary War comrade and father of the Civil War general Robert E. Lee, famously eulogized Washington as follows:

First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen, he was second to none in humble and enduring scenes of private life. Pious, just, humane, temperate, and sincere; uniform, dignified, and commanding; his example was as edifying to all around him as were the effects of that example lasting…Correct throughout, vice shuddered in his presence and virtue always felt his fostering hand. The purity of his private character gave effulgence to his public virtues…Such was the man for whom our nation mourns.[9]

Lee's words set the standard by which Washington's overwhelming reputation was impressed upon the American memory. Washington set many precedents for the national government and the presidency in particular.

As early as 1778, Washington was lauded as the "Father of His Country."[49]

Monuments and memorialsEdit

Today, Washington's face and image are often used as national symbols of the United States, along with the icons such as the flag and great seal. Perhaps the most prominent commemoration of his legacy is the use of his image on the one-dollar bill and the quarter-dollar coin. Washington, together with Theodore Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln, is depicted in stone at the Mount Rushmore Memorial. The Washington Monument, one of the most well-known American landmarks, was built in his honor. The George Washington Masonic National Memorial in Alexandria, Virginia, constructed entirely with voluntary contributions from members of the Masonic Fraternity, was also built in his honor.[50]

Many things have been named in honor of Washington. Washington's name became that of the nation's capital, Washington, D.C., only one of two capitals across the globe to be named after an American president (the other is Monrovia, Liberia). The State of Washington is the only state to be named after an American (Maryland, Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia are all named in honor of British monarchs). George Washington University and Washington University in St. Louis were named for him, as was Washington and Lee University (once Washington Academy), which was renamed due to Washington’s large endowment in 1796. Countless American cities and towns feature a Washington Street among their thoroughfares.

The Confederate Seal prominently featured George Washington on horseback, in the same position as a statue of him in Richmond, Virginia.

Washington and slaveryEdit

Main article: George Washington and slavery

The slave trade continued throughout George Washington’s life. On the death of his father in 1743, the 11-year-old inherited 10 slaves. At the time of his marriage to Martha Custis in 1759, he personally owned at least 36 (and the widow's third of her first husband's estate brought at least 85 "dower slaves" to Mount Vernon). Using his wife's great wealth he bought land, tripling the size of the plantation, and additional slaves to farm it. By 1774 he paid taxes on 135 slaves (this does not include the "dowers"). The last record of a slave purchase by him was in 1772, although he later received some slaves in repayment of debts.[51]

Before the American Revolution, Washington expressed no moral reservations about slavery, but in 1786, Washington wrote to Robert Morris that "there is not a man living who wishes more sincerely than I do, to see a plan adopted for the abolition of slavery."[52] In 1778 he wrote to his manager at Mount Vernon that he wished "to get quit of negroes." Maintaining a large, and increasingly elderly, slave population at Mount Vernon was not economically profitable. Washington could not legally sell the "dower slaves", however, and because these slaves had long intermarried with his own slaves, he could not sell his slaves without breaking up families.[53]

As president, Washington brought seven slaves to New York City in 1789 to work in the first presidential household – Oney Judge, Moll, Giles, Paris, Austin, Christopher Sheels, and William Lee. Following the transfer of the national capital to Philadelphia in 1790, he brought nine slaves to work in the President's House – Oney Judge, Moll, Giles, Paris, Austin, Christopher Sheels, Hercules, Richmond, and Joe (Richardson).[54] Oney Judge and Hercules escaped to freedom from Philadelphia, and there were foiled escape attempts from Mount Vernon by Richmond and Christopher Sheels.

Pennsylvania had begun an abolition of slavery in 1780, and prohibited non-residents from holding slaves in the state longer than six months. If held beyond that period, the state's Gradual Abolition Law[55] gave those slaves the power to free themselves. Washington argued (privately) that his presence in Pennsylvania was solely a consequence of Philadelphia's being the temporary seat of the federal government, and that the state law should not apply to him. On the advice of his attorney general, Edmund Randolph, he systematically rotated the President's House slaves in and out of the state to prevent their establishing a six-month continuous residency. This rotation was itself a violation of the Pennsylvania law, but the President's actions were not challenged.

