French and Indian War
Battle of Jumonville Glen
Battle of Fort Necessity
Battle of the Monongahela
Battle of the Monongahela
American Revolutionary War
New York and New Jersey campaign
Northwest Indian War
Northwest Indian War
Other offices held
* Member of the
House of Burgesses (1758–1765)
This article is part of
a series about
* Early life
* Military career
* Electoral history
* AMERICAN REVOLUTION
* Commander in Chief of the
Battle of Trenton
Battle of Trenton
Mount Vernon Conference
* 1787 Constitutional Convention
PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES
* 1788–89 election
* 1st inauguration
* Judiciary Act
* Presidential title
* Coinage Act
* District of Columbia
* 1792 election
* 2nd inauguration
* Neutrality Act
* Judicial appointments
* Farewell Address
GEORGE WASHINGTON (February 22, 1732 – December 14, 1799) was an
American politician and soldier who served as the first President of
the United States from 1789 to 1797 and was one of the Founding
Fathers of the United States . He served as Commander-in-Chief of the
Continental Army during the
American Revolutionary War , and later
presided over the 1787 convention that drafted the United States
Constitution . He is popularly considered the driving force behind the
nation's establishment and came to be known as the "father of the
country ," both during his lifetime and to this day.
Washington was born into the provincial gentry of Colonial Virginia
to a family of wealthy planters who owned tobacco plantations and
slaves, which he inherited. In his youth, he became a senior officer
in the colonial militia during the first stages of the French and
Indian War . In 1775, the Second
Continental Congress commissioned him
as commander-in-chief of the
Continental Army in the American
Revolution. In that command, Washington forced the British out of
Boston in 1776 but was defeated and nearly captured later that year
when he lost
New York City
New York City . After crossing the
Delaware River in the
middle of winter, he defeated the British in two battles (Trenton and
Princeton ), retook New Jersey, and restored momentum to the Patriot
cause. His strategy enabled Continental forces to capture two major
British armies at Saratoga in 1777 and Yorktown in 1781 . Historians
laud Washington for the selection and supervision of his generals;
preservation and command of the army; coordination with the Congress,
state governors, and their militia; and attention to supplies,
logistics, and training. In battle, however, Washington was often
outmaneuvered by British generals with larger armies, yet was always
able to avoid defeats which would have resulted in the surrender of
his army and the loss of the American Revolution.
After victory had been finalized in 1783, Washington resigned as
commander-in-chief rather than seize power, proving his commitment to
American republicanism . Washington presided over the Constitutional
Convention in 1787 , which devised a new form of federal government
for the United States. Washington was widely admired for his strong
leadership qualities and was unanimously elected president by the
Electoral College in the first two national elections. Following his
election as president in 1789 , he worked to unify rival factions in
the fledgling nation. He supported
Alexander Hamilton 's programs to
satisfy all debts, federal and state, established a permanent seat of
government, implemented an effective tax system, and created a
national bank. In avoiding war with Great Britain, he guaranteed a
decade of peace and profitable trade by securing the
Jay Treaty in
1795, despite intense opposition from the Jeffersonians . He oversaw
the creation of a strong, well-financed national government that
maintained neutrality in the
French Revolutionary Wars , suppressed
Whiskey Rebellion , and won wide acceptance amongst Americans.
Washington's incumbency established many precedents still in use
today, such as the cabinet system , the inaugural address , and the
title Mr. President . His retirement from office after two terms
established a tradition that lasted until 1940 and was later made law
by the 22nd Amendment . He remained non-partisan, never joining the
Federalist Party , although he largely supported its policies.
Washington\'s Farewell Address was an influential primer on civic
virtue , warning against partisanship, sectionalism, and involvement
in foreign wars. He retired from the presidency in 1797, returning to
his home and plantation at
Mount Vernon .
Upon his death, Washington was eulogized as "first in war, first in
peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen" by Representative
Henry Lee III of Virginia. He was revered in life and in death;
scholarly and public polling consistently ranks him among the top
three presidents in American history. He has been depicted and
remembered in monuments, public works , currency, and other
dedications to the present day.
* 1 Early life (1732–1753)
* 1.1 Surveyor
French and Indian War
* 2.1 Beginnings of War
* 2.2 Braddock disaster 1755
* 2.3 Commander of
* 2.4 Lessons learned
* 3 Between the wars:
Mount Vernon (1759–1774)
American Revolution (1775–1783)
* 4.1 Commander in Chief
* 4.2 Victory at Boston
* 4.3 Defeat at New York
* 4.4 Crossing the
* 4.5 1777 campaigns
* 4.8 Hudson River and Southern battles
* 4.9 Arnold\'s treason
* 4.10 Difficulties during the winter of 1780–1781
* 4.11 Victory at Yorktown
* 4.12 Demobilization
* 5 Constitutional Convention
* 6 Presidency (1789–1797)
* 6.1 Cabinet
* 6.2 Domestic issues
* 6.3 Foreign affairs
* 6.4 Farewell Address
* 7 Retirement (1797–1799)
* 7.1 American Cincinnatus
* 8 Death
* 8.1 Subsequent diagnoses
* 8.2 Move to new burial site
* 9 Personal life
* 9.1 Religion
* 9.3 Slavery
* 10 Legacy
* 10.1 Papers
* 10.2 Monuments and memorials
* 10.3 Postage and currency
* 10.4 Cherry tree
* 10.5 Personal property auction record
* 11 See also
* 12 Notes
* 13 References
* 14 Bibliography
* 14.2 Online sources
* 14.3 Primary sources
* 15 External links
EARLY LIFE (1732–1753)
Ancestry of George Washington Washington's
George Washington was the first child of Augustine Washington
(1694–1743) and his second wife
Mary Ball Washington (1708–1789),
born on their Pope\'s Creek Estate near present-day Colonial Beach in
Virginia . He was born on February 11, 1731,
according to the
Julian calendar and Annunciation Style of enumerating
years then in use in the British Empire. The
Gregorian calendar was
adopted within the
British Empire in 1752, and it renders a birth date
of February 22, 1732.
Washington was of primarily English gentry descent, especially from
Sulgrave , England. His great-grandfather
John Washington emigrated to
Virginia in 1656 and began accumulating land and slaves, as did his
son Lawrence and his grandson, George's father Augustine. Augustine
was a tobacco planter who also tried his hand in iron-manufacturing
ventures. In George's youth, the Washingtons were moderately
prosperous members of the
Virginia gentry , of "middling rank" rather
than one of the leading planter families.
Six of George's siblings reached maturity, including older
half-brothers Lawrence and Augustine , from his father's first
marriage to Jane Butler Washington, and full siblings Samuel ,
Elizabeth (Betty) , John Augustine , and Charles . Three siblings died
before adulthood: his full sister Mildred died when she was about one,
his half-brother Butler died in infancy, and his half-sister Jane died
at age twelve, when George was about two. His father died of a sudden
illness in April 1743 when George was eleven years old, and his
half-brother Lawrence became a surrogate father and role model.
William Fairfax was Lawrence's father-in-law and the cousin of
Virginia's largest landowner Thomas, Lord Fairfax , and he was also a
formative influence. William Fairfax's son, George
William Fairfax ,
was a close friend and associate of Washington. His, wife, Sally ,
was also a friend of Washington and an early romantic interest. While
no evidence exists of a sexual affair between the two, Washington
wrote Sally love letters even after she had married.
Washington's father was the Justice of the Westmoreland County Court.
George spent much of his boyhood at
Ferry Farm in Stafford County
near Fredericksburg . Lawrence Washington inherited another family
property from his father, a plantation on the
Potomac River at Little
Hunting Creek which he named
Mount Vernon , in honor of his commanding
officer, Vice Admiral
Edward Vernon . George inherited
Ferry Farm upon
his father's death and eventually acquired
Mount Vernon after
Lawrence's death. Washington family
Coat of Arms
The death of his father prevented Washington from an education at
England's Appleby School such as his older brothers had received. He
achieved the equivalent of an elementary school education from a
variety of tutors, as well as from a school run by an Anglican
clergyman in or near Fredericksburg. There was talk of securing an
appointment for him in the
Royal Navy when he was 15, but it was
dropped when his widowed mother objected.
In 1751, Washington traveled to
Barbados with Lawrence, who was
suffering from tuberculosis , with the hope that the climate would be
beneficial to Lawrence's health. Washington contracted smallpox during
the trip, which left his face slightly scarred but immunized him
against future exposures to the dreaded disease. Lawrence's health
failed to improve, and he returned to
Mount Vernon where he died in
the summer of 1752. Lawrence's position as Adjutant
Virginia was divided into four district offices after his
death. Washington was appointed by Governor Dinwiddie as one of the
four district adjutants in February 1753, with the rank of major in
Virginia militia . During this period, Washington became a
Freemason while in Fredericksburg, although his involvement was
Washington's introduction to surveying began at an early age through
school exercises that taught him the basics of the profession,
followed by practical experience in the field. His first experiences
at surveying occurred in the territory surrounding Mount Vernon. His
first opportunity as a surveyor occurred in 1748 when he was invited
to join a survey party organized by his neighbor and friend George
Fairfax of Belvoir. Fairfax organized a professional surveying party
to lay out large tracts of land along the border of western Virginia,
where the young Washington gained invaluable experience in the field.
Washington began his career as a professional surveyor in 1749 at the
age of 17. He subsequently received a commission and surveyor's
license from the College of William at over six feet, he was taller
than most of his contemporaries. In October 1750, Washington resigned
his position as an official surveyor, though he continued to work
diligently over the next three years at his new profession. He
continued to survey professionally for two more years, mostly in
Frederick County, before receiving a military appointment as adjutant
for southern Virginia. By 1752, Washington completed close to 200
surveys on numerous properties totaling more than 60,000 acres. He
continued to survey at different times throughout his life and as late
FRENCH AND INDIAN WAR
George Washington in the
French and Indian War and
Military career of George Washington _ Washington's map,
accompanying his Journal to the Ohio_ (1753–1754)
Washington began his military service in the
French and Indian War
as a major in the militia of the British Province of Virginia. In
1753, he was sent as an ambassador from the British crown to the
French officials and Indians as far north as present-day Erie,
Ohio Company was an important vehicle through which
British investors planned to expand into the
Ohio Valley , opening new
settlements and trading posts for the Indian trade. In 1753, the
French themselves began expanding their military control into the Ohio
Country , a territory already claimed by the British colonies of
Virginia and Pennsylvania. These competing claims led to a war in the
colonies called the
French and Indian War (1754–62) and contributed
to the start of the global Seven Years\' War (1756–63). By chance,
Washington became involved in its beginning.
