George Washington

Lansdowne portrait of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart, 1796

Lansdowne portrait of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart, 1796

Born on February 22, 1732 (by the Gregorian Calendar), Washington was known as the Father of His Country. He was an American general as well as the Commander in Chief of the colonial armies in the American Revolutionary War, then served as President of the 1787 Constitutional Convention and became the first President of the United States.

George Washington was the President while securing America’s independence and is generally accepted as one of the most important Presidents in the history of our country. Washington voluntarily stepped down after 8 years in service to his country as President, handing the reins to John Adams.

Early Life

George Washington in 1772 by Charles Willson Peale - the earliest authenticated portrait

George Washington in 1772 by Charles Willson Peale – the earliest authenticated portrait

Washington was raised by English parents, Augustine Washington (1693 – 1743) and Mary Ball Washington (1708 – 1789) on their Pope’s Creek Estate at Colonial Beach in Virginia, near Fredericksburg. During his younger years he surveyed the Shenandoah Valley, overcame smallpox in 1751 while in Barbados where Washington had travelled with his half brother Lawrence to help him overcome tuberculosis. Washington was initiated as a Freemason in Fredericksburg.

In 1754, Washington began his service with the Virginia Militia as a colonel. He served in the Ohio Valley before being asked to aid the British Army during the French and Indian War. Before resigning his commission to marry in 1757, Washington organized the First Virginia Regiment.

After 20 years, in 1774, of work and shrewd investment, Washington was asked to be a delegate to the First and Second Continental Congress’, though he did not support independence until 1776.

American Revolutionary War

The Continental Congress named Washington the Commander in Chief of the Continental Army, after which Washington drove the British out of Boston in 1776. Washington was then driven out of New York City, Long Island and into New Jersey.

Facts

President No: 1
Party: None, but Federalist leaning
First term: April 30, 1789 to March 4, 1793
Second term: March 4, 1793 to March 4, 1797
Age when he became President: 57
First Lady: Martha Washington (Martha Dandridge Custis), 1732-1802
Married in year: 1759
Born in: Westmoreland County, Virginia
Died: 14th December, 1799, Mount Vernon, Virginia
Grave site: Washington Burial Vault, Mount Vernon, Virginia
Children: 2 step, 2 adopted. Stepchildren: John Curtis (1754-81) and Martha Curtis (1755-73)
Religion: Episcopalian
Population at time George Washington was president: 3,929,214
Hobbies: Fishing, riding
Pets: Horse named Nelson
Transportation: Horse and carriage
Communication: Letter
Parents: Augustine and Mary Bell Washington
Education: Did not attend college, but instead studied at home
From: Virginia
Jobs: Planter, surveyor, farmer, soldier, general
Previous government positions: Virginia House of Burgesses member, Continental Congress representative and Chairman of the Constitutional Convention
Height: 6 feet, 2 inches

On Christmas Day, 1776, Washington lead a surprise attack on Trenton New Jersey, swinging the war back in the favor of the revolutionaries. This was followed up by another major victory at Princeton on January 3rd. Despite the moral boost of the victories, the particularly harsh winter lead to a large contraction in the size of Washington’s army to number as low as a thousand, through both lack of reenlistment and desertion. American victory was despite the brilliance of the victories not guaranteed at this stage. Washington set about a reorganisation of the army in response with both a carrot and stick method – a carrot of promise of monetary reward for three-year enlistment or land for enlisting for the duration of the war, a stick of increasing punishment from 39 to 100 lashes in order to discourage desertion. This was effective and numbers quickly rose again to ten thousand under Washington’s direct command.

Washington continued to battle effectively against the British, losing some battles but remaining an effective leader throughout, until he helped stopped the British attempts to quell the Revolution by joining American and French forces in Yorktown Virginia and successfully negotiating a surrender.

After resigning as Commander in Chief, Washington presided over the American Constitutional Congress in 1787. Washington’s presence, more than his participation, was enough to encourage the Congress forward, after which he pushed for the adoption of the Constitution where, again, his very presence was enough to convince most states, including Virginia.

Presidency

In 1789, George Washington was unanimously elected as the first President of the United States, the only man to ever achieve a unanimous election by the electoral college.

