George Washington

George Washington

Overview
George Washington was the dominant military and political leader of the new United States of America from 1775 to 1799. He led the American victory over Great Britain
Kingdom of Great Britain
The former Kingdom of Great Britain, sometimes described as the 'United Kingdom of Great Britain', That the Two Kingdoms of Scotland and England, shall upon the 1st May next ensuing the date hereof, and forever after, be United into One Kingdom by the Name of GREAT BRITAIN. was a sovereign...

 in the American Revolutionary War
American Revolutionary War
The American Revolutionary War , the American War of Independence, or simply the Revolutionary War, began as a war between the Kingdom of Great Britain and thirteen British colonies in North America, and ended in a global war between several European great powers.The war was the result of the...

 as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army
Continental Army
The Continental Army was formed after the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War by the colonies that became the United States of America. Established by a resolution of the Continental Congress on June 14, 1775, it was created to coordinate the military efforts of the Thirteen Colonies in...

 from 1775 to 1783, and presided over the writing of the Constitution
United States Constitution
The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the United States of America. It is the framework for the organization of the United States government and for the relationship of the federal government with the states, citizens, and all people within the United States.The first three...

 in 1787. The unanimous choice to serve as the first President of the United States
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

 (1789–1797), Washington presided over the creation of a strong, well-financed national government that stayed neutral in the wars raging in Europe, suppressed rebellion and won acceptance among Americans of all types.
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Timeline

1732   George Washington is born in Westmoreland County, Virginia

1749   George Washington becomes the official surveyor of Culpepper County, Virginia

1753   Washington is given the rank of major in the Virginia Militia

1754   French and Indian War: in the first engagement of the war, Virginia militia under 22-year-old Lieutenant Colonel George Washington defeat a French reconnaissance party in the Battle of Jumonville Glen in what is now Fayette County in southwestern Pennsylvania.

1754   French and Indian War: George Washington surrenders Fort Necessity to French forces.

1754   French and Indian War: George Washington surrenders Fort Necessity to French Capt. Louis Coulon de Villiers.

1759   George Washington marries Martha Dandridge Custis.

1775   American Revolutionary War: George Washington is appointed commander-in-chief of the Continental Army.

1775   American Revolutionary War: George Washington takes command of the Continental Army at Cambridge, Massachusetts.

1776   American Revolution: British forces evacuate Boston, Massachusetts after George Washington and Henry Knox place artillery in positions overlooking the city.

 
Quotations

Nothing is a greater stranger to my breast, or a sin that my soul more abhors, than that black and detestable one, ingratitude.

Letter to Governor Dinwiddie (29 May 1754)

There is a Destiny which has the control of our actions, not to be resisted by the strongest efforts of Human Nature.

Letter to Mrs. George William Fairfax (12 September 1758)

But lest some unlucky event should happen unfavorable to my reputation, I beg it may be remembered by every gentleman in the room that I this day declare with the utmost sincerity, I do not think myself equal to the command I am honored with.

Washington's formal acceptance of command of the Army (16 June 1775), quoted in The Writings of George Washington : Life of Washington (1837) edited by Jared Sparks, p. 141

Discipline is the soul of an army. It makes small numbers formidable; procures success to the weak, and esteem to all.

Letter of Instructions to the Captains of the Virginia Regiments (29 July 1759)

Every post is honorable in which a man can serve his country.

Letter to Benedict Arnold|Benedict Arnold (14 September 1775)

To expect ... the same service from raw and undisciplined recruits, as from veteran soldiers, is to expect what never did and perhaps never will happen. Men, who are familiarized to danger, meet it without shrinking; whereas troops unused to service often apprehend danger where no danger is.

Letter to the President of Congress (9 February 1776)

Let us therefore animate and encourage each other, and show the whole world that a Freeman, contending for liberty on his own ground, is superior to any slavish mercenary on earth.

