George Washington

George Washington was born in Virginia on February 22, 1732. He spent the earliest part of his adult life as a planter and surveyor before entering the state militia as a major in 1752. He had no previous military experience, yet was placed in charge of training his area militia.

In 1754, Washington fought against the French Canadians on behalf of the British during the French-Indian War. His military career during this time was largely unsuccessful. He resigned from his post in 1758, returning to Virginia to resume his career as a planter. His political career began at this time.

The Townsend Acts of 1767 spurred Washington to speak out against the British and he became active in the colonial cause.  His outspokenness lead to his nomination to the First Continental Congress.

After fighting with the British broke out in 1775, Washington showed up to the Second Continental Congress in uniform, prepared for war. The Congress promptly established a Continental Army and placed Washington at its head as Commander-in-Chief, mainly by default and because he looked and acted the part. Washington was bold and able to inspire his men, but not a particularly successful commander. The first years of the Revolutionary War saw a great deal of defeat and defection for the Continental Army against the better supplied and trained British Army. Finally, the Continental Army caught some breaks, had some successes, and eventually caused the defeat and surrender of British General Cornwallis at Yorktown in 1781. The peace treaty between the colonists and the British was signed in 1783.

The war had left the Colonies saddled with a great deal of debt and the confederation of states that the colonists formed after the war was unable to effectively deal with the situation. There was also a great deal of undercutting between the states concerning trade and tariffs, with states competing with instead of cooperating with each other. The Constitutional Convention of 1787 was called to come up with a solution to the problems. Washington attended the meeting in Philadelphia and was elected president of the proceedings. As the convention turned from a revision of the current Articles of Confederation into the development of a new constitution and unified nation, Washington’s support for the fledgling Constitution helped its passage and eventual ratification.

The Electoral College unanimously elected Washington as the first President of the United States in 1789. He was instrumental in making the office a more plebian post and held firm against any attempts to make it regal. He chose the present location of Washington, D.C. as the site for the capital of nation and the seat of the federal government. He also helped create the Cabinet, establishing the various offices such as Treasury and State, choosing strong and committed men as Secretaries. Among these visionaries were Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson.

During the Washington Presidency, which lasted until his resignation in 1797, Washington oversaw the establishment of a national bank with a standardized national currency. He also stretched federal powers in several situations such as the Whiskey Rebellion and asserted federal authority as a force in more than name only. He stabilized relations with Britain, through a treaty signed in 1794.

After his resignation, Washington went home to Virginia and a life of planting. He died at his home from acute Laryngitis and pneumonia on December 14, 1799.

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