The Fugitive Slave Act of 1793[56] established the legal mechanism by which a slaveholder could recover his property, a right guaranteed by the Fugitive Slave Clause of the U.S. Constitution (Article IV, Section 2). Passed overwhelmingly by Congress and signed into law by Washington, the 1793 Act made assisting an escaped slave a federal crime, overruled all state and local laws giving escaped slaves sanctuary, and allowed slavecatchers into every U.S. state and territory.

Washington was the only prominent, slaveholding Founding Father who succeeded in emancipating his slaves. His actions were influenced by his close relationship with Marquis de La Fayette. He did not free his slaves in his lifetime, however, but included a provision in his will to free his slaves upon the death of his wife. At the time of his death, there were 317 slaves at Mount Vernon – 123 owned by Washington, 154 "dower slaves," and 40 rented from a neighbor.[57]

Martha Washington bequeathed the one slave she owned outright – Elisha – to her grandson George Washington Parke Custis. Following her death in 1802, the dower slaves were inherited by her grandchildren.

It has been argued that Washington did not speak out publicly against slavery, because he did not wish to create a split in the new republic, with an issue that was sensitive and divisive.[58] Even if Washington had opposed the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793, his veto probably would have been overridden. (The Senate vote was not recorded, but the House passed it overwhelmingly, 47 to 8.)[59]

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Religious beliefsEdit

Main article: George Washington and religion

Washington was baptized into the Church of England.[60][61] In 1765, when the Church of England was still the state religion,[62] he served on the vestry (lay council) for his local church. Throughout his life, he spoke of the value of righteousness, and of seeking and offering thanks for the "blessings of Heaven."

In a letter to George Mason in 1785, Washington wrote that he was not among those alarmed by a bill "making people pay towards the support of that [religion] which they profess," but felt that it was "impolitic" to pass such a measure, and wished it had never been proposed, believing that it would disturb public tranquility.[63]

His adopted daughter, Nelly Custis Lewis, stated: "I have heard her [Nelly's mother, Eleanor Calvert Custis, who resided in Mount Vernon for two years] say that General Washington always received the sacrament with my grandmother [Martha Washington] before the revolution."[64] After the revolution, Washington frequently accompanied his wife to Christian church services; however, there is no record of his ever taking communion, and he would regularly leave services before communion—with the other non-communicants (as was the custom of the day), until, after being admonished by a rector, he ceased attending at all on communion Sundays.[65][66] Prior to communion, believers are admonished to take stock of their spiritual lives and not to participate in the ceremony unless he finds himself in the will of God.[67][68] Historians and biographers continue to debate the degree to which he can be counted as a Christian, and the degree to which he was a deist.

He was an early supporter of religious toleration and freedom of religion. In 1775, he ordered that his troops not show anti-Catholic sentiments by burning the pope in effigy on Guy Fawkes Night. When hiring workmen for Mount Vernon, he wrote to his agent, "If they be good workmen, they may be from Asia, Africa, or Europe; they may be Mohammedans, Jews, or Christians of any sect, or they may be Atheists."[67][69] In 1790, he wrote a response to a letter from the Touro Synagogue, in which he said that as long as people remain good citizens, their faith does not matter. This was a relief to the Jewish community of the United States, since the Jews had been either expelled or discriminated against in many European countries.

...the Government of the United States ... gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance. ... May the children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and figtree, and there shall be none to make him afraid. May the father of all mercies scatter light and not darkness in our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in his own due time and way everlastingly happy.

The United States Bill of Rights was in the process of being ratified at the time.

Personal lifeEdit

In addition to Martha's biological family noted above, George Washington had a close relationship with his nephew and heir Bushrod Washington, son of George's younger brother John Augustine Washington. Bushrod became an Associate Justice on the US Supreme Court after George's death.