General Orders, Headquarters, New York (2 July 1776)
Encyclopedia
George Washington was the dominant military and political leader of the new United States of America from 1775 to 1799. He led the American victory over Great Britain
Kingdom of Great Britain
The former Kingdom of Great Britain, sometimes described as the 'United Kingdom of Great Britain', That the Two Kingdoms of Scotland and England, shall upon the 1st May next ensuing the date hereof, and forever after, be United into One Kingdom by the Name of GREAT BRITAIN. was a sovereign...

 in the American Revolutionary War
American Revolutionary War
The American Revolutionary War , the American War of Independence, or simply the Revolutionary War, began as a war between the Kingdom of Great Britain and thirteen British colonies in North America, and ended in a global war between several European great powers.The war was the result of the...

 as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army
Continental Army
The Continental Army was formed after the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War by the colonies that became the United States of America. Established by a resolution of the Continental Congress on June 14, 1775, it was created to coordinate the military efforts of the Thirteen Colonies in...

 from 1775 to 1783, and presided over the writing of the Constitution
United States Constitution
The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the United States of America. It is the framework for the organization of the United States government and for the relationship of the federal government with the states, citizens, and all people within the United States.The first three...

 in 1787. The unanimous choice to serve as the first President of the United States
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

 (1789–1797), Washington presided over the creation of a strong, well-financed national government that stayed neutral in the wars raging in Europe, suppressed rebellion and won acceptance among Americans of all types. His leadership style established many forms and rituals of government that have been used since, such as using a cabinet system
Cabinet (government)
A Cabinet is a body of high ranking government officials, typically representing the executive branch. It can also sometimes be referred to as the Council of Ministers, an Executive Council, or an Executive Committee.- Overview :...

 and delivering an inaugural address. Washington is universally regarded as the "Father of his Country".

Washington was born into the provincial gentry of a wealthy, well-connected Colonial Virginia
History of Virginia
The history of Virginia began with settlement of the geographic region now known as the Commonwealth of Virginia in the United States thousands of years ago by Native Americans. Permanent European settlement began with the establishment of Jamestown in 1607, by English colonists. As tobacco emerged...

 family who owned tobacco plantations and slaves. After his father and older brother both died young, Washington became personally and professionally attached to the powerful William Fairfax
William Fairfax
William Fairfax was a political appointee of the English Crown and a politician: he was Collector of Customs in Barbados, and Chief Justice and governor of the Bahamas; he served as Customs agent in Marblehead, Massachusetts before being reassigned to the Virginia colony. There he was elected to...

, who promoted his career as a surveyor and soldier. Washington quickly became a senior officer of the colonial forces during the first stages of the French and Indian War
French and Indian War
The French and Indian War is the common American name for the war between Great Britain and France in North America from 1754 to 1763. In 1756, the war erupted into the world-wide conflict known as the Seven Years' War and thus came to be regarded as the North American theater of that war...

. Chosen by the Second Continental Congress
Second Continental Congress
The Second Continental Congress was a convention of delegates from the Thirteen Colonies that started meeting on May 10, 1775, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, soon after warfare in the American Revolutionary War had begun. It succeeded the First Continental Congress, which met briefly during 1774,...

 in 1775 to be commander-in-chief of the Continental Army
Continental Army
The Continental Army was formed after the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War by the colonies that became the United States of America. Established by a resolution of the Continental Congress on June 14, 1775, it was created to coordinate the military efforts of the Thirteen Colonies in...

 in the American Revolution
American Revolution
The American Revolution was the political upheaval during the last half of the 18th century in which thirteen colonies in North America joined together to break free from the British Empire, combining to become the United States of America...