During his service as President, Washington was, more than anything, a model of democracy to future presidents, setting precedents in many areas including a faith in civil, not military, rule and a focus on the will of the people above all things.

Later Life

Speeches

Inaugural Addresses
1789, 1793
State of the Union Addresses
January 1790, December 1790, 1791, 1792, 1793, 1794, 1795, 1796
Other Speeches
Farewell Address

Washington relinquished the presidency to John Adams in March of 1797, at which time he returned to Mount Vernon where he spent time on his farming, turning an unprofitable farm into one of the largest distilleries in the United States which produced whiskey and fruit brandy. Two years later, on 13th July 1799, Adams appointed Washington Commander in Chief of the American army in any war that might break out with France, later that year, on December 14, Washington died.

Religion

From a religious perspective, George Washington was a controversial figure. Like many of the founding fathers, he was a Deist – believing in God, but not believing that God intervenes on a day to day basis. Before the Revolution, he served as a member of the laity of two Episcopal churches in Virginia.

Many of Washington’s talks and personal affairs had to do with his deeply engrained religious and Masonic beliefs. Most of “Washington’s Prayers” are regarded by historians as having been edited or written by other authors entirely.

George Washington painting by John Trumbull, circa 1780

George Washington painting by John Trumbull, circa 1780

Washington was an early supporter of religious pluralism. In 1775 he ordered that his troops not burn in the Pope in effigy on Guy Fawkes night. In 1790 he wrote that he envisioned a country “which gives bigotry no sanction…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 under his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.” This letter was seen by the Jewish community as a significant event; they felt that for the first time in millennia Jews would enjoy full human and political rights.

Politics and Legacy

Throughout his life, Washington was a proponent of democracy, fair treatment of slaves, and the will of the Freemasons, and organization in which he was heavily involved.

The capital city of the United States, Washington, D.C., is named after him and he was very involved in the placement of the White House, the creation of the District of Columbia and the placement of the United States Military Academy.

Numerous ships, the state of Washington and hundreds of schools are named after him, and his picture is on the one dollar bill and the quarter-dollar coin.

George Washington set a precedent of valuing his office and continuously seeking the will of the people for every decision – though sometimes he did choose what he felt was best for the country, to the point of having been the first President ever to use the Presidential veto. He is, to this day, revered as one of the greatest Presidents to ever serve, one of the most influential founding fathers and as a beacon of democracy in a time where military might was seen as more important than the will of the people.

George Washington Timeline

  • 1732: George Washington is Born on February 22nd
  • 1749: Becomes Official Surveyor of Culpeper County, Virginia
  • 1751: Visits Barbados with his brother
  • 1753: As Major, George Washington carries the British ultimatum to the French in the Ohio Valley River
  • 1754: As Colonel, George Washington surrenders Fort Necessity during the French and Indian War
  • 1755: On July 9th, Colonel Washington and General Edward Braddock are ambushed by the French and Indians
  • 1755-1758: Colonel Washington placed in command of Virginia’s frontier soldiers.
  • 1759: January 6th. Marries Martha Dandridge Custis
  • 1759-74: Member of Virginia House of Burgesses.
  • 1774: Elected delegate to the First Continental Congress.
  • 1775: Elected delegate to the Second Continental Congress.
  • 1775: June 15th. Continent Congress unanimously elect Washington to command Continental Army
  • 1776: July 4th. Continental Congress signs the Declaration of Independence.
  • 1776: December 26th Leads surprise attack on Trenton, New Jersey which swings war in revolutionaries favour.
  • 1777: January 3rd. Successful attack on Princeton led by Washington.
  • 1781: October 19th. Yorktown Victory.
  • 1787: May 25th. Elected as Chairman of Constitutional Convention.
  • 1789: Washington’s tenure as President begins.
  • 1789: June 1st Washington signs the first act on Congress, which deals with administration of oaths.
  • 1789: Establishment by Congress of the Department of Foreign Affairs.
  • 1789: North Carolina becomes a state.
  • 1789-99: French Revolution ends absolute monarchy in France, in part inspired by the American Revolution.
  • 1790: Plans for the U.S. Capitol approved by Washington.
  • 1790: First census of the country takes place over nine months, revealing the population to be 3,929,214
  • 1790: Rhode Island achieves statehood.
  • 1793: In war between Britain and France declares American neutrality.
  • 1794: Uses federal troops against the Whiskey Rebellion in Western Pennsylvania.
  • 1799: Passes away.