As a young man, Washington had red hair.[70][71] A popular myth is that he wore a wig, as was the fashion among some at the time. Washington did not wear a wig; instead he powdered his hair,[72] as represented in several portraits, including the well-known unfinished Gilbert Stuart depiction.[73]

Washington suffered from problems with his teeth throughout his life. He lost his first tooth when he was twenty-two and had only one left by the time he became President.[74] According to John Adams, he lost them because he used them to crack Brazil nuts. Modern historians suggest the mercury oxide which he was given to treat illnesses such as smallpox and malaria probably contributed to the loss.[74] He had several sets of false teeth made, four of them by a dentist named John Greenwood.[74] Contrary to popular belief, none of the sets were made from wood. The set made when he became President was carved from hippopotamus and elephant ivory, held together with gold springs.[74][75] The hippo ivory was used for the plate, into which real human teeth and also bits of horses' and donkeys' teeth were inserted.[74] Dental problems left Washington in constant discomfort, for which he took laudanum. This distress may be apparent in many of the portraits painted while he was still in office, including the one still used on the $1 bill.[74]

One of the most enduring myths about George Washington involves his chopping down his father's cherry tree and, when asked about it, using the famous line "I cannot tell a lie, I did it with my little hatchet." In fact, there is no evidence that this ever occurred.[76] It, along with the story of Washington throwing a silver dollar across the Potomac River, was part of a book of mythic stories authored by Mason Weems that made Washington a legendary figure beyond his wartime and presidential achievements.

See alsoEdit

Template:Wikipedia-Books

References: biographiesEdit

  • Buchanan, John. The Road to Valley Forge: How Washington Built the Army That Won the Revolution (2004). 368 pp.
  • Burns, James MacGregor and Dunn, Susan. George Washington. Times, 2004. 185 pp. explore leadership style
  • Cunliffe, Marcus. George Washington: Man and Monument (1958), explores both the biography and the myth
  • Grizzard, Frank E., Jr. George! A Guide to All Things Washington. Buena Vista and Charlottesville, VA: Mariner Publishing. 2005. ISBN 0-9768238-0-2. Grizzard is a leading scholar of Washington.
  • Hirschfeld, Fritz. George Washington and Slavery: A Documentary Portrayal. University of Missouri Press, 1997.
  • Ellis, Joseph J. His Excellency: George Washington. (2004) ISBN 1-4000-4031-0. Acclaimed interpretation of Washington's career.
  • Elkins, Stanley M. and Eric McKitrick. The Age of Federalism. (1994) the leading scholarly history of the 1790s.
  • Ferling, John E. The First of Men: A Life of George Washington (1989). Biography from a leading scholar.
  • Fischer, David Hackett. Washington's Crossing. (2004), prize-winning military history focused on 1775–1776.
  • Flexner, James Thomas. Washington: The Indispensable Man. (1974). ISBN 0-316-28616-8 (1994 reissue). Single-volume condensation of Flexner's popular four-volume biography.
  • Freeman, Douglas S. George Washington: A Biography. 7 volumes, 1948–1957. The standard scholarly biography, winner of the Pulitzer Prize. A single-volume abridgement by Richard Harwell appeared in 1968
  • Grizzard, Frank E., Jr. George Washington: A Biographical Companion. ABC-CLIO, 2002. 436 pp. Comprehensive encyclopedia by leading scholar
  • Grizzard, Frank E., Jr. The Ways of Providence: Religion and George Washington. Buena Vista and Charlottesville, VA: Mariner Publishing. 2005. ISBN 0-9768238-1-0.
  • Higginbotham, Don, ed. George Washington Reconsidered. University Press of Virginia, (2001). 336 pp of essays by scholars
  • Higginbotham, Don. George Washington: Uniting a Nation. Rowman & Littlefield, (2002). 175 pp.
  • Hofstra, Warren R., ed. George Washington and the Virginia Backcountry. Madison House, 1998. Essays on Washington's formative years.
  • Lengel, Edward G. General George Washington: A Military Life. New York: Random House, 2005. ISBN 1-4000-6081-8.
  • Lodge, Henry Cabot. George Washington, 2 vols. (1889), vol 1 at Gutenberg; vol 2 at Gutenberg
  • McDonald, Forrest. The Presidency of George Washington. 1988. Intellectual history showing Washington as exemplar of republicanism.
  • Smith, Richard Norton Patriarch: George Washington and the New American Nation Focuses on last 10 years of Washington's life.
  • Spalding, Matthew. "George Washington's Farewell Address." The Wilson Quarterly v20#4 (Autumn 1996) pp: 65+.
  • Stritof, Sheri and Bob. "George and Martha Washington" http://marriage.about.com/od/presidentialmarriages/p/gwashington.htm
  • Wiencek, Henry. An Imperfect God: George Washington, His Slaves, and the Creation of America. (2003).