, Washington managed to force the British out of Boston
Siege of Boston
The Siege of Boston was the opening phase of the American Revolutionary War, in which New England militiamen—who later became part of the Continental Army—surrounded the town of Boston, Massachusetts, to prevent movement by the British Army garrisoned within...

 in 1776, but was defeated and nearly captured later that year when he lost New York City. After crossing the Delaware River in the dead of winter, he defeated the enemy
Battle of Trenton
The Battle of Trenton took place on December 26, 1776, during the American Revolutionary War, after General George Washington's crossing of the Delaware River north of Trenton, New Jersey. The hazardous crossing in adverse weather made it possible for Washington to lead the main body of the...

 in two battles, retook New Jersey, and restored momentum to the Patriot cause. Because of his strategy, Revolutionary forces captured two major British armies at Saratoga in 1777 and Yorktown in 1781
Siege of Yorktown
The Siege of Yorktown, Battle of Yorktown, or Surrender of Yorktown in 1781 was a decisive victory by a combined assault of American forces led by General George Washington and French forces led by the Comte de Rochambeau over a British Army commanded by Lieutenant General Lord Cornwallis...

. Historians give Washington high marks for his selection and supervision of his generals; encouragement of morale and ability to hold together the army; coordination with the state governors and state militia units; relations with Congress; and attention to supplies, logistics, and training. In battle, however, Washington was repeatedly outmaneuvered by British generals with larger armies. After victory had been finalized in 1783, Washington resigned rather than seize power, proving his opposition to dictatorship and his commitment to the emerging American political ideology of republicanism
Republicanism in the United States
Republicanism is the political value system that has been a major part of American civic thought since the American Revolution. It stresses liberty and inalienable rights as central values, makes the people as a whole sovereign, supports activist government to promote the common good, rejects...

. He returned to his home, Mount Vernon
Mount Vernon
The name Mount Vernon is a dedication to the English Vice-Admiral Edward Vernon. It was first applied to Mount Vernon, the Virginia estate of George Washington, the first President of the United States...

, and his domestic life, where he managed a variety of enterprises. He freed all his slaves by his final 1799 will.

Dissatisfied with the weaknesses of Articles of Confederation
Articles of Confederation
The Articles of Confederation, formally the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, was an agreement among the 13 founding states that legally established the United States of America as a confederation of sovereign states and served as its first constitution...

, in 1787 Washington presided over the Constitutional Convention
Philadelphia Convention
The Constitutional Convention took place from May 14 to September 17, 1787, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to address problems in governing the United States of America, which had been operating under the Articles of Confederation following independence from...

 that drafted the United States Constitution
United States Constitution
The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the United States of America. It is the framework for the organization of the United States government and for the relationship of the federal government with the states, citizens, and all people within the United States.The first three...

. Elected as the first President of the United States
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

 in 1789, he attempted to bring rival factions together to unify the nation. He supported Alexander Hamilton
Alexander Hamilton
Alexander Hamilton was a Founding Father, soldier, economist, political philosopher, one of America's first constitutional lawyers and the first United States Secretary of the Treasury...

's programs to pay off all state and national debt, to implement an effective tax system and to create a national bank (despite opposition from Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson was the principal author of the United States Declaration of Independence and the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom , the third President of the United States and founder of the University of Virginia...

). Washington proclaimed the U.S. neutral in the wars raging in Europe after 1793. He avoided war with Great Britain and guaranteed a decade of peace and profitable trade by securing the Jay Treaty
Jay Treaty
Jay's Treaty, , also known as Jay's Treaty, The British Treaty, and the Treaty of London of 1794, was a treaty between the United States and Great Britain that is credited with averting war,, resolving issues remaining since the Treaty of Paris of 1783, which ended the American Revolution,, and...

 in 1795, despite intense opposition from the Jeffersonians. Although never officially joining the Federalist Party, he supported its programs. Washington's "Farewell Address"
George Washington's Farewell Address
George Washington's Farewell Address was written to "The People of the United States" near the end of his second term as President of the United States and before his retirement to his home at Mount Vernon....

 was an influential primer on republican virtue and a warning against partisanship, sectionalism, and involvement in foreign wars.