BEGINNINGS OF WAR
Deputy governor of colonial
Robert Dinwiddie was ordered by
the British government to guard the British territorial claims,
Ohio River basin. In late 1753, Dinwiddie ordered
Washington to deliver a letter asking the French to vacate the Ohio
Valley ; he was eager to prove himself as the new adjutant general of
the militia, appointed by the Lieutenant Governor himself only a year
before. During his trip, Washington met with
Tanacharison (also called
"Half-King") and other
Iroquois chiefs allied with England at Logstown
to secure their support in case of a military conflict with the
French. He delivered the letter to local French commander Jacques
Legardeur de Saint-Pierre , who politely refused to leave. Washington
kept a diary during his expedition which was printed by William Hunter
on Dinwiddie's order and which made Washington's name recognizable in
Virginia. This increased popularity helped him to obtain a commission
to raise a company of 100 men and start his military career. An
engraving depicting the evening council of
George Washington at Fort
Dinwiddie sent Washington back to the
Ohio Country to safeguard an
Ohio Company's construction of a fort at present-day
Pennsylvania. Before he reached the area, a French force drove out
colonial traders and began construction of
Fort Duquesne . A small
detachment of French troops led by
Joseph Coulon de Jumonville was
Tanacharison and a few warriors east of present-day
Uniontown, Pennsylvania . On May 28, 1754, Washington and some of his
militia unit, aided by their
Mingo allies, ambushed the French in what
has come to be called the
Battle of Jumonville Glen . Exactly what
happened during and after the battle is a matter of contention, but
several primary accounts agree that the battle lasted about 15
minutes, that Jumonville was killed, and that most of his party were
either killed or taken prisoner. It is not completely clear whether
Jumonville died at the hands of
Tanacharison in cold blood, or was
somehow shot by an onlooker with a musket as he sat with Washington,
or by another means. Following the battle, Washington was given the
Town Destroyer by Tanacharison.
The French responded by attacking and capturing Washington at Fort
Necessity in July 1754. They allowed him to return with his troops to
Joseph Ellis concludes that the episode
demonstrated Washington's bravery, initiative, inexperience, and
impetuosity. Upon his return to Virginia, Washington refused to
accept a demotion to the rank of captain, and resigned his commission.
Washington's expedition into the
Ohio Country had international
consequences; the French accused Washington of assassinating
Jumonville, who they claimed was on a diplomatic mission. Both France
and Great Britain were ready to fight for control of the region and
both sent troops to North America in 1755; war was formally declared
BRADDOCK DISASTER 1755
In 1755, Washington became the senior American aide to British
Edward Braddock on the ill-fated Braddock expedition. This was
the largest British expedition to the colonies, and was intended to
expel the French from the Ohio Country; the first objective was the
Fort Duquesne . Washington initially sought an appointment
as a major from Braddock, but he agreed to serve as a staff volunteer
upon advice that no rank above captain could be given except by
London. During the passage of the expedition, Washington fell ill with
severe headaches and fever; nevertheless, he recommended to Braddock
that the army be split into two divisions when the pace of the troops
continued to slow: a primary and more lightly equipped "flying column"
offensive which could move at a more rapid pace, to be followed by a
more heavily armed reinforcing division. Braddock accepted the
recommendation (likely made in a council of war including other
officers) and took command of the lead division.
Battle of the Monongahela
Battle of the Monongahela , the French and their Indian allies
ambushed Braddock's reduced forces and the general was mortally
wounded. After suffering devastating casualties, the British panicked
and retreated in disarray. Washington rode back and forth across the
battlefield, rallying the remnants of the British and Virginian forces
into an organized retreat. In the process, he demonstrated bravery and
stamina, despite his lingering illness. He had two horses shot from
underneath him, while his hat and coat were pierced by several
bullets. Two-thirds of the British force of 976 men were killed or
wounded in the battle. Washington's conduct in the battle redeemed his
reputation among many who had criticized his command in the Battle of
Washington was not included by the succeeding commander Col. Thomas
Dunbar in planning subsequent force movements, whatever responsibility
rested on him for the defeat as a result of his recommendation to
COMMANDER OF VIRGINIA REGIMENT
Lt. Governor Dinwiddie rewarded Washington in 1755 with a commission
as "Colonel of the
Virginia Regiment and Commander in Chief of all
forces now raised in the defense of His Majesty's Colony" and gave him
the task of defending Virginia's frontier. The
Virginia Regiment was
the first full-time American military unit in the colonies, as opposed
to part-time militias and the British regular units. He was ordered to
"act defensively or offensively" as he thought best. He happily
accepted the commission, but the coveted red coat of officer rank (and
the accompanying pay) continued to elude him. Dinwiddie as well
pressed in vain for the British military to incorporate the Virginia
Regiment into its ranks.
In command of a thousand soldiers, Washington was a disciplinarian
who emphasized training. He led his men in brutal campaigns against
the Indians in the west; his regiment fought 20 battles in 10 months
and lost a third of its men. Washington's strenuous efforts meant that
Virginia's frontier population suffered less than that of other
colonies; Ellis concludes that "it was his only unqualified success"
in that war.
In 1758, Washington participated in the
Forbes Expedition to capture
Fort Duquesne. He was embarrassed by a friendly fire episode in which
his unit and another British unit each thought that the other was the
French enemy and opened fire, with 14 dead and 26 wounded in the
mishap. Washington was not involved in any other major fighting on the
expedition, and the British scored a major strategic victory, gaining
control of the
Ohio Valley when the French abandoned the fort.
Following the expedition, he retired from his
commission in December 1758. He did not return to military life until
the outbreak of the revolution in 1775.
Washington never gained the commission in the British army that he
yearned for, but in these years he gained valuable military,
political, and leadership skills. He closely observed British
military tactics, gaining a keen insight into their strengths and
weaknesses that proved invaluable during the Revolution. Washington
learned to organize, train, drill, and discipline his companies and
regiments. He learned the basics of battlefield tactics from his
observations, readings, and conversations with professional officers,
as well as a good understanding of problems of organization and
logistics. He gained an understanding of overall strategy, especially
in locating strategic geographical points.
Washington demonstrated his resourcefulness and courage in the most
difficult situations, including disasters and retreats. He developed a
command presence, given his size, strength, stamina, and bravery in
battle, which demonstrated to soldiers that he was a natural leader
whom they could follow without question. Washington's fortitude in
his early years was sometimes manifested in less constructive ways.
Biographer John R. Alden contends that Washington offered "fulsome and
insincere flattery to British generals in vain attempts to win great
favor" and on occasion showed youthful arrogance, as well as jealousy
and ingratitude in the midst of impatience.
Ron Chernow is of the opinion that his frustrations in
dealing with government officials during this conflict led him to
advocate the advantages of a strong national government and a vigorous
executive agency that could get results; other historians tend to
ascribe Washington's position on government to his later American
Revolutionary War service. He developed a very negative idea of the
value of militia, who seemed too unreliable, too undisciplined, and
too short-term compared to regulars. On the other hand, his
experience was limited to command of at most 1,000 men and came only
in remote frontier conditions that were far removed from the urban
situations that he faced during the Revolution at Boston, New York,
Trenton, and Philadelphia.
BETWEEN THE WARS: MOUNT VERNON (1759–1774)
A mezzotint of
Martha Washington , based on a 1757 portrait by
Wollaston Washington expanded the estate at
Mount Vernon after
On January 6, 1759, Washington married wealthy widow Martha Dandridge
Custis , then 28 years old. Surviving letters suggest that he may have
been in love at the time with
Sally Fairfax , the wife of a friend.
Nevertheless, George and Martha made a compatible marriage, because
Martha was intelligent, gracious, and experienced in managing a
Together they raised her children from her previous marriage, John
Parke Custis and Martha Parke (Patsy) Custis. Later, they raised
Eleanor Parke Custis
Eleanor Parke Custis and George Washington
Parke Custis . George and Martha never had any children together; his
earlier bout with smallpox in 1751 may have made him sterile . The
newlywed couple moved to Mount Vernon, near Alexandria, where he took
up the life of a planter and political figure.
Washington's marriage to Martha greatly increased his property
holdings and social standing, and made him one of Virginia's
wealthiest men. He acquired one-third of the 18,000-acre (73 km2)
Custis estate upon his marriage, worth approximately $100,000, and
managed the remainder on behalf of Martha's children, for whom he
In 1754, Lieutenant Governor Dinwiddie had promised land bounties to
the soldiers and officers who volunteered to serve during the French
and Indian War. Washington prevailed upon Lord Botetourt , the new
governor, and he finally fulfilled Dinwiddie's promise in 1769–1770,
with Washington subsequently receiving title to 23,200 acres (94
km2) where the
Kanawha River flows into the Ohio River, in what is now
western West Virginia. He also frequently bought additional land in
his own name. By 1775, Washington had doubled the size of Mount Vernon
to 6,500 acres (26 km2), and had increased its slave population to
As a respected military hero and large landowner, he held local
office and was elected to the
Virginia provincial legislature,
representing Frederick County in the
House of Burgesses for seven
years beginning in 1758. In the 1758 election, he plied the voters
with 170 gallons of rice punch, beer, wine, hard cider, and brandy,
though he was largely absent while serving on the Forbes Expedition.
With the help of several local elites, Washington won election with
roughly forty percent of the vote, defeating three other candidates
for the seat. Early in his legislative career, Washington rarely
spoke, but he became a prominent critic of Britain's taxation and
mercantilist policies in the 1760s. Washington at the age of 40,
Washington lived an aristocratic lifestyle—fox hunting was a
favorite leisure activity. He also enjoyed going to dances and
parties, in addition to the theater, races, and cockfights . He also
was known to play cards, backgammon , and billiards . Like most
Virginia planters, he imported luxuries and other goods from England
and paid for them by exporting his tobacco crop. By 1764, these
luxuries, coupled with a poor tobacco market, left Washington ₤1,800
in debt. He began to pull himself out of debt in the mid-1760s by
diversifying his previously tobacco-centric business interests into
other ventures and paying more attention to his affairs, especially in
the form of buying fewer imported luxuries.