Pictures of George Washington

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1776 Portrait of George Washington by Charles Willson Peale. Oil on Canvas.
1776 Portrait of George Washington by Charles Willson Peale. Oil on Canvas.
1772 Portrait of George Washington by Charles Willson Peale. French and Indian War Uniform.
1772 Portrait of George Washington by Charles Willson Peale. French and Indian War Uniform.
1779 Portrait of George Washington by Charles Willson Peale. Oil on canvas.
1779 Portrait of George Washington by Charles Willson Peale. Oil on canvas.
Gilbert Stuart's Williamstown Portrait of George Washington, Oil on Canvas, painted after 1796
Gilbert Stuart's Williamstown Portrait of George Washington, Oil on Canvas, painted after 1796
General George Washington at Trenton, by John Truman, 1792
General George Washington at Trenton, by John Truman, 1792
Washington and Lafayette at Valley Forge, painting by John Ward Dunsmore, published 1907
Washington and Lafayette at Valley Forge, painting by John Ward Dunsmore, published 1907
The Surrender of Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown October 19 1781, John Trumbull, circa 1787
The Surrender of Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown October 19 1781, John Trumbull, circa 1787
General George Washington Resigning his Commission, John Trumbull, 1817
General George Washington Resigning his Commission, John Trumbull, 1817
Portrait of George Washington by Rembrandt Peale, circa 1850
Portrait of George Washington by Rembrandt Peale, circa 1850
George Washington Lansdowne portrait by Gilbert Stuart, 1796
George Washington Lansdowne portrait by Gilbert Stuart, 1796
George Washington Constable-Hamilton Portrait by Gilbert Stuart, 1797
George Washington Constable-Hamilton Portrait by Gilbert Stuart, 1797
George Washington at the Battle of Princeton, 1784, Charles Willson Peale
George Washington at the Battle of Princeton, 1784, Charles Willson Peale
George Washington by James Peale, 1787-1790
George Washington by James Peale, 1787-1790
George Washington by Robert Edge Pine, 1785
George Washington by Robert Edge Pine, 1785
Washington Before Yorktown, 1823, Rembrandt Peale
Washington Before Yorktown, 1823, Rembrandt Peale

 

Administration

Those who took part in George Washington’s administration are listed below. These cabinet members include some of the most famous of the American revolutionaries.

Vice President: 1789-97: John Adams
Secretary of State: 1790-93: Thomas Jefferson
1794-95: Edmund J. Randolph
1795-97: Timothy Pickering
Secretary of War: 1789-94: Henry Knox
1795: Timothy Pickering
1796-97: James McHenry
Secretary of the Treasury: 1789-95: Alexander Hamilton
1795-97: Oliver Wolcott, Jr.
Attorney General: 1789-94: Edmund J. Randolph
1794-95: William Bradford
1795-97: Charles Lee
Postmaster General: 1789-91: Samuel Osgood
1791-95: Timothy Pickering
1795-97: Joseph Habersham
Secretary of Foreign Affairs: 1789: John Jay

1788-89 Election Results

Please note that each elector had two votes, and thus Washington got 100% of the first votes and then the rest were divided among other candidates to decide a vice-president.

Candidate Electoral Votes Political Party State Represented
George Washington 69 None Virginia
John Adams 34 Federalist Massachusetts
John Jay 9 Federalist New York
Robert H. Harrison 6 Federalist Maryland
John Rutledge 6 Federalist South Carolina
John Hancock 4 Federalist Massachusetts
George Clinton 3 Anti-Federalist New York
Samuel Huntington 2 Federalist Connecticut
John Milton 2 Federalist Georgia
James Armstrong 1 Federalist Georgia
Benjamin Lincoln 1 Federalist Massachusetts
Edward Telfair 1 Anti-Federalist Georgia

 


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