Washington had a vision of a great and powerful nation that would be built on republican lines using federal power. He sought to use the national government to preserve liberty, improve infrastructure, open the western lands, promote commerce, found a permanent capital, reduce regional tensions and promote a spirit of American nationalism. At his death, Washington was hailed as "first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen". 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
Washington Monument
The Washington Monument is an obelisk near the west end of the National Mall in Washington, D.C., built to commemorate the first U.S. president, General George Washington...

. As the leader of the first successful revolution against a colonial empire in world history, Washington became an international icon for liberation and nationalism, especially in France and Latin America. He is consistently ranked among the top three presidents of the United States, according to polls of both scholars and the general public.

Early life (1732–1753)



The first child of Augustine Washington
Augustine Washington
Augustine Washington was the father of general and president George Washington. He belonged to the Colony of Virginia's landed gentry and was a planter and slaveholder.-Family:...

 (1694–1743) and his second wife, Mary Ball Washington
Mary Ball Washington
Mary Ball Washington was the second wife to Augustine Washington, and was the mother of George Washington.-Life:...

 (1708–1789), George Washington was born on their Pope's Creek Estate
George Washington Birthplace National Monument
The George Washington Birthplace National Monument is in Westmoreland County, Virginia, United States. Originally settled by John Washington, George Washington's great-grandfather, George Washington was born here on February 22, 1732...

 near present-day Colonial Beach
Colonial Beach, Virginia
Colonial Beach is a town in Westmoreland County, Virginia, United States. The population was 3,228 at the 2000 census. Possessing the second largest beach front in the state, Colonial Beach was a popular resort town in the early to mid-20th century, before the Chesapeake Bay Bridge made ocean...

 in Westmoreland County, Virginia
Westmoreland County, Virginia
As of the census of 2000, there were 16,718 people, 6,846 households, and 4,689 families residing in the county. The population density was . There were 9,286 housing units at an average density of...

. According to the Julian calendar
Julian calendar
The Julian calendar began in 45 BC as a reform of the Roman calendar by Julius Caesar. It was chosen after consultation with the astronomer Sosigenes of Alexandria and was probably designed to approximate the tropical year .The Julian calendar has a regular year of 365 days divided into 12 months...

, which was in use at the time, Washington was born on February 11, 1731; according to the Gregorian calendar
Gregorian calendar
The Gregorian calendar, also known as the Western calendar, or Christian calendar, is the internationally accepted civil calendar. It was introduced by Pope Gregory XIII, after whom the calendar was named, by a decree signed on 24 February 1582, a papal bull known by its opening words Inter...

, implemented in 1752, according to the provisions of the Calendar (New Style) Act 1750
Calendar (New Style) Act 1750
The Calendar Act 1750 is an Act of the Parliament of Great Britain...

, the date was February 22, 1732. Washington's ancestors were from Sulgrave
Sulgrave
Sulgrave is a village and civil parish in South Northamptonshire, England, about north of Brackley.-Parish church:The Church of England parish Church of St James the Less is part of the benefice of Culworth with Sulgrave and Thorpe Mandeville and Chipping Warden with Edgcote and Moreton Pinkney.By...

, England; his great-grandfather, John Washington
John Washington
John Washington was an English Virginia planter and politician. He was the immigrant ancestor and great-grandfather of George Washington, first president of the United States of America.-Early life and family:...

, had immigrated to Virginia in 1657. George's father Augustine was a slave-owning tobacco planter who later tried his hand in iron-mining ventures. In George's youth, the Washingtons were moderately prosperous members of the Virginia gentry
Gentry
Gentry denotes "well-born and well-bred people" of high social class, especially in the past....

, of "middling rank" rather than one of the leading families.