In 1766, he started switching Mount Vernon's primary cash crop away
from tobacco to wheat, a crop that could be processed and then sold in
various forms in the colonies, and further diversified operations to
include flour milling, fishing, horse breeding, hog production,
spinning, and weaving, and (in the 1790s) he erected a distillery for
whiskey production which yielded more than 1,000 gallons a month.
After a history of epileptic attacks, Patsy Custis died suddenly in
Washington's arms in 1773. The day following Patsy's death,
Washington wrote to
Burwell Bassett : "It is an easier to conceive,
than to describe, the distress of this Family, especially that of the
unhappy Parent of our Dear Patcy Custis, when I inform you that
yesterday re- moved the Sweet, Innocent Girl into a more happy he
began taking a leading role in the growing colonial resistance when
protests became widespread against the
Townshend Acts (enacted in
1767). In May 1769, he introduced a proposal, drafted by his friend
George Mason and calling for
Virginia to boycott English goods until
the Acts were repealed.
Parliament repealed the
Townshend Acts in 1770. Washington regarded
the passage of the
Intolerable Acts in 1774 as "an Invasion of our
Rights and Privileges". He told friend Bryan Fairfax, "I think the
Parliament of Great Britain has no more right to put their hands in my
pocket without my consent than I have to put my hands into yours for
money." He also said that Americans must not submit to acts of tyranny
"till custom and use shall make us as tame and abject slaves, as the
blacks we rule over with such arbitrary sway."
In July 1774, he chaired the meeting at which the "
Fairfax Resolves "
were adopted, which called for the convening of a Continental Congress
, among other things. In August, Washington attended the First
Virginia Convention , where he was selected as a delegate to the First
Continental Congress .
COMMANDER IN CHIEF
GEORGE WASHINGTON Oil on canvas painted by Charles Willson Peale
, July 1776.
Brooklyn Museum .
The colonies went to war after the Battles of Lexington and Concord
near Boston in April 1775. Washington appeared at the Second
Continental Congress in a military uniform, signaling that he was
prepared for war. He had the prestige, military experience, charisma,
and military bearing of a military leader and was known as a strong
Virginia was the largest colony and deserved recognition, and
New England—where the fighting began—realized that it needed
Southern support. Washington did not explicitly seek the office of
commander and said that he was not equal to it, but there was no
serious competition. Congress created the
Continental Army on June
14, 1775. Washington was nominated by
John Adams of Massachusetts,
then appointed as a full
Commander-in-chief of the
Continental Army . Washington's refusal to accept a salary earned
him a reputation as a "noble and disinterested" commanding officer.
The British then articulated the peril of Washington and his army; on
August 23, 1775, Britain issued a Royal proclamation labeling American
Patriots as traitors. If they resorted to force, they faced
confiscation of their property, and their leaders were subject to
execution upon the scaffold. _
George Washington at
Trenton _ by
John Trumbull ,
Yale University Art Gallery (1792)
General Washington essentially assumed three roles during the war.
First, he provided leadership of troops against the main British
forces in 1775–77 and again in 1781. He lost many of his battles,
but he never surrendered his army during the war, and he continued to
fight the British relentlessly until the war's end. He plotted the
overall strategy of the war, in cooperation with Congress.
Second, he was charged with organizing and training the army. He
recruited regulars and assigned Baron von Steuben to train them, a
veteran of the Prussian general staff. The war effort and getting
supplies to the troops were under the purview of Congress, but
Washington pressured the Congress to provide the essentials. In June
1776, Congress' first attempt at running the war effort was
established with the committee known as "Board of War and Ordnance",
succeeded by the Board of War in July 1777, a committee which
eventually included members of the military. The command structure of
the armed forces was a hodgepodge of Congressional appointees (and
Congress sometimes made those appointments without Washington's input)
with state-appointments filling the lower ranks. The results of his
general staff were mixed, as some of his favorites (such as John
Sullivan ) never mastered the art of command.
Eventually, he found capable officers, such as
Daniel Morgan ("the old wagoner" with whom he had
served in The
French and Indian War ), Colonel
Henry Knox (chief of
artillery), and Colonel
Alexander Hamilton (chief of staff). The
American officers never equaled their opponents in tactics and
maneuver, and consequently, they lost most of the pitched battles. The
great successes at Boston (1776), Saratoga (1777), and Yorktown (1781)
came from trapping the British far from base with much larger numbers
Daniel Morgan 's annihilation of
Banastre Tarleton 's
legion of dragoons at Cowpens in February 1781 came as a result of
Morgan's employment of superior line tactics against his British
opponent, resulting in one of the very few double envelopments in
military history, another being
Hannibal 's defeat of the Romans at
Cannae in 216 BC.
The decisive defeat of Col.
Patrick Ferguson 's Tory Regiment at
King\'s Mountain demonstrated the superiority of the riflery of
American "over-mountain men" over British-trained troops armed with
musket and bayonet. These "over-mountain men" were led by a variety of
elected officers, including the 6'6" William Campbell who had become
one of Washington's officers by the time of Yorktown. Similarly,
Virginia riflemen proved themselves superior to the British
at Saratoga, a post-revolutionary war development being the creation
of trained "rifle battalions" in the European armies.
Washington's third and most important role in the war effort was the
embodiment of armed resistance to the Crown, the representative man of
the Revolution. His long-term strategy was to maintain an army in the
field at all times, and eventually this strategy worked. His enormous
personal and political stature and his political skills kept Congress,
the army, the French, the militias, and the states all pointed toward
a common goal. Furthermore, he permanently established the principle
of civilian supremacy in military affairs by voluntarily resigning his
commission and disbanding his army when the war was won, rather than
declaring himself monarch. He also helped overcome the distrust of a
standing army by his constant reiteration that well-disciplined
professional soldiers counted for twice as much as erratic militias.
(This was clearly demonstrated in the rout at Camden , where only the
Delaware Continentals held firm under
Baron DeKalb .)
VICTORY AT BOSTON
Washington taking Control of the Continental Army, 1775
Washington assumed command of the
Continental Army in the field at
Massachusetts in July 1775 during the ongoing siege of
Boston . He recognized his army's desperate shortage of gunpowder and
sought new sources. American troops raided British arsenals, including
some in the
Caribbean , and some manufacturing was attempted. They
obtained a barely adequate supply (about 2.5 million pounds) by the
end of 1776, mostly from France.
Washington reorganized the army during the long standoff in Boston
and forced the British to withdraw by putting artillery on Dorchester
Heights overlooking the city. The British evacuated Boston in March
1776 and Washington moved his army to New York City.
British newspapers disparaged most of the Patriots, but praised
Washington's personal character and qualities as a military commander
despite his opposition to Britain, which some believed would ruin the
DEFEAT AT NEW YORK
In August 1776, British
General William Howe launched a massive naval
and land campaign designed to seize New York. Many of Washington's
generals preferred retreating from the city and engaging in a
defensive strategy, but he believed it better to engage in a major
pitched battle. The
Continental Army under Washington engaged the
enemy for the first time as an army of the United States at the Battle
of Long Island , the largest battle of the entire war. The Americans
were heavily outnumbered, many men deserted, and Washington was badly
defeated. He and his generals determined on a course of retreat, and
William Heath to make available every
flat-bottom riverboat and sloop in the area. In little time,
Washington's army crossed the
East River safely under the cover of
Manhattan Island and did so without loss of life or
Washington had considered abandoning the island and Fort Washington ,
but he heeded Generals Greene and Putnam\'s recommendation to attempt
a defense of the fort. He belatedly retreated farther across the
Hudson to Fort Lee to avoid encirclement. With the Americans in
retreat, Howe was able to take the offensive; he landed his troops on
the island on November 16 and surrounded and captured Fort Washington,
resulting in high Continental casualties. Biographer Alden claims that
"although Washington was responsible for the decision to delay the
patriots' retreat, he tried to ascribe blame for the decision to
defend Fort Washington to the wishes of Congress and the bad advice of
CROSSING THE DELAWARE
Washington Crossing the Delaware _, December 25, 1776, by
Emanuel Leutze , 1851
Washington then continued his flight across New Jersey; the future of
Continental Army was in doubt due to expiring enlistments and the
string of losses. On the night of December 25, 1776, he led his army
Delaware River . The next morning, the troops launched a
surprise attack on a Hessian outpost in Trenton, New Jersey, capturing
nearly 1,000 prisoners. Washington followed up his victory at Trenton
with another over British regulars at Princeton on January 3. The
British retreated to
New York City
New York City and its environs, which they held
until the peace treaty of 1783.
Washington's victories wrecked the British carrot-and-stick strategy
of showing overwhelming force then offering generous terms. The
Americans would not negotiate for anything short of independence.
These victories alone were not enough to ensure ultimate Patriot
victory, however, since many soldiers did not reenlist or deserted
during the harsh winter. Washington and Congress reorganized the army
with increased rewards for staying and punishment for desertion, which
raised troop numbers effectively for subsequent battles.
In February 1777 while encamped at Morristown, New Jersey, Washington
became convinced that only smallpox inoculation by variolation would
prevent the destruction of his Army. He ordered the inoculation of all
troops and, by some reports, death by smallpox in the ranks dropped
from 17% of all deaths to 1% of all deaths.
Historians debate whether Washington preferred to fight major battles
or to utilize a
Fabian strategy to harass the British with quick,
sharp attacks followed by a retreat so that the larger British army
could not catch him. His southern commander Greene did use Fabian
tactics in 1780–81; Washington did so only in fall 1776 to spring
1777, after losing
New York City
New York City and seeing much of his army melt
away. Trenton and Princeton were Fabian examples. By summer 1777
Washington had rebuilt his strength and his confidence; he stopped
using raids and went for large-scale confrontations, as at Brandywine,
Germantown, Monmouth, and Yorktown.