Further readingEdit

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NotesEdit

  1. 1.0 1.1 The birth and death of George Washington are given using the Gregorian calendar. However, he was born when Britain and her colonies still used the Julian calendar, so contemporary records record his birth as February 11, 1732. The provisions of the Calendar (New Style) Act 1750, implemented in 1752, altered the official British dating method to the Gregorian calendar with the start of the year on January 1.
  2. Template:Cite web
  3. Template:Cite web
  4. Under the Articles of Confederation Congress called its presiding officer "President of the United States in Congress Assembled." He had no executive powers, but the similarity of titles has confused people into thinking there were other presidents before Washington. Merrill Jensen, The Articles of Confederation (1959), 178–9
  5. Johnson, Paul (2005). George Washington: The Founding Father. HarperCollins. p. 78. ISBN 0-06-075365-X. "In London, George III questioned the American-born painter Benjamin West what Washington would do now he had won the war. 'Oh,' said West, 'they say he will return to his farm.' 'If he does that,' said the king, 'he will be the greatest man in the world.'" 
  6. 6.0 6.1 Template:Cite web
  7. Garrity, Patrick (Fall, 1996). "Warnings of a Parting Friend (US Foreign Policy Envisioned by George Washington in his Farewell Address)." The National Interest, No. 45. Retrieved on October 6, 2007.
  8. Loubat, J. F. and Jacquemart, Jules, Illustrator, The Medallic History of the United States of America 1776-1876.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Henry Lee's eulogy to George Washington, December 26, 1799. Safire, William (2004). Lend Me Your Ears: Great Speeches in History. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. pp. 185–186. ISBN 0-393-05931-6. 
  10. 10.00 10.01 10.02 10.03 10.04 10.05 10.06 10.07 10.08 10.09 10.10 10.11 10.12 Bell, William Gardner (1983). Commanding Generals and Chiefs of Staff: 1775-2005; Portraits & Biographical Sketches of the United States Army's Senior Officer. Center of Military History – United States Army. pp. 52 & 66. CMH Pub 70–14. ISBN 0–16–072376–0. http://www.history.army.mil/books/CG&CSA/CG-TOC.htm. Retrieved on 2009-03-04. 
  11. "Slavery at Popes Creek Plantation", George Washington Birthplace National Monument, National Park Service, accessed 15 Apr 2009
  12. At the time Virginia included West Virginia and the upper Ohio Valley area around present day Pittsburgh.
  13. "Washington As Public Land Surveyor: Boyhood and Beginnings" George Washington: Surveyor and Mapmaker. American Memory. Library of Congress. Retrieved on May 17, 2007.
  14. Bush Hill House - Colonial Williamsburg Research Division
  15. Template:Cite web
  16. "George Washington: Making of a Military Leader", American Memory, Library of Congress. Retrieved on May 17, 2007
  17. Sparks, Jared (1839). The Life of George Washington, Boston: Ferdinand Andrews. p. 17. Digitized by Google. Retrieved on May 17, 2007.
  18. Tabbert, Mark A. (January 29, 2007). "A Masonic Memorial to a Virtuous Man". Pietre-Stones Review of Freemasonry. Retrieved on May 17, 2007.
  19. Washington Daylight Lodge #14 (2006). "Commemoration of George Washington’s Birthday". Retrieved on August 21, 2007.
  20. Fred Anderson, Crucible of War (Vintage Books, 2001), p. 6.
  21. 21.0 21.1 Lengel p.48
  22. On British attitudes see John Shy, Numerous and Armed: Reflections on the Military Struggle for American Independence (1990) p. 39; Douglas Edward Leach. Roots of Conflict: British Armed Forces and Colonial Americans, 1677–1763 (1986) p. 106; and John Ferling. Setting the World Ablaze: Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and the American Revolution (2002) p. 65