Six of George's siblings reached maturity, including two older half-brothers, Lawrence
Lawrence Washington (1718-1752)
Lawrence Washington was a soldier and prominent landowner in colonial Virginia. As a founding member of the Ohio Company of Virginia, and a member of the colonial legislature representing Fairfax County, he was chiefly responsible for securing the establishment of the town of Alexandria, Virginia...

 and Augustine, from his father's first marriage to Jane Butler Washington and four full siblings, Samuel, Elizabeth (Betty), John Augustine and Charles. Three siblings died before becoming adults: his full sister Mildred died when she was about one, his half-brother Butler died while an infant, and his half-sister Jane died at the age of 12, when George was about 2. George's father died when George was 11 years old, after which George's half-brother Lawrence became a surrogate father and role model. William Fairfax
William Fairfax
William Fairfax was a political appointee of the English Crown and a politician: he was Collector of Customs in Barbados, and Chief Justice and governor of the Bahamas; he served as Customs agent in Marblehead, Massachusetts before being reassigned to the Virginia colony. There he was elected to...

, Lawrence's father-in-law and cousin of Virginia's largest landowner, Thomas, Lord Fairfax
Thomas Fairfax, 6th Lord Fairfax of Cameron
Thomas Fairfax, 6th Lord Fairfax of Cameron was the son of Thomas Fairfax, 5th Lord Fairfax of Cameron and of Catherine, daughter of Thomas Culpeper, 2nd Baron Culpeper of Thoresway....

, was also a formative influence.

Washington spent much of his boyhood at Ferry Farm
Ferry Farm
Ferry Farm, also known as George Washington Boyhood Home Site or Ferry Farm Site, is the name of the farm and home at which George Washington spent much of his childhood. The site is located in Stafford County, Virginia, along the northern bank of the Rappahannock River, across from the city of...

 in Stafford County
Stafford County, Virginia
Stafford County is a county located in the Commonwealth of Virginia, a U.S. state, and just across the Rappahannock River from the City of Fredericksburg. As of the 2000 census, the population was 92,446, increasing to 128,961 in 2010.. Its county seat is Stafford. In 2006, and again in 2009,...

 near Fredericksburg
Fredericksburg, Virginia
Fredericksburg is an independent city in the Commonwealth of Virginia located south of Washington, D.C., and north of Richmond. As of the 2010 census, the city had a population of 24,286...

. Lawrence Washington inherited another family property from his father, a plantation on the Potomac River
Potomac River
The Potomac River flows into the Chesapeake Bay, located along the mid-Atlantic coast of the United States. The river is approximately long, with a drainage area of about 14,700 square miles...

 which he later named Mount Vernon
Mount Vernon
The name Mount Vernon is a dedication to the English Vice-Admiral Edward Vernon. It was first applied to Mount Vernon, the Virginia estate of George Washington, the first President of the United States...

. George inherited Ferry Farm upon his father's death, and eventually acquired Mount Vernon after Lawrence's death.

The death of his father prevented Washington from crossing the Atlantic
Atlantic Ocean
The Atlantic Ocean is the second-largest of the world's oceanic divisions. With a total area of about , it covers approximately 20% of the Earth's surface and about 26% of its water surface area...

 to receive the rest of his education at England's Appleby School, as his older brothers had done. He received the equivalent of an elementary school education from a variety of tutors, and also a school run by an Anglican clergyman in or near Fredericksburg. Talk of securing an appointment in the Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

 for him when he was 15 was dropped when his mother learned how hard that would be on him. Thanks to Lawrence's connection to the powerful Fairfax family, at age 17 in 1749, Washington was appointed official surveyor for Culpeper County, a well-paid position which enabled him to purchase land in the Shenandoah Valley
Shenandoah Valley
The Shenandoah Valley is both a geographic valley and cultural region of western Virginia and West Virginia in the United States. The valley is bounded to the east by the Blue Ridge Mountains, to the west by the eastern front of the Ridge-and-Valley Appalachians , to the north by the Potomac River...

, the first of his many land acquisitions in western Virginia. Thanks also to Lawrence's involvement in the Ohio Company
Ohio Company
The Ohio Company, formally known as the Ohio Company of Virginia, was a land speculation company organized for the settlement by Virginians of the Ohio Country and to trade with the Indians there...