In late summer of 1777, British
John Burgoyne led a major
invasion army south from Quebec, with the intention of splitting off
rebellious New England. But
General Howe in New York took his army
Philadelphia instead of going up the Hudson River to join
with Burgoyne near Albany—a major strategic mistake. Meanwhile,
Washington rushed to
Philadelphia to engage Howe, while closely
following the action in upstate New York, where the patriots were led
Philip Schuyler and his successor
Horatio Gates . The
ensuing pitched battles at
Philadelphia were too complex for
Washington's relatively inexperienced men and they were defeated. At
Battle of Brandywine
Battle of Brandywine on September 11, 1777, Howe outmaneuvered
Washington and marched into the American capital at Philadelphia
unopposed on September 26. Washington's army unsuccessfully attacked
the British garrison at Germantown in early October. Meanwhile, to the
north, Burgoyne was beyond the reach of help from Howe, trapped and
forced to surrender after the
Battles of Saratoga
Battles of Saratoga . This was a major
turning point militarily and diplomatically—the French responded to
Burgoyne's defeat by entering the war, allying with America and
expanding the Revolutionary War into a major worldwide affair.
Washington's loss at
Philadelphia prompted some members of Congress
to consider removing Washington from command. This movement termed the
Conway Cabal , failed after Washington's supporters rallied behind
him. Biographer Alden relates, "it was inevitable that the defeats of
Washington's forces and the concurrent victory of the forces in upper
New York should be compared." The zealous admiration of Washington
indeed inevitably waned.
John Adams was never a fan of the southern
delegation to the Continental Congress, and he wrote that "Congress
will appoint a thanksgiving; and one cause of it ought to be that the
glory of turning the tide of arms is not immediately due to the
commander-in-chief nor to southern troops. If it had been, idolatry
and adulation would have been unbounded.... Now we can allow a certain
citizen to be wise, virtuous, and good, without thinking him a deity
or a savior."
General Washington and Lafayette
look over the troops at
Valley Forge .
Washington's army of 11,000 went into winter quarters at Valley Forge
Philadelphia in December 1777. Over the next six months, the
deaths in camp numbered in the thousands, the majority being from
disease, compounded by lack of food and proper clothing, poor shelter,
and the extreme cold; historians' death toll estimates range from
2,000 to over 3,000 men. The British were comfortably quartered in
Philadelphia and paid for their supplies in sterling; in contrast,
Washington had difficulty procuring supplies from the few farmers in
the area who would not accept rapidly depreciating American paper
currency, while the woodlands about the valley had soon been exhausted
of game. As conditions worsened, Washington was faced with the task of
maintaining morale and discouraging desertion, which had become common
Washington had repeatedly petitioned the
Continental Congress for
badly needed provisions but with no success. Finally, on January 24,
1778, five Congressmen came to
Valley Forge to examine the conditions
of the Continental Army. Washington expressed the urgency of the
situation, exclaiming, "Something must be done. Important alterations
must be made." At this time, he also contended that Congress should
take control of the army supply system, pay for its supplies, and
promptly expedite them as they became necessary. In response to
Washington's urgent appeal, Congress gave full support to funding the
supply lines of the army, which also resulted in reorganizing the
commissary department, which controlled gathering the supplies for the
army. By late February, there were adequate supplies flowing
The next spring, a revitalized army emerged from
Valley Forge in good
order, thanks in part to a full-scale training program supervised by
General von Steuben. The British evacuated
Philadelphia for New York
in June, 1778. Washington summoned a council of war with Generals Lee
, Greene , and Wayne and Lafayette , and he decided to make a partial
attack on the retreating British at the
Battle of Monmouth
Battle of Monmouth . The
British were commanded by Sir Henry Clinton , Howe's successor. On
June 28, Lee and Lafayette moved with 4,000 men and without
Washington's immediate knowledge; they attempted to launch but bungled
the first attack at the British rear guard. Clinton came about and
offered stiff resistance, also with 4,000 men and waiting in
anticipation, keeping the Americans in check. After sharp words of
criticism, Washington relieved Lee and continued fighting to an
effective draw in one of the war's largest battles. When nightfall
came, the fighting came to a stop and the British continued their
retreat and headed towards New York, where Washington soon moved his
army just outside the city.
In the summer of 1779, Washington and Congress decided to strike the
Iroquois warriors of the "Six Nations" in a campaign to force
Britain's Indian allies out of New York, which they had used as a base
to attack American settlements around New England. In June 1779, the
Indian warriors joined with Tory rangers led by Colonel William Butler
and slew over 200 frontiersmen, using barbarities normally shunned,
and laid waste to the Wyoming Valley in Pennsylvania. Indeed, one
British officer who witnessed the Tory brutality said that the
redcoats on return to England would "scalp every son of a bitch of
them." In August 1779,
General John Sullivan led a military operation
that destroyed at least 40
Iroquois villages, burning all available
crops. Few people were killed as the Indians fled to British
protection in Canada. Sullivan later reported that "the immediate
objects of this expedition are accomplished, viz: total ruin of the
Indian settlements and the destruction of their crops, which were
designed for the support of those inhuman barbarians."
HUDSON RIVER AND SOUTHERN BATTLES
Washington at this time moved his headquarters from Middlebrook in
New Jersey up to New Windsor on the Hudson, with an army of 10,000.
The British, led by Clinton, made a move up the Hudson against
American posts at Verplanck's Point and Stony Point, and both places
succumbed; but a counter-offensive was briefly successful by the
patriots led by
General Anthony Wayne. Clinton was able to shut off
Kings Ferry in the end, but it was a strategic loss; he could proceed
no farther up the river due to American fortifications and
Washington's army. The skirmishes at Verplanck's Point and at Stony
Point demonstrated that the continental infantry had become quite
formidable and were an enormous boost to morale.
Washington went into quarters at Morristown during the winter of
1779–1780, which represented the worst suffering for the army during
the war. The temperatures fell to 16 below zero, the New York Harbor
was frozen over, and snow and ice covered the ground for weeks, with
the troops again lacking provisions for a time as at Valley Forge. In
late 1779, Clinton moved his forces south to Charleston for an
offensive against the patriots led by Benjamin Lincoln. After his
success there, Clinton returned victorious to New York, leaving
Cornwallis in the south. Congress replaced Lincoln with Gates, despite
Washington's recommendation of Greene. Gates failed in South Carolina
and was then replaced by Greene. The British at the time seemed to
have the South almost in their grasp. Despite this news, Washington
was encouraged to learn in mid-1780 that Lafayette had returned from
France with additional naval assets and forces.
Military career of Benedict Arnold, 1777–79 A
page from the
Culper Ring 's codebook, listing the men whom Washington
gathered to be agents
In the summer of 1778,
George Washington ordered Major Benjamin
Tallmadge to form the
Culper Ring . This group was composed of a
select few trustworthy individuals whose purpose was to collect
information about the British movements and activities in New York
City . The Ring is famous for uncovering
Benedict Arnold 's intentions
of treason, which shocked Washington because Arnold was someone who
had contributed significantly to the war effort. Arnold was embittered
by his dealings with Congress over rank and finances, as well as the
alliance with France, so he conspired with the British in a plan to
seize the post that he commanded at West Point. Washington just missed
apprehending him, but did capture his co-conspirator Major John André
, a British intelligence officer under Clinton who was hanged by order
of a court-martial called by Washington.
DIFFICULTIES DURING THE WINTER OF 1780–1781
Pennsylvania Line mutiny and
Washington's army went into winter quarters at New Windsor in 1780
and suffered again for lack of supplies. Washington prevailed upon
Congress as well as state officials to come to their aid with
provisions. He sympathized with their suffering, saying that he hoped
that the army would not "continue to struggle under the same
difficulties they have hitherto endured, which I cannot help remarking
seem to reach the bounds of human patience".
VICTORY AT YORKTOWN
General Washington and the comte de Rochambeau at Yorktown _ by
Auguste Couder, 1836
In July 1780, 5,000 veteran French troops led by the _comte_ de
Rochambeau arrived at
Newport, Rhode Island to aid in the war. French
naval forces then landed, led by Admiral François Joseph Paul de
Grasse . At first Washington hoped to bring the allied fight to New
York and to end the war there, but Rochambeau advised de Grasse that
Virginia was the better target. Admiral de Grasse
followed this advice and arrived off the
Virginia coast. Washington
immediately saw the advantage created, made a feinting move with his
force towards Clinton in New York, and then headed south to Virginia.
Washington's Continental Army, also newly funded by $20,000 in French
gold, 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, preventing reinforcement by Clinton from the North.
The surrender at Yorktown on October 19, 1781, marked the end of major
fighting in North America. Cornwallis failed to appear at the
official surrender ceremony, and sent
General Charles Oharrow as his
proxy; Washington then had
Benjamin Lincoln accept the
surrender in his place.
Substantial combat had ended but the war had not, and a formal treaty
of peace was months away. The British still had 26,000 troops
occupying New York City, Charleston, and Savannah, and had a powerful
fleet. The French army and navy departed, so the Americans were on
their own in 1782–83. Money matters fed the anxiety; the treasury
was empty, and the unpaid soldiers were growing restive almost to the
point of mutiny. At one point, they forced an adjournment of the
Philadelphia to Princeton. Washington dispelled unrest
among officers by suppressing the
Newburgh Conspiracy in March 1783,
and Congress came up with the promise of a five-year bonus. _
George Washington Resigning His Commission_ by
John Trumbull ,
Capitol Rotunda (commissioned 1817)
With the initial peace treaty articles ratified in April 1783, a
recently formed Congressional committee under Hamilton was considering
needs and plans for a peacetime army. On May 2, 1783, the Commander in
Chief submitted his _Sentiments on a Peace Establishment_ to the
Committee, essentially providing an official Continental Army
position. The original proposal was defeated in Congress in two votes
(May 1783, October 1783), with a truncated version also being rejected
in April 1784.