  23. Ellis, Joseph J. His Excellency: George Washington. (2004) ISBN 1-4000-4031-0.
  24. For negative treatments of Washington's excessive ambition and military blunders, see Bernhard Knollenberg, George Washington: The Virginia Period, 1732–1775 (1964) and Thomas A. Lewis, For King and Country: The Maturing of George Washington, 1748–1760 (1992).
  25. John K. Amory, M.D., "George Washington’s infertility: Why was the father of our country never a father?", Fertility and Sterility, Vol. 81, No. 3, March 2004. (online, PDF format)
  26. "Acreage, slaves, and social standing", Joseph Ellis, His Excellency, George Washington, pp. 41–42, 48.
  27. Fox hunting: Ellis p. 44. Mount Vernon economy: John Ferling, The First of Men, pp. 66–67; Ellis pp. 50–53; Bruce A. Ragsdale, "George Washington, the British Tobacco Trade, and Economic Opportunity in Pre-Revolutionary Virginia", in Don Higginbotham, ed., George Washington Reconsidered, pp. 67–93.
  28. Washington, quoted in Ferling, p. 99.
  29. Orlando W. Stephenson, "The Supply of Gunpowder in 1776," American Historical Review, Vol. 30, No. 2 (January 1925), pp. 271–281 in JSTOR
  30. Bickham, Troy O. "Sympathizing with Sedition? George Washington, the British Press, and British Attitudes During the American War of Independence." William and Mary Quarterly 2002 59(1): 101–122. ISSN 0043-5597 Fulltext online in History Cooperative
  31. Fleming, T: "Washington's Secret War: the Hidden History of Valley Forge.", Smithsonian Books, 2005
  32. George Washington Papers 1741–1799: Series 3b Varick Transcripts, American Memory, Library of Congress, Accessed May 22, 2006.
  33. Frost, Doug (January 6, 2005). "Rum makers distill unsavory history into fresh products". San Francisco Chronicle.
  34. Morison, Samuel Eliot (1972). "Washington's First Administration: 1789–1793". The Oxford History of the American People, Vol. 2. Meridian. 
  35. My Crazy RevWar Life: George Washington - Part 5 of 5
  36. Leonard D. White, The Federalists: A Study in Administrative History (1948)
  37. After Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected to an unprecedented four terms, the two-term limit was formally integrated into the Federal Constitution by the 22nd Amendment.
  38. Crew, Harvey W., Webb, William Bensing, Wooldridge, John, Centennial History of the City of Washington, D.C., United Brethren Publishing House, Dayton, Ohio, 1892, Chapter IV. "Permanent Capital Site Selected", p. 87 in Google Books. Accessed May 7, 2009.
  39. Text of Residence Act in ""American Memory" in official website of the U.S. Library of Congress Accessed April 15, 2009.
  40. Template:Cite web
  41. Matthew Spalding, The Command of its own Fortunes: Reconsidering Washington's Farewell address," in William D. Pederson, Mark J. Rozell, Ethan M. Fishman, eds. George Washington (2001) ch 2; Virginia Arbery, "Washington's Farewell Address and the Form of the American Regime." in Gary L. Gregg II and Matthew Spalding, eds. George Washington and the American Political Tradition. 1999 pp. 199–216.
  42. Library of Congress - see Farewell Address section
  43. "Religion and the Federal Government". Religion and the Founding of the American Republic. Library of Congress Exhibition. Retrieved on May 17, 2007.
  44. "Washington's Farewell Address, 1796"
  45. 45.0 45.1 The World Book Encyclopedia. W*X*Y*Z (1969 ed.). Field Enterprises Educational Corporation. 1969 [1917]. p. 84a. LOC 69-10030. 
  46. Template:Cite web
  47. http://www.washingtondaylight.org/news/GW-Birthday-Speech.pdf