, a land investment company funded by Virginia investors, and Lawrence's position as commander of the Virginia militia, Washington came to the notice of the new lieutenant governor of Virginia, Robert Dinwiddie
Robert Dinwiddie
Robert Dinwiddie was a British colonial administrator who served as lieutenant governor of colonial Virginia from 1751 to 1758, first under Governor Willem Anne van Keppel, 2nd Earl of Albemarle, and then, from July 1756 to January 1758, as deputy for John Campbell, 4th Earl of Loudoun...

. Washington was hard to miss: At exactly six feet, he towered over most of his contemporaries.

In 1751, Washington travelled to Barbados
Barbados
Barbados is an island country in the Lesser Antilles. It is in length and as much as in width, amounting to . It is situated in the western area of the North Atlantic and 100 kilometres east of the Windward Islands and the Caribbean Sea; therein, it is about east of the islands of Saint...

 with Lawrence, who was suffering from tuberculosis
Tuberculosis
Tuberculosis, MTB, or TB is a common, and in many cases lethal, infectious disease caused by various strains of mycobacteria, usually Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Tuberculosis usually attacks the lungs but can also affect other parts of the body...

, with the hope that the climate would be beneficial to Lawrence's health. Washington contracted smallpox
Smallpox
Smallpox was an infectious disease unique to humans, caused by either of two virus variants, Variola major and Variola minor. The disease is also known by the Latin names Variola or Variola vera, which is a derivative of the Latin varius, meaning "spotted", or varus, meaning "pimple"...

 during the trip, which left his face slightly scarred, but immunized him against future exposures to the dreaded disease. Lawrence's health did not improve; he returned to Mount Vernon, where he died in 1752. Lawrence's position as Adjutant General (militia leader) of Virginia was divided into four 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 the Virginia militia. Washington also joined the Freemasons
Freemasonry
Freemasonry is a fraternal organisation that arose from obscure origins in the late 16th to early 17th century. Freemasonry now exists in various forms all over the world, with a membership estimated at around six million, including approximately 150,000 under the jurisdictions of the Grand Lodge...

 in Fredericksburg at this time.

French and Indian War (or 'Seven Years War', 1754–1758)



In 1753, the French began expanding their military control into the "Ohio Country
Ohio Country
The Ohio Country was the name used in the 18th century for the regions of North America west of the Appalachian Mountains and in the region of the upper Ohio River south of Lake Erie...

", a territory also 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
French and Indian War
The French and Indian War is the common American name for the war between Great Britain and France in North America from 1754 to 1763. In 1756, the war erupted into the world-wide conflict known as the Seven Years' War and thus came to be regarded as the North American theater of that war...

 (1754–62), and contributed to the start of the global Seven Years' War
Seven Years' War
The Seven Years' War was a global military war between 1756 and 1763, involving most of the great powers of the time and affecting Europe, North America, Central America, the West African coast, India, and the Philippines...

 (1756–63). Washington was at the center of its beginning. The Ohio Company was one vehicle through which British investors planned to expand into the territory, opening new settlements and building trading posts for the Indian trade. Governor Dinwiddie received orders from the British government to warn the French of British claims, and sent Major Washington in late 1753 to deliver a letter informing the French of those claims and asking them to leave. Washington also met with Tanacharison
Tanacharison
Tanacharison or Tanaghrisson was an American Indian leader who played a pivotal role in the beginning of the French and Indian War. He was known to European-Americans as the Half King, a title also used to describe several other historically important American Indian leaders...

 (also called "Half-King") and other Iroquois leaders allied to Virginia at Logstown
Logstown
The riverside village of Logstown was a significant Native American settlement in Western Pennsylvania and the site of the 1752 signing of the treaty of friendship between the Ohio Company and the Amerindians occupying the region in the years leading up to the...

 to secure their support in case of conflict with the French; Washington and Tanacharison became friends and allies. Washington delivered the letter to the local French commander, who politely refused to leave.