By the Treaty of Paris signed on September 3, 1783, Great Britain
recognized the independence of the United States. Washington disbanded
his army and gave an eloquent farewell address to his soldiers on
November 2. On November 25, the British evacuated
New York City
New York City , and
Washington and the governor took possession. At
Fraunces Tavern on
December 4, Washington formally bade his officers farewell and he
resigned his commission as commander-in-chief on December 23, 1783, to
Continental Congress in the Old Senate Chamber of the Maryland
State House in Annapolis, Md. "I consider it an indispensable duty to
close this last solemn act of my official life, by commending the
interests of our dearest country to the protection of Almighty God,
and those who have the superintendence of them, to his holy keeping."
Historian Gordon Wood concludes that the greatest act in his life was
his resignation as commander of the armies. King George III called
Washington "the greatest character of the age" because of this.
Washington later submitted a formal account of the expenses that he
had personally advanced the army over the eight-year conflict of about
$450,000. It is said to have been detailed regarding small items and
vague concerning large ones, and included the expenses incurred from
Martha's visits to his headquarters, as well as his compensation for
service—none of which had been drawn during the war.
_ Signing of the U.S. Constitution_
Howard Chandler Christy
Howard Chandler Christy , 1940 Main article: Constitutional
Convention (United States)
Washington's retirement to personal business at
Mount Vernon was
short-lived. He made an exploratory trip to the western frontier in
1784 and inspected his land holdings in Western
Pennsylvania that had
been earned decades earlier for his service in the French and Indian
War. There he confronted squatters, including David Reed and the
Covenanters ; they vacated, but only after losing a court decision
Washington, Pennsylvania in 1786. He also facilitated the
creation of the
Potomac Company , a public–private partnership that
sought to link the
Potomac River with the
Ohio River , but technical
and financial challenges rendered the company unprofitable.
After much reluctance, he was persuaded to attend the Constitutional
Philadelphia during the summer of 1787 as a delegate
from Virginia, where he was unanimously elected as president of the
Convention. He held considerable criticism of the Articles of
Confederation of the thirteen colonies, for the weak central
government which it established, referring to the Articles as no more
than "a rope of sand" to support the new nation. Washington's view
for the need of a strong federal government grew out of the recent
war, as well as the inability of the
Continental Congress to rally the
states to provide for the needs of the military, as was clearly
demonstrated for him during the winter at Valley Forge. The general
populace, however, did not share Washington's views of a strong
federal government binding the states together, comparing such a
prevailing entity to the British Parliament that previously ruled and
taxed the colonies.
Washington's participation in the debates was minor, although he cast
his vote when called upon; his prestige facilitated the collegiality
and productivity of the delegates. After a couple of months into the
task, Washington told Alexander Hamilton, "I almost despair of seeing
a favorable issue to the proceedings of our convention and do
therefore repent having had any agency in the business." Following
the Convention, his support convinced many, but not all of his
colleagues, to vote for ratification. He unsuccessfully lobbied
Patrick Henry , saying that "the adoption of it under
the present circumstances of the Union is in my opinion desirable;" he
declared that the only alternative would be anarchy. Nevertheless, he
did not consider it appropriate to cast his vote in favor of adoption
for Virginia, since he was expected to be nominated president under
it. The new Constitution was subsequently ratified by all thirteen
states. The delegates to the convention designed the presidency with
Washington in mind, allowing him to define the office by establishing
precedent once elected. Washington thought that the achievements were
monumental once they were finally completed.
Presidency of George Washington _ Lansdowne
portrait _, painted by
Gilbert Stuart in 1796
The Electoral College unanimously elected Washington as the first
president in 1789 and again in 1792 . He remains the only
president to receive the totality of electoral votes. John Adams
received the next highest vote total and was elected vice president.
Washington was inaugurated on April 30, 1789, taking the first
presidential oath of office on the balcony of
Federal Hall in New York
City. The oath, as follows, was administered by Chancellor Robert R.
Livingston : "I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the
President of the United States
President of the United States and will, to the best of my
ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United
States." Historian John R. Alden indicates that Washington added the
words "so help me God."
1st United States Congress voted to pay Washington a salary of
$25,000 a year—a large sum in 1789, valued at about $340,000 in 2015
dollars. Washington faced financial troubles then, yet he initially
declined the salary. At the urging of Congress, 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. The president was aware that
everything which he did set a precedent, and he 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 proposed by the Senate.
Washington proved an able administrator and established many
precedents in the functions of the presidency, including messages to
Congress and the cabinet form of government. He set the standard for
tolerance of opposition voices, despite fears that a democratic system
would lead to political violence, and conducted a smooth transition of
power to his successor. He was an excellent delegator and judge of
talent and character; he talked regularly with department heads and
listened to their advice 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." After reluctantly
serving a second term, Washington refused to run for a third,
establishing the tradition of a maximum of two terms for a president,
which was solidified by
Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.
During his first term in office, Washington had to contend with major
problems, old and new. The United States was not completely unified,
North Carolina and
Rhode Island had not yet formally joined and the
status of the independent
Vermont Republic was uncertain. Great
Britain refused to relinquish its forts in the American West.
United States Army
United States Army was minuscule while the United
States Navy did not exist. The old Confederation lacked the powers to
handle the needed workload. It had weak leadership, no executive, a
small bureaucracy of clerks, incurred a large debt, worthless paper
money, no taxing power, and states that feuded with their neighbors.
During Washington's first months in office in 1789, Congress created
executive departments including the State Department , on July 27, the
Department of War , in early August, and the Treasury Department , on
September 2. The President also received two additional officers,
but without departments, the Attorney
General and Postmaster
Washington appointed Richmond lawyer
Edmund Randolph , Attorney
General, and appointed
Samuel Osgood , Postmaster General.
Washington appointed fellow Virginian
Thomas Jefferson , Secretary of
State , and appointed
Henry Knox , Secretary of War . To head the
Treasury Department, Washington appointed
Alexander Hamilton .
Washington's cabinet eventually evolved into consultation and advisory
body, although this was not mandated by the Constitution. Congress
passed a bill, sponsored by Virginian
James Madison , that gave the
President the power to remove public officials whose appointments
mandated Senatorial approval. Washington's Vice President, John
Adams, cast the deciding vote in the Senate in favor of exclusive
executive authority to remove federal and cabinet appointments.
_ George Washington_ by
Rembrandt Peale ,
De Young Museum
De Young Museum (ca.
1850) See also:
Washington was not a member of any political party and hoped that
they would not be formed, fearing conflict that would undermine
republicanism. 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
to build a financially powerful nation, and he formed the basis of the
Federalist Party . Secretary of State
Thomas Jefferson was the founder
of the Jeffersonian Republicans , and he strenuously opposed
Hamilton's agenda. Washington typically favored Hamilton over
Jefferson, and it was Hamilton's agenda that went into effect.
Jefferson's political actions, his support of
Philip Freneau 's
National Gazette _, and his attempt to undermine Hamilton nearly led
George Washington to dismiss him from his cabinet, though he
ultimately left the cabinet voluntarily. Washington never forgave him
and never spoke to him again.
In early 1790, Hamilton devised a plan with the approval of
Washington, culminating in The
Residence Act of 1790 , that
established the creditworthiness of the new government, as well as its
permanent location. Congress had previously issued almost $22 million
to suppliers in certificates of debt during the war; some of the
states had incurred debt, as well (more so in the North). In
accordance with the plan, Congress authorized the assumption and
payment of these debts, and provided funding through customs duties
and excise taxes. The proposal was largely favored in the North and
opposed in the South. Hamilton obtained the approval of the southern
states in exchange for an agreement to place the new national capitol
on the Potomac River.
The national debt increased as a result during Hamilton's service as
Secretary of the Treasury, but the nation established its good credit.
Many in the Congress and elsewhere in the government profited from
trading in the debt paper which was assumed. Many of Washington's
fellow Virginians and others were vexed by this, but he considered
that they had adequate redress through their Congressional
The Revenue Act authorized the president to select the specific
location on the
Potomac River for the seat of the government. He was
to appoint three commissioners to survey and acquire property for it,
and Washington personally 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,
according to the provisions of the Residence Act.
In 1791, Congress imposed an excise tax on distilled spirits, partly
as a result of the
Copper Panic of 1789 , and this led to protests in
frontier districts, especially Pennsylvania. Washington ordered the
protesters to appear in U.S. district court , but the protests turned
into full-scale defiance of federal authority in 1794 known as the
Whiskey Rebellion . The federal army was too small to be used, so
Washington invoked the
Militia Act of 1792 to summon militias from
Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, and New Jersey. The governors sent
the troops, with Washington taking initial command. He subsequently
named Henry "Lighthorse Harry" Lee as field commander to lead the
troops into the rebellious districts. The rebels dispersed and there
was no fighting, as Washington's forceful action proved that the new
government could protect itself. This represented the premier instance
of the federal government using military force to exert authority over
the states and citizens and is also the only time that a sitting U.S.
president personally commanded troops in the field.
Miniature Portrait of Washington by Robert Field (1800)
In April 1792, the
French Revolutionary Wars broke out between Great
Britain and its allies and revolutionary France; Washington, with
cabinet approval, proclaimed American neutrality. The revolutionary
government of France sent diplomat
Edmond-Charles Genêt to America,
called "Citizen Genêt". He was welcomed with great enthusiasm and
began promoting the case for France, using a network of new Democratic
Societies in major cities. He even issued French letters of marque and
reprisal to French ships manned by American sailors so that they could
capture British merchant ships. Washington denounced the societies and
demanded that the French government recall Genêt, which they did.
Hamilton formulated the
Jay Treaty to normalize trade relations with
Great Britain, remove them from western forts, and resolve financial
debts remaining from the Revolution;
John Jay negotiated and signed
the treaty on November 19, 1794. Jeffersonians supported France and
strongly attacked the treaty. Washington listened to both sides, then
announced his strong support, which mobilized public opinion and was
pivotal in securing ratification in the Senate on June 24, 1795 by the
requisite two-thirds majority.
The British agreed to depart from their forts around the Great Lakes
, and the United States-Canada boundary had to be re-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 Great Britain and instead brought a decade
of prosperous trade. The treaty angered the French and became a
central issue in many political debates. Relations with France
deteriorated after the treaty was signed, leaving succeeding president
John Adams with the prospect of war.
