Presidents: George Washington

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George Washington has the special distinction of being our first President of the United States and the only President unanimously voted in by the electoral college.

A young George Washington

George Washington was born to Augustine Washington and his second wife, Mary Ball Washington.  He was born on February 11, 1731 on the Julian calendar and February 22, 1732 on the Gregorian calendar {which is the date traditionally used}.

Augustine Washington suddenly died when George was about eleven years old, leaving him under the tutelage of his half-brother, Lawrence.

By the age of 17, Washington was working as a surveyor.

Washington began his military service in the French and Indian War.  The diary Washington kept during his military career and while negotiating with the French to vacate the Ohio Valley, earned him notoriety upon publication.

In 1755, Washington’s commander, British General Edward Braddock, used his recommendation in the Battle of Monogahela.  Washington had two horses shot out from underneath him and the contingent was defeated.   Later that year he was rewarded with a commission as the Colonel of the Virginia Regiment.

Washington led his troops across the Delaware River on Christmas Day in a surprise attack

On January 6, 1759, Washington married a wealthy widow, Martha Dandridge Custis.   Together they raised her two children from her marriage {John and Patsy} and later two of Martha’s grandchildren.  The couple never had any children of their own.

Washington increased his property holdings and social standing upon his marriage, and became one of Virginia’s wealthiest men. He lived an aristocratic lifestyle and enjoyed such leisure activities as fox hunting.  He increased the amount of land that made up Mount Vernon and successfully grew tobacco and wheat.

In 1767, Washington took a stand against the various acts passed by the British Parliament, including the Stamp Act.

On June 14, 1775 the Second Continental Congress created the Continental Army.  Upon the nomination of John Adams, Washington became the General and Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army. Washington plotted the strategy of the war and led many of the troops into battle.  While he often lost the battle, he never surrendered to the British.

With provisions low and hope dismal, Washington made a move that altered the outcome of the war.  On the night of December 25, 1776, he led his army across the Delaware River, and led a surprise attack on the British troops.  This led to a series of victories for Washington.

On October 19, 1781 the British surrendered at Yorktown, after a long and intense war, which often left the Continental Army to face harsh conditions and to rash their food.  However, this surrender was the end of the major fighting in North America.

On September 3, 1783 the Treaty of Paris was signed in which Great Britain was forced to recognize the independence of the United States.

George Washington led the continental army

In the summer of 1787, Washington was persuaded to attend the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia.  Congress formed the Presidency with Washington in mind, allowing him to define the office by establishing precedent upon election.

In 1789, the Electoral College unanimously elected Washington as the first President.  They would once again unanimously elect him in 1792.  The United States Congress voted to pay Washington, $25,000 a year, but he declined the salary. He was referred to as Mr. President.

Washington’s office was located in Philadelphia, while work begun on a house for the President.   Washington did not belong to a political party, and hoped they would not form, fearing they would undermine republicanism.

After serving for two terms, Washington refused a third term, which set precedence for Presidents to follow.  He issued his farewell address in the form of a letter.

Washington retired and returned to his beloved Mount Vernon.  Upon the request of President Adams, he became the senior officer of the

President George Washington

United States Army in 1798.  This was a position he held until his death seventeen months later.

Washington went riding on December 12, 1799 over his plantation and returned on horseback drenching from the rain.  Eating supper that evening before changing clothes, he awoke the next morning with a severe sore throat, yet insisted on riding out over his land again.

He died at his home on the evening of Saturday, December 14, 1799.  His last words were recorded as “’Tis well.”

The man was laid to rest at his beloved Mount Vernon and thus he passed into history and legend.

Upon his death, a resolution was offered in Congress declaring him “first in war, first in peace, first in the hearts of his countrymen.”

Today, we refer to him as the “Father of His Country.”


Nickname: “Father of His Country”

Born: February 22, 1732, in Westmoreland County, Virginia
Died: December 14, 1799, at Mount Vernon, Virginia

Father: Augustine Washington
Mother: Mary Ball Washington
Married: Martha Dandridge Custis (1732-1802), on January 6, 1759
Children: John “Jack” Parke Custis (adopted); Martha “Patsy” Custis (adopted)

Religion: Episcopalian
Education: No formal education
Occupation: Planter, Soldier
Political Party: No formal political party affiliation

  • Member of Virginia House of Burgesses, 1759-74
  • Member of Continental Congress, 1774-75
  • Chairman of the Constitutional Convention, 1787-88
  • Presidential Salary: $25,000/year (refused by Washington)

• 1789
o The Judiciary Act specified the number of Federal courts and judges.
• 1790
o Supreme Court met for the first time with John Jay as the Chief Justice.
• 1791
o Federal capital established in swamplands on the Potomac.
o A national banking system established by the Bank Act.
o The Bill of Rights take effect.
• 1792
o Post Office established by Congress as a separate entity.
o New York Stock Exchange organized.
o Coins are minted by the government as enacted by the Coinage Act.
• 1793
o War breaks out between Britain and France. On April 22, U.S. declares neutrality.
• 1794
o Whiskey Rebellion over excise tax in western Pennsylvania. Federal troops called to suppress the armed rebellion.
• 1795
o The Jay Treaty ratified. British troops required to withdraw from the U.S.
o Pinckney’s Treaty with Spain opened navigation on Mississippi River.
o Washington posed for Stuart’s portrait, which is now on the one dollar bill.
• 1796
o Washington delivered his Farewell Address.

1732 Born on February 22
1753 French and Indian War
1755 Battle of the Monongahela
1759 Married Martha Dandridge Custis
1774 Elected delegate to the First Continental Congress
1775 Appointed general and commander-in-chief of the new Continental Army
1776 signing of Declaration of Independence
1781 The British army surrenders at Yorktown
1783 February 4: England officially declares an end to hostilities in America
September 3: The Treaty of Paris is signed by the United States and Great Britain
November 2: George Washington delivers farewell address to the army
December 23: Washington resigns his commission as commander-in-chief to the Congress of the Confederation.
1787 May 25: Elected President of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia
1789 Unanimously Elected first President of the United States
1790 First National Census takes place
1792 Congress established a national mint.
1793 Re-elected President of the United States
1794 The Whisky Rebellion
1796 Published his Farewell Address which was issued as a public letter
1797 March: Washington returned to Mount Vernon 1798 July 4: Commissioned Lieutenant General and Commander in Chief of the new United States Army to serve as a warning to France, with which war seemed imminent.
1799 December 14: Died at Mount Vernon at the age of 67. He arranged for his slaves to be freed in his last will and testament



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