Governor Dinwiddie sent Washington back to the Ohio Country to protect an Ohio Company group building a fort at present-day Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is a U.S. state that is located in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States. The state borders Delaware and Maryland to the south, West Virginia to the southwest, Ohio to the west, New York and Ontario, Canada, to the north, and New Jersey to...

 but before he reached the area, a French force drove out the company's crew and began construction of Fort Duquesne
Fort Duquesne
Fort Duquesne was a fort established by the French in 1754, at the junction of the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers in what is now downtown Pittsburgh in the state of Pennsylvania....

. A small detachment of French troops led by Joseph Coulon de Jumonville
Joseph Coulon de Jumonville
Joseph Coulon de Villiers, Sieur de Jumonville was a French Canadian military officer. His defeat and killing at the Battle of Jumonville Glen by forces led by George Washington was one of the sparks igniting the Seven Years' War.- Early life :Jumonville was born in the seigneury of Verchères, New...

, was discovered by Tanacharison and a few warriors east of present-day Uniontown, Pennsylvania
Uniontown, Pennsylvania
Uniontown is a city in Fayette County, Pennsylvania, southeast of Pittsburgh and part of the Pittsburgh Metro Area. Population in 1900, 7,344; in 1910, 13,344; in 1920, 15,692; and in 1940, 21,819. The population was 10,372 at the 2010 census...

. Along with their Mingo
Mingo
The Mingo are an Iroquoian group of Native Americans made up of peoples who migrated west to the Ohio Country in the mid-eighteenth century. Anglo-Americans called these migrants mingos, a corruption of mingwe, an Eastern Algonquian name for Iroquoian-language groups in general. Mingos have also...

 allies, Washington and some of his militia unit then ambushed the French
Battle of Jumonville Glen
The Battle of Jumonville Glen, also known as the Jumonville affair, was the opening battle of the French and Indian War fought on May 28, 1754 near what is present-day Uniontown in Fayette County, Pennsylvania...

. What exactly happened during and after the battle is a matter of some controversy, but the immediate outcome was that Jumonville was injured in the initial attack and then was killed - whether tomahawked by Tanacharison in cold blood or somehow shot by another onlooker with a musket as the injured man sat with Washington is not completely clear. The French responded by attacking and capturing Washington at Fort Necessity in July 1754. However, he was allowed to return with his troops to Virginia. Historian Joseph Ellis
Joseph Ellis
Joseph John Ellis is a Professor of History at Mount Holyoke College who has written histories on the founding generation of American presidents. His book Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation received the Pulitzer Prize for History in 2001.-Background and teaching:He received his B.A...

 concludes that the episode demonstrated Washington's bravery, initiative, inexperience and impetuosity. These events 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 in 1756.

Braddock disaster 1755



In 1755, Washington was the senior American aide to British General Edward Braddock
Edward Braddock
General Edward Braddock was a British soldier and commander-in-chief for the 13 colonies during the actions at the start of the French and Indian War...

 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 French and their Indian allies ambushed Braddock, who was mortally wounded in the Battle of the Monongahela
Battle of the Monongahela
The Battle of the Monongahela, also known as the Battle of the Wilderness, took place on 9 July 1755, at the beginning of the French and Indian War, at Braddock's Field in what is now Braddock, Pennsylvania, east of Pittsburgh...

. After suffering devastating casualties, the British retreated in disarray; however, Washington rode back and forth across the battlefield, rallying the remnants of the British and Virginian forces to an organized retreat.

Commander of Virginia Regiment


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). Washington was ordered to "act defensively or offensively" as he thought best. 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; in 10 months units of his regiment fought 20 battles, 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 "it was his only unqualified success" in the war.