Main article: George Washington\'s Farewell Address
Washington\'s Farewell Address (September 19, 1796)
Washington's Farewell Address was issued as a public letter in 1796
and was one of the most influential statements of republicanism,
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. He referred to
morality as "a necessary spring of popular government ", and 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." The address warned against foreign influence in domestic
affairs and American meddling in European affairs, and against bitter
partisanship in domestic politics. He also called for men to move
beyond partisanship and serve the common good. He cautioned against
"permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world", saying
that the United States must concentrate primarily on American
interests. He counseled friendship and commerce with all nations, but
advised against involvement in European wars and entering into
long-term "entangling" alliances, while advancing the general idea of
non-involvement in foreign affairs. The Farewell Address made no clear
distinction between domestic and foreign policies; John Quincy Adams
interpreted Washington's policy as advocating a strong nationalist
foreign policy while not limiting America's international activities.
The address quickly set American values regarding foreign affairs.
Washington's policy of non-involvement in the foreign affairs of the
Old World was largely embraced by the founding generation of American
statesmen, including John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison.
Map of the
Mount Vernon plantation and lands
Washington retired from the presidency in March 1797 and returned to
Mount Vernon with a profound sense of relief. He devoted much time to
his plantations and other business interests, including his
distillery, which produced its first batch of spirits in February
1797. Chernow 2010 explains that his plantation operations were only
minimally profitable. The lands out west yielded little income because
they were under attack by Indians, and the squatters living there
refused to pay him rent. Washington attempted to sell off these
holdings but failed to obtain the price that he desired. Meanwhile, he
was losing money at
Mount Vernon due to a glut of unproductive slaves,
which he declined to sell due to a desire to keep families intact, and
due to questions as to whether the slaves rightfully belonged to him
or to Martha.
Most Americans assumed that he was rich because of the well-known
"glorified façade of wealth and grandeur" at Mount Vernon, nearly
all his wealth was tied up in land or slaves. Historians estimate that
his estate was worth about $1 million in 1799 dollars, equivalent to
about $19.9 million in 2014 purchasing power.
By 1798, relations with France had deteriorated to the point that war
seemed imminent. President Adams offered Washington a commission as
lieutenant general on July 4, 1798, and as
Commander-in-chief of the
armies raised or to be raised for service in a prospective war . He
accepted and served as the senior officer of the United States Army
from July 13, 1798, until his death seventeen months later. He
participated in the planning for a Provisional Army to meet any
emergency that might arise but avoided involvement in details as much
as possible. He delegated most of the work, including active
leadership of the army, to Hamilton, who was then serving as a major
general in the U.S. Army. No French army invaded the United States
during this period, and Washington did not assume a field command.
During the Revolutionary and Early Republican periods of American
history, many commentators compared Washington with Roman aristocrat
and statesman Cincinnatus . The comparison arose as Washington, like
Cincinnatus, remained in command of the
Continental Army only until
the British had been defeated. Thereafter, he returned as quickly as
possible to cultivating his lands instead of seeking great political
Philip Freneau remarked on Washington's resignation in
December 1783 and his decision to retire to Mount Vernon: Thus He,
whom Rome's proud legions sway'd Return'd, and sought his sylvan
Lord Byron 's _Ode to Napoleon_ also lionized Washington as "the
Cincinnatus of the West".
On Thursday, December 12, 1799, Washington spent several hours
inspecting his plantation on horseback, in snow, hail, and freezing
rain; that evening, he ate his supper without changing from his wet
clothes. He awoke the next morning with a severe sore throat and
became increasingly hoarse as the day progressed, yet still rode out
in the heavy snow, marking trees that he wanted cut on the estate.
Some time around 3 a.m. that Saturday, he suddenly awoke with severe
difficulty breathing and almost completely unable to speak or swallow.
He was a firm believer in bloodletting , which was a standard medical
practice of that era which he had used to treat various ailments of
slaves on his plantation. He ordered estate overseer Albin Rawlins to
remove half a pint of his blood.
Three physicians were summoned, including Washington's personal
James Craik , along with Dr. Gustavus Brown and Dr.
Elisha Dick . Craik and Brown thought that Washington had "quinsey "
or "quincy", while Dick thought that the condition was more serious or
a "violent inflammation of the throat". By the time that the three
physicians finished their treatments and bloodletting of the
president, there had been a massive volume of blood loss—half or
more of his total blood content was removed over the course of just a
few hours. Dr. Dick recognized that the bloodletting and other
treatments were failing, and he proposed performing an emergency
tracheotomy , a procedure that few American physicians were familiar
with at the time, as a last-ditch effort to save Washington's life,
but the other two doctors disapproved.
Washington died at home around 10 p.m. on Saturday, December 14,
1799, aged 67. In his journal, Tobias Lear recorded Washington's last
words as "'Tis well."
A funeral was held at
Mount Vernon on December 18, 1799 where
Washington's body was interred. Congress passed a joint resolution to
construct a marble monument for his body in the planned crypt below
the rotunda of the center section of the Capitol (then still under
construction), a plan acquiesced to by Martha. In December 1800, the
House passed an appropriations bill for $200,000 to build the
mausoleum, which was to be a pyramid with a 100-foot (30 m) square
base. Southern representatives and senators opposed the plan and
defeated the measure because they felt that it was best to have
Washington's body remain at Mount Vernon. Published regulations
for the funeral procession in honor of Washington (in New York City)
Throughout the world, people admired Washington and were saddened by
his death. In the United States, memorial processions were held in
major cities and thousands wore mourning clothes for months. Martha
Washington wore a black mourning cape for one year. In France, First
Napoleon Bonaparte ordered ten days of mourning throughout the
country. Ships of the British Royal Navy's Channel Fleet lowered
their flags to half mast to honor his passing.
To protect their privacy,
Martha Washington burned the correspondence
which they had exchanged; only five letters between the couple are
known to have survived, two letters from Martha to George and three
from him to her.
The diagnosis of Washington's final illness and the immediate cause
of his death have been subjects of debate since the day he died. In
the days immediately following his death, Craik and Dick's published
account stated that they felt that his symptoms had been consistent
with _cynanche trachealis_, a term of that period used to describe
severe inflammation of the structures of the upper airway. Even at
that early date, there were accusations of medical malpractice, with
some believing that Washington had been bled to death. Various
modern medical authors have speculated that Washington probably died
from a severe case of epiglottitis which was complicated by the given
treatments (all of which were accepted medical practice in
Washington's day), most notably the massive deliberate blood loss,
which almost certainly caused hypovolemic shock .
MOVE TO NEW BURIAL SITE
In 1830 a disgruntled ex-employee of the estate attempted to steal
Washington's skull from the original tomb. The next year a new vault
was constructed at
Mount Vernon to receive George and Martha
Washington's remains, along with other relatives buried in the
A joint Congressional committee debated the removal of President
Washington's body from
Mount Vernon to a crypt in the Capitol in early
1832. The crypt was built by architect
Charles Bulfinch in the 1820s
during the reconstruction of the burned-out structure after the
British set it afire in August 1814, during the Burning of Washington
. Southern opposition was intense, antagonized by an ever-growing rift
between North and South. Congressman
Wiley Thompson of Georgia
expressed the Southerners' fear when he said, "Remove the remains of
our venerated Washington from their association with the remains of
his consort and his ancestors, from
Mount Vernon and from his native
State, and deposit them in this capitol, and then let a severance of
the Union occur, and behold the remains of Washington on a shore
foreign to his native soil." Washington family tomb at Mount
Vernon (2014) Sarcophagi of George (right) and Martha (left)
Washington at the entrance to the Washington family tomb (2011)
On October 7, 1837 George Washington's remains, still in its original
lead coffin, were placed within a marble sarcophagus designed by
William Strickland and constructed by John Struthers. The
sarcophagus was sealed and encased with planks while an outer vault
was constructed around it. The outer vault contains the sarcophagi of
George and Martha Washington, the inner vault contains the remains of
other Washington family members and relatives.
The Washington Family
The Washington Family _ by Edward Savage , painted between 1789
and 1796, shows (from left to right):
George Washington Parke Custis ,
Eleanor Parke Custis
Eleanor Parke Custis ,
Martha Washington , and an
enslaved servant, probably William Lee or
Christopher Sheels .
As a young man, Washington had red hair. 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, as is represented in
several portraits, including the well-known, unfinished Gilbert Stuart
depiction called the "Athenaeum Portrait".
Washington's height was variously recorded as 6 ft (1.83 m) to 6 ft 2
in (1.88 m). He registered six feet three and one-half inches when
measured for his coffin. He had unusually great physical strength
that amazed younger men. Jefferson called Washington "the best
horseman of his age", and both American and European observers praised
his riding; the horsemanship benefited his hunting, a favorite hobby.
Washington was an excellent dancer and frequently attended the
theater, often making Shakespearean references in his letters. He
drank in moderation and precisely recorded gambling wins and losses,
but he disliked the excessive drinking, gambling, smoking, and
profanity that were common in colonial Virginia. He grew tobacco but
he eventually stopped smoking and considered drunkenness a man's worst
vice; he was glad that post-Revolutionary
Virginia society was less
likely to "force to drink and to make it an honor to send them home
Washington suffered from problems with his teeth throughout his life,
and historians have tracked his experiences in great detail. He lost
his first adult tooth when he was twenty-two and had only one left by
the time that he became president.
John Adams claimed that he lost
them because he used them to crack Brazil nuts , but modern historians
suggest that mercury oxide probably contributed to the loss, which he
was given to treat illnesses such as smallpox and malaria. He had
several sets of false teeth made, four of them by a dentist named John
Greenwood. 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. Prior to these, he had a set made with
real human teeth, likely ones that he purchased from "several unnamed
Mount Vernon slaves" in 1784. Dental problems
left Washington in constant pain, 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.
George Washington and religion
For his entire life, Washington was affiliated with the global
Anglican Church , which was reorganized in the United States as the
Episcopal Church following the Revolution. He served as a vestryman
and as church warden for both Fairfax Parish in Alexandria and Truro
Parish. These were administrative positions like all positions in
Virginia while it had an official religion, in that they required one
to swear that he would not speak or act in a way that did not conform
to the tenets of the Church. Numerous historians have suggested that,
theologically, Washington agreed largely with the Deists , but he
never spoke about any particular Deist beliefs which he may have had.
