Biographical Insights about
George WASHINGTON 1st U.S. President
(2 Feb 1732 - 14 Dec 1799)

Copyright 2007 by Terry J. Booth. Any reproduction or reuse is prohibited,
in whole or in part, without the express written permission of the author.

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1st in War, 1st in Peace, 1st in the Hearts of His Countrymen

Special Note: The following biography is taken from Wikipedia - a more extensive biography together with additional links can be found at the Complete Wikipedia Entry.

George Washington (February 22, 1732 December 14, 1799)[1] was a central and critical figure in the founding of the United States, and is commonly referred to as father of the nation. He led America's Continental Army to victory over Britain in the American Revolutionary War (17751783), and in 1789 was elected the first President of the United States of America.[2] He served two four-year terms from 1789 to 1797, winning reelection in 1792. His devotion to republicanism and civic virtue made him an exemplary figure among early American politicians.

In his youth, Washington worked as a surveyor of rural lands and acquired what would become invaluable knowledge of the terrain around his native state of Virginia which at the time included West Virginia and the upper Ohio Valley area around present day Pittsburgh. In the early 1750's Washington was sent as an ambassador to the French traders and Indians as far north as present day Erie, Pennsylvania. Virginia was very interested in this area as the gateway to western expansion via the Ohio River and onward. Pennsylvania and Virginia both competed for this area around what would become Pittsburgh, but the French saw it as even more valuable; a way to unite Quebec and Louisiana via river while pinning the English to the East Coast. Washington gained command experience during the resulting French and Indian War (17541763). First as a colonel under General Edward Braddock to take Fort Duquesne in Pittsburgh, then as a commander when at Braddocks Field, Braddock was fatally injured. Due to this experience, his military bearing, his enormous charisma, his leadership of the patriot cause in Virginia, and his political base in the largest colony, the Second Continental Congress chose him, in 1775, as their commander-in-chief of the American army.

In 1776, he victoriously forced the British out of Boston, but, later that same year, was badly defeated, and nearly captured, when he lost New York City. However, in the bitter-cold dead of night, he revived the patriot cause, by crossing the Delaware River in New Jersey and defeating the surprised enemy units. As a result of his strategy, Revolutionary forces captured the two main British combat armies, first at Saratoga in 1777 and then at Yorktown in 1781. He handled relations with the states and their militias, dealt with disputing generals and colonels, and worked with Congress to supply and recruit the Continental army. Negotiating with Congress, the colonial states, and French allies, he held together a tenuous army and a fragile, nascent nation amid the constant threats of disintegration and failure. He was also the country's first spymaster.[3]

Following the end of the war in 1783, Washington emulated the Roman general Cincinnatus, and retired to his plantation on Mount Vernon, an exemplar of the republican ideal of citizen leadership who rejected power. Alarmed in the late 1780s at the many weaknesses of the new nation under the Articles of Confederation, he presided over the Constitutional Convention that drafted the United States Constitution in 1787.

In 1789, Washington became President of the United States and established many of the customs and usages of the new government's executive department. He sought to create a great nation capable of surviving in a world torn asunder by war between Britain and France. His Proclamation of Neutrality of 1793 provided a basis for avoiding any involvement in foreign conflicts. He supported Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton's plans to build a strong central government by funding the national debt, implementing an effective tax system, and creating a national bank. When rebels in Pennsylvania defied Federal authority, he rode at the head of the army to authoritatively quell the Whiskey Rebellion. Washington avoided the temptation of war and began a decade of peace with Britain via the Jay Treaty in 1795; he used his immense prestige to get it ratified over intense opposition from the Jeffersonians. Although he never officially joined the Federalist Party, he supported its programs and was its inspirational leader. By refusing to pursue a third term, he made it the enduring norm that no U.S. President should seek more than two. Washington's Farewell Address was a primer on republican virtue and a stern warning against involvement in foreign wars.

As the symbol of republicanism in practice, Washington embodied American values and across the world was seen as the symbol of the new nation. Scholars perennially rank him among the three greatest U.S. Presidents. During Washington's funeral oration, Henry Lee said that of all Americans, he was "first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen."

REFERENCES :

1. According to most sources, George Washington had no middle name. He was born when Britain and her colonies still used the Old Style (O.S.) Julian calendar. After 1752 when the New Style (N.S.) Gregorian was adopted, many important British-American dates were changed to reflect New Style. Both GW dates correctly reflect N.S. (i.e. 22Feb 1731/1732, with the first year shown being Julian and the last year being today's 'New Style' calendar.
2. 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.
3. S. Eugene Poteat, "George Washington: Spymaster Extraordinare", February 2000

FURTHER READING :

1. Lodge, Henry Cabot; George Washington; 2 Volumes; 1889. Can be downloaded from the Gutenburg Book Project Volume 1. and Gutenburg Book Project Volume 2.
2. Sparks, Jared; The Life of George Washington; 1837; Online edition starts HERE.
3. The Papers of George Washington, 17481799, ed. W. W. Abbot et al. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1976. Ongoing edition; project information at The Papers of George Washington, University of Virginia.
4. Washington, George (Rhodehamel, John, ed.) Writings (New York: The Library of America, 1997). ISBN 1-883011-23-X, 1149 pages. Convenient one-volume selection of letters, orders, addresses, and other Washington documents.
5. Hirschfeld, Fritz. George Washington and Slavery: A Documentary Portrayal. University of Missouri Press, 1997. 6. The Journal of Major George Washington (1754) Online edition

 
 
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