  48. Template:Cite web
  49. He has gained fame around the world as a quintessential example of a benevolent national founder. Gordon Wood concludes that the greatest act in his life was his resignation as commander of the armies—an act that stunned aristocratic Europe. Gordon Wood, The Radicalism of the American Revolution (1992), pp 105–6; Edmund Morgan, The Genius of George Washington (1980), pp 12–13; Sarah J. Purcell, Sealed With Blood: War, Sacrifice, and Memory in Revolutionary America (2002) p. 97; Don Higginbotham, George Washington (2004); Ellis, 2004. The earliest known image in which Washington is identified as such is on the cover of the circa 1778 Pennsylvania German almanac (Lancaster: Gedruckt bey Francis Bailey).
  50. Welcome to the George Washington Masonic Memorial
  51. Fritz Hirschfeld, George Washington and Slavery: A Documentary Portrayal, University of Missouri, 1997, pp. 11-12
  52. Letter of April 12, 1786, in W. B. Allen, ed., George Washington: A Collection (Indianapolis: Library Classics, 1989), 319.
  53. Slave raffle linked to Washington's reassessment of slavery: Wiencek, pp. 135–36, 178–88. Washington's decision to stop selling slaves: Hirschfeld, p. 16. Influence of war and Wheatley: Wiencek, ch 6. Dilemma of selling slaves: Wiencek, p. 230; Ellis, pp. 164–7; Hirschfeld, pp. 27–29.
  54. Biographical sketches of the 9
  55. Pennsylvania's Gradual Abolition Law (1780)
  56. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1793
  57. 1799 Mount Vernon Slave Census
  58. Twohig, "That Species of Property", pp. 127–28.
  59. Slavery by the Numbers
  60. Family Bible entry http://www.nps.gov/history/history/online_books/hh/26/hh26f.htm
  61. Image of page from family Bible http://gwpapers.virginia.edu/project/faq/bible.html
  62. Colonial Williamsburg website has several articles on religion in colonial Virginia
  63. Template:Cite web
  64. ushistory.org Eleanor Parke Custis Lewis' letter written to Jared Sparks, 1833
  65. Template:Cite web
  66. Template:Cite web
  67. 67.0 67.1 Template:Cite web
  68. [1] Eleanor Parke Custis Lewis' letter written to Jared Sparks, 1833
  69. Boller, Paul F (1963). George Washington & Religion. p. 118.  letter to Tench Tilghman asking him to secure a carpenter and a bricklayer for his Mount Vernon estate, March 24, 1784
  70. Template:Cite web
  71. Template:Citation
  72. Template:Cite web
  73. Template:Cite web
  74. 74.0 74.1 74.2 74.3 74.4 74.5 Lloyd, J & Mitchinson, J: The Book of General Ignorance. Faber & Faber, 2006.
  75. Template:Cite web
  76. Template:Cite web

External linksEdit

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Military offices
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Continental Army General and Commander In Chief
June 15, 1775–December 23, 1783
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Maj. Gen. Henry Knox
(Senior Officer of the US Army)
Preceded by
Brig. James Wilkinson
Senior Officer of the United States Army
July 13, 1798–December 14, 1799
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Maj. Gen. Alexander Hamilton
Political offices
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Position created
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April 30, 1789–March 4, 1797
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John Adams
Honorary titles
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April 30, 1789 – December 14, 1799
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Academic offices
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Chancellor of The College of William & Mary
1788–1799
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