He often used words for the deity, such as "God" and "Providence",
while avoiding using the words "Jesus" and "Christ." In his collected
works, they appear in an official letter to Indians that might have
been drafted by an aide.
At the time,
Deism was a theological outlook, not an organized
denomination, and was compatible with being an Episcopal. Historian
Gregg Frazer argues that Washington was not a deist but a "theistic
rationalist ." This theological position rejected core beliefs of
Christianity, such as the divinity of Christ, the Trinity, and
original sin. Unlike the deists, the theological rationalists believed
in the efficacy of prayer to God. Theologian Peter A. Lillback argues
that Washington was neither a deist nor a "theistic rationalist" but a
Christian who accepted the core beliefs of Christianity.
Washington frequently accompanied his wife to church services.
Third-hand reports say that he took communion , although he is
usually characterized as never or rarely participating in the rite.
He would regularly leave services before communion with the other
non-communicants (as was the custom of the day), until he ceased
attending at all on communion Sundays after being admonished by a
Washington regarded religion as a protective influence for America's
social and political order, and recognized the church's "laudable
endeavors to render men sober, honest, and good citizens, and the
obedient subjects of a lawful government."
It is generally concluded that Washington was a Christian, although
the exact nature of his religious beliefs has been debated by some
historians and biographers for over two hundred years. Washington
Don Higginbotham notes that, in such instances, people with
diametrically opposing opinions frequently base their views of
Washington's beliefs on their own beliefs. Higginbotham claims that
Washington harbored no contempt of organized Christianity and its
clergy and quotes him as saying: "being no bigot myself to any mode of
worship". Washington, as commander of the army and as president, was
a vigorous promoter of tolerance for all religious denominations. He
believed that religion was an important support for public order,
morality, and virtue. He often attended services of different
denominations, and he suppressed anti-Catholic celebrations in the
Michael Novak and Jana Novak suggest that it may have been
"Washington's intention to maintain a studied ambiguity (and personal
privacy) regarding his own deepest religious convictions, so that all
Americans, both in his own time and for all time to come, might feel
free to approach him on their own terms—and might also feel like
full members of the new republic, equal with every other." They
He was educated in the Episcopal Church, to which he always adhered;
and my conviction is, that he believed in the fundamental doctrines of
Christianity as usually taught in that Church, according to his
understanding of them; but without a particle of intolerance, or
disrespect for the faith and modes of worship adopted by Christians of
Washington was initiated into
Freemasonry in 1752. He had a high
regard for the Masonic Order and often praised it, but he seldom
attended lodge meetings. He was attracted by the movement's dedication
to the Enlightenment principles of rationality, reason, and
fraternalism. The American lodges did not share the anti-clerical
perspective that made the European lodges so controversial. In 1777,
a convention of
Virginia lodges recommended Washington to be the Grand
Master of the newly established
Grand Lodge of
Virginia . He declined,
due to his responsibility in leading the
Continental Army at a
critical stage. He also did not consider it Masonically legal to serve
as Grand Master because he had never been installed as Master or
Warden of a lodge. In 1788, Washington was named Master in the
Virginia charter of Alexandria Lodge No. 22 , with his personal
George Washington and slavery
Washington was the only prominent Founding Father to arrange in his
will for the manumission (freeing) of all his slaves following his
death and the death of his wife. He privately opposed slavery as an
institution which he viewed as economically unsound and morally
indefensible. He also regarded the divisiveness of his countrymen's
feelings about slavery as a potentially mortal threat to the unity of
the nation. He never publicly challenged the institution of slavery,
possibly because he wanted to avoid provoking a split in the new
republic over so inflammatory an issue, but he did sign into law the
Slave Trade Act of 1794 , which limited American involvement in the
Atlantic slave trade .
Washington had owned slaves since the death of his father in 1743,
when he inherited 10 slaves at the age of eleven. At the time of his
marriage to Martha Custis in 1759, he personally owned at least 36
slaves, which meant that he had achieved the status of a major planter
. The wealthy widow Martha brought at least 85 "dower slaves" to Mount
Vernon by inheriting a third of her late husband's estate. Using his
wife's great wealth, Washington bought more land, tripling the size of
the plantation at Mount Vernon, and purchased the additional slaves
needed to work it. By 1774, he paid taxes on 135 slaves (this figure
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. Washington also used some hired staff and white indentured
servants ; in April 1775, he offered a reward for the return of two
runaway white servants.
Legacy of George Washington See also: Historical
rankings of Presidents of the United States and Cultural depictions of
George Washington _ The Constable-Hamilton Portrait_ by Gilbert
George Washington's legacy remains among the two or three greatest in
American history, as Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army, hero
of the Revolution, and the first President of the United States.
Congressman Henry "Light-Horse Harry" Lee , a Revolutionary War
comrade, famously eulogized Washington, "First in war—first in
peace—and first in the hearts of his countrymen".
Lee's words set the standard by which Washington's overwhelming
reputation was impressed upon the American memory. Biographers hailed
him as the great exemplar of republicanism. Washington set many
precedents for the national government, and the presidency in
particular, and was called the "
Father of His Country " as early as
1778. Washington\'s Birthday is a federal holiday in the United
States. In terms of personality, biographer Douglas Southall Freeman
concluded, "the great big thing stamped across that man is character."
By character, says
David Hackett Fischer , "Freeman meant integrity,
self-discipline, courage, absolute honesty, resolve, and decision, but
also forbearance, decency, and respect for others."
Washington became an international icon for liberation and
nationalism, as the leader of the first successful revolution against
a colonial empire. The Federalists made him the symbol of their party
but, for many years, the Jeffersonians continued to distrust his
influence and delayed building the
Washington Monument . On January
31, 1781, he was elected a member of the American Academy of Arts and
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
passed on January 19, 1976, with an effective appointment date of July
4, 1976. This restored his position as the highest-ranking military
officer in U.S. history .
The Papers of George Washington
The serious collection and publication of Washington's documentary
record began with the pioneer work of
Jared Sparks in the 1830s in
_Life and Writings of George Washington_ (12 vols., 1834–1837). _The
George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources,
1745–1799_ (1931–44) is a 37 volume set edited by John C.
Fitzpatrick . It contains over 17,000 letters and documents and is
available online from the University of
Virginia . The definitive
letterpress edition of his writings was begun by the University of
Virginia in 1968, and today comprises 52 published volumes, with more
to come. It contains everything written by Washington or signed by
him, together with most of his incoming letters. Part of the
collection is available online from the University of Virginia.
MONUMENTS AND MEMORIALS
List of memorials to George Washington Washington
Monument , Washington, DC
Many places and entities have been named in honor of Washington. His
name became that of the nation's capital
Washington, D.C. The state of
Washington is the only state to be named after a United States
president. Mount Washington in
New Hampshire , the tallest mountain
in the Northeast, was named soon after the
American Revolution by
Colonel John Whipple.
Theodore Roosevelt ,
Thomas Jefferson , and Abraham
Lincoln are depicted in stone at the
Mount Rushmore Memorial . The
Washington Monument was built in his honor, one of the best-known
American landmarks. The
George Washington Masonic National Memorial in
Virginia was constructed between 1922 and 1932 with
voluntary contributions from all 52 local governing bodies of the
Freemasons in the United States.
There have been many proposals to build a monument to Washington,
starting after victory in the Revolution. After his death, Congress
authorized a suitable memorial in the national capital, but the
decision was reversed when the Democratic-Republicans took control of
Congress in 1801. The Democratic-Republicans were dismayed that
Washington had become the symbol of the Federalist Party.
Construction of the 554 foot memorial didn't begin until 1848. It was
completed in 1885. There are many other "Washington Monuments" in the
United States, including two well-known equestrian statues, one in
Manhattan and one in Richmond, Virginia. The first statue to show
Washington on horseback was dedicated in 1856 and is located in
Manhattan's Union Square.
The world's busiest bridge, the
George Washington Bridge , is named
in his honor. Several naval vessels are named in Washington's honor,
including the USS _George Washington_ .
Bailly\'s George Washington,
Independence Hall , Philadelphia
Washington Monument in
Jean-Antoine Houdon 's statue, State Capitol in
George Washington ,
Washington Circle ,
George Washington's likeness under construction on Mount
POSTAGE AND CURRENCY
See also: U.S. presidents on U.S. postage stamps § George Washington
, and History of
Virginia on stamps
George Washington appears on contemporary U.S. currency, including
the one-dollar bill and the quarter-dollar coin (the Washington
Benjamin Franklin appeared on the nation\'s first
postage stamps in 1847. Since that time, Washington has appeared on
many postage issues, more than all other presidents combined.
Washington's victory over Cornwallis at the Battle of Yorktown was
commemorated with a two-cent stamp on the battle's 150th anniversary
on October 19, 1931. The 150th anniversary of the signing of the
George Washington as presiding officer was
celebrated with a three-cent issue on September 17, 1937, adapted from
the painting by Julius Brutus Stearns. Washington's presidential
Federal Hall in
New York City
New York City was celebrated on its
150th anniversary on April 30, 1939. Selected Issues
issue of 1862 Washington-Franklin
Issue of 1917 Washington at Valley Forge, issue of 1928
Washington as President of the Constitutional Convention ,
issue of 1937
George Washington on the
1928 dollar bill
Parson Weems § The cherry-tree anecdote
Perhaps the best-known story about Washington's childhood is that he
chopped down his father's favorite cherry tree and admitted the deed
when questioned: "I can't tell a lie, Pa." The anecdote was first
reported by biographer
Parson Weems , who interviewed people after
Washington's death who knew him as a child over a half-century
earlier. The Weems text was very widely reprinted throughout the 19th
century, for example in
McGuffey Readers . Adults wanted children to
learn moral lessons from history, especially as taught by example from
the lives of great national heroes like Washington. After 1890
historians insisted on scientific research methods to validate every
statement, and there was no documentation for this anecdote apart from
Weems' report that he learned it from one of the neighbors who knew
the young Washington. Joseph Rodman claimed in 1904 that Weems
plagiarized other Washington tales from published fiction set in
England, but no one has found an alternative source for the cherry
tree story. Austin Washington, a descendent of George Washington,
maintains that it is unlikely that Parson Weems, a man of the clergy,
would write an account about truth and honesty and then lie about such
a story. He further maintains that, if Weems was making up a story, he
would have more dramatically depicted the young Washington chopping
down the cherry tree, not merely "barking it" (i.e., removing some of
the bark), as Weems never claimed that the tree was chopped down.
There has been much conjecture and ad hominem attacks from some
historians about Weems and his story, but none have proven or
disproven the story.
PERSONAL PROPERTY AUCTION RECORD
George Washington's personal annotated copy of the "Acts Passed at a
Congress of the United States of America" from 1789 includes the
Constitution of the United States and a draft of the Bill of Rights .
It was sold on June 22, 2012, at Christie\'s for $9,826,500 (with fees
added to the final cost) to The
Mount Vernon Ladies\' Association .
This was the record for a document sold at auction.
* United States portal
American Revolutionary War portal
* Biography portal
* Government of the United States portal
* Military of the United States portal
Culper Ring , the spy ring organized by
Benjamin Tallmadge and
supervised by Washington
* Conotocaurious (Town Destroyer) , a nickname given to Washington
Iroquois Native Americans
Electoral history of George Washington
List of federal judges appointed by George Washington
* List of notable
* List of Presidents of the United States, sortable by previous
* List of United States militia units in the American Revolutionary
* Where\'s George? , a website that tracks the circulation of
American paper money
* Book: Presidents of the United States (1789–1860)
* ^ March 4 is the official start of the first presidential term.
April 6 is when Congress counted the votes of the Electoral College
and certified a president. April 30 is when Washington was sworn in .
* ^ _A_ _B_ Contemporaneous records used the
Julian calendar and
the Annunciation Style of enumerating years, recording his birth as
February 11, 1731. The provisions of the British 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 (it had been March 25). These changes resulted in dates being moved
forward 11 days, and an advance of one year for those between January
1 and March 25. For a further explanation, see Old Style and New Style
* ^ _A_ _B_ Engber 2006
* ^ Washington received his license through the college, whose
charter gave it the authority to appoint
Virginia county surveyors.
There is no evidence that he actually attended classes there.
* ^ Accounts of Washington's height vary from 6' 0'' to 6' 3''.
* ^ Also referred to as the _Seven Years' War_ and _The French War_
* ^ Ellis and Ferling, for example, do not discuss this stance in
reference to Washington's
French and Indian War service, and cast it
almost exclusively in terms of his negative experiences dealing with
Continental Congress during the Revolution. See Ellis 2004 , p.
218; Ferling 2009 , pp. 32–33, 200, 258–72, 316. Don Higginbotham
places Washington's first formal advocacy of a strong central
government in 1783. Higginbotham 2002 , p. 37.
* ^ Washington may not have been able to admit to his own sterility
while privately he grieved over not having his own children. Bumgarner
1994 , pp. 1–8
* ^ The term comes from the Roman strategy used by
against Hannibal's invasion in the
Second Punic War .
* ^ Ferling and Ellis argue that Washington favored Fabian tactics,
and Higginbotham denies it. Ferling 2010 , pp. 212, 264; Ellis 2004 ,
p. 11; Higginbotham 1971 , p. 211.
* ^ Washington's being childless was a great help to his candidacy.
Because he had no heirs, Americans who were concerned about a
president who might have plans for a hereditary monarchy had their
fears allayed. In addition, many religious Americans believed that God
had deliberately deprived Washington of children, the better to serve
Father of His Country .
* ^ Under the Articles of Confederation, Congress called its
presiding officer "
President of the United States
President of the United States in Congress
Assembled". The position had no executive powers, but the similarity
of titles has confused some into thinking that there were other
presidents before Washington.
* ^ The system in place at the time dictated that each elector cast
two votes, with the winner becoming president and the runner-up vice
president. Every elector in the elections of 1789 and 1792 cast one of
his votes for Washington; thus, it may be said that he was elected
James Monroe was re-elected unopposed in 1820
but a "faithless elector " cast a single vote for John Quincy Adams,
depriving Monroe of unanimous election.
* ^ The
Coinage Act of 1792 sets the value of $1 USD equal to 24.1g
of silver. With the price of silver at $15.95/oz as of June 13, 2015,
the value of 25,000 in silver dollars in 1792 value (24.1g/$1) is
* ^ Washington was aware that his actions would set precedents for
later American presidents. He wrote to James Madison: ""As the first
of everything in our situation will serve to establish a precedent, it
is devoutly wished on my part that these precedents be fixed on true
principles." Washington to James Madison, May 5, 1789, cited by Unger,
2013, p. 76.
* ^ At least three modern medical authors (Wallenborn 1997 , Shapiro
1975, Scheidemandel 1976) concluded that Washington most probably died
from acute bacterial epiglottitis complicated by the administered
treatments. These treatments included multiple doses of calomel (a
cathartic or purgative ), and extensive bloodletting (with at least
2.365 total liters of blood being taken, which is slightly less than
half of a normal adult's blood volume).
* _See Vadakan 2005 , Footnotes for_ Shapiro _and_ Scheidemandel
_references._ Vadakan's article also directly quotes Doctors Craik and
Dick's account (as published in the _Times of Alexandria_ newspaper)
of their treatment of Washington during his fatal illness.
* ^ The Smithsonian Institution states in "The Portrait—George
Washington: A National Treasure" that Stuart admired the sculpture of
Washington by French artist Jean-Antoine Houdon, probably because it
was based on a life mask and therefore extremely accurate. Stuart
explained, "When I painted him, he had just had a set of false teeth
inserted, which accounts for the constrained expression so noticeable
about the mouth and lower part of the face. Houdon's bust does not
suffer from this defect. I wanted him as he looked at that time."
Stuart preferred the Athenaeum pose, except for the gaze, and used the
same pose for the Lansdowne painting.
* ^ Historians
Jay A. Parry and Andrew M. Allison declare that
Washington "was the dominant personality in three of the most critical
events in that founding: the Revolutionary War, the Constitutional
Convention, and the first national administration. Had he not served
as America's leader in those three events, all three likely would have
failed. And America as we know it today would not exist." Parry, 1991,
* ^ The earliest known image in which Washington is identified as
Father of His Country is in the frontispiece of a 1779
German-language almanac, with calculations by David Rittenhouse and
published by Francis Bailey in Lancaster County Pennsylvania. _Der
Gantz Neue Nord-Americanishe Calendar_ has Fame appearing with an
image of Washington holding a trumpet to her lips, from which come the
words "_Der Landes Vater_" (translated as "the father of the country"
or "the father of the land").
* ^ In Bell 2005 , William Gardner Bell states that Washington was
recalled back into military service from his retirement in 1798, and
"Congress passed legislation that would have made him
General of the
Armies of the United States, but his services were not required in the
field and the appointment was not made until the Bicentennial in 1976,
when it was bestowed posthumously as a commemorative honor." How many
U.S. Army five-star generals have there been and who were they? states
that with Public Law 94-479, President Ford specified that Washington
would "rank first among all officers of the Army, past and present.
General of the Armies of the United States" is associated with only
two people... one being Washington and the other being John J.
* ^ Lillback & Newcombe 2006 , pp. 1–1187
* ^ Grizzard 2002 , pp. 105–07
* ^ Unger 2013 , p. 18
* ^ Unger 2013 , p. 236
* ^ Chernow 2010
* ^ _A_ _B_ Kazin 2009 , p. 589
* ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ Unger 2013 , pp. 236–37
* ^ O\'Brien 2009 , p. 19
* ^ University of
* ^ Alden 1993 , pp. 3–4
* ^ Dorothy Twohig, in Hofstra 1998
* ^ Alden 1993 , pp. 4–5, 73
* ^ Chernow 2010 , pp. 10–14
* ^ Thompson, Mary V. (2016). "George William Fairfax". _Dictionary
Virginia Biography_. _The Library of Virginia_. Retrieved July 6,
* ^ "Sally Fairfax". _
Mount Vernon Ladies Association_. Retrieved
July 6, 2017.
* ^ Wiencek 2013 , p. 54
* ^ Freeman 1948 , pp. 1:15–72
* ^ McMillan 2006 , pp. 1–2
* ^ Knott 2005 , pp. 1–5
* ^ Ferling 2010 , pp. 5–6
* ^ Freeman 1948 , p. 1:199
* ^ Flexner 1974 , p. 8
* ^ Freeman 1948 , p. 1:264
* ^ Freeman 1948 , p. 1:268
* ^ Alden 1993 , p. 9
* ^ _A_ _B_ Mount Ladies\' Association, 2016
* ^ U.S. National Archives:
George Washington's Professional Surveys, 2nd prgh * ^ Ellis 2004 ,
* ^ _A_ _B_ Chernow 2010 , p. 53
* ^ _A_ _B_ Freeman 1948 , pp. 1:274–327.
* ^ In fact, Washington and
Tanacharison became friends.
* ^ Lengel 2005 , pp. 23–24
* ^ Washington
Flexner 1974 , pp. 32–36;
Ellis 2004 , ch. 1;
Higginbotham 1985 , ch. 1;
Lengel 2005 , pp. 77–80. * ^ Higginbotham 1985 , pp. 14–15
* ^ Lengel 2005 , p. 80
* ^ Ellis 2004 , pp. 38, 69
* ^ Fischer 2004 , p. 13
* ^ Alden 1993 , p. 70
* ^ Higginbotham 1985 , pp. 22–25
* ^ Freeman 1968 , pp. 136–37
* ^ Ferling 2000 , pp. 33–34
* ^ Chernow 2010 , p. 103
* ^ Flexner 1974 , pp. 42–43
* ^ Wiencek 2013 , pp. 67–69, 336
* ^ _A_ _B_ Rasmussen & Tilton 1999 , p. 100
* ^ Chernow 2010 , p. 184
* ^ Grizzard 2002 , pp. 135–37
* ^ Ellis 2004 , pp. 41–42, 48
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* Wood, Gordon (December 16, 2004). "The Man Who Would Not Be King".
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* 'Writings of
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* "Founders Online," searchable edition
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