In 1758, Washington participated in the Forbes Expedition
Forbes Expedition
The Forbes Expedition was a British military expedition led by Brigadier-General John Forbes in 1758, during the French and Indian War. Its objective was the capture of Fort Duquesne, a French fort constructed at the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers in 1754.The expedition...

 to capture Fort Duquesne. He was embarrassed by a friendly fire episode in which his unit and another British unit thought 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, Washington retired from his Virginia Regiment commission in December 1758. He did not return to military life until the outbreak of the revolution in 1775.

Lessons learned


Although Washington never gained the commission in the British army he yearned for, in these years the young man 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. He demonstrated his toughness 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, he appeared to soldiers to be a natural leader and they followed him without question. Washington learned to organize, train, drill, and discipline his companies and regiments. From his observations, readings and conversations with professional officers, he learned the basics of battlefield tactics, 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. Historian 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
American Revolutionary War
The American Revolutionary War , the American War of Independence, or simply the Revolutionary War, began as a war between the Kingdom of Great Britain and thirteen British colonies in North America, and ended in a global war between several European great powers.The war was the result of the...

 service.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 the Continental Congress during the Revolution. See ; . Don Higginbotham places Washington's first formal advocacy of a strong central government in 1783. . 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 1000 men, and came only in remote frontier conditions that were far removed from the urban situations he faced during the Revolution at Boston, New York, Trenton and Philadelphia.

Between the wars: Mount Vernon (1759–1774)


On January 6, 1759, Washington married the wealthy widow Martha Dandridge Custis
Martha Washington
Martha Dandridge Custis Washington was the wife of George Washington, the first president of the United States. Although the title was not coined until after her death, Martha Washington is considered to be the first First Lady of the United States...

. Surviving letters suggest that he may have been in love at the time with Sally Fairfax
Sally Fairfax
Sally Cary Fairfax was the wife of George William Fairfax , a prominent member of the landed gentry of late colonial Virginia. As such, she was mistress of the Virginia plantation and estate of Belvoir...

, the wife of a friend. Nevertheless, George and Martha made a compatible marriage, because Martha was intelligent, gracious, and experienced in managing a slave plantation. Together the two raised her two children from her previous marriage, John Parke Custis
John Parke Custis
John Parke Custis was a Virginia planter, the son of Martha Washington and stepson of George Washington.-Childhood:...

 and Martha Parke Custis, affectionately called "Jackie" and "Patsy" by the family. Later the Washingtons raised two of Mrs. Washington's grandchildren, Eleanor Parke Custis
Eleanor Parke Custis Lewis
Eleanor Parke Custis Lewis , known as Nelly, was the granddaughter of Martha Washington and the step-granddaughter of George Washington.-Childhood:Nelly was the daughter of John Parke Custis and Eleanor Calvert Custis...

 and George Washington Parke Custis
George Washington Parke Custis
George Washington Parke Custis , the step-grandson of United States President George Washington, was a nineteenth-century American writer, orator, and agricultural reformer.-Family:...

. George and Martha never had any children together – his earlier bout with smallpox in 1751 may have made him sterile
Male infertility
Male infertility refers to the inability of a male to achieve a pregnancy in a fertile female. In humans it accounts for 40-50% of infertility. Male infertility is commonly due to deficiencies in the semen, and semen quality is used as a surrogate measure of male fecundity.-Pre-testicular...

. Washington may not have been able to admit to his own sterility while privately he grieved over not having his own children. 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 18000 acres (73 km²) Custis estate upon his marriage, worth approximately $100,000, and managed the remainder on behalf of Martha's children, for whom he sincerely cared. He frequently bought additional land in his own name and was granted land in what is now West Virginia
West Virginia
West Virginia is a state in the Appalachian and Southeastern regions of the United States, bordered by Virginia to the southeast, Kentucky to the southwest, Ohio to the northwest, Pennsylvania to the northeast and Maryland to the east...

 as a bounty for his service in the French and Indian War. By 1775, Washington had doubled the size of Mount Vernon to 6500 acres (26 km²), and had increased the slave population there to more than 100 persons. As a respected military hero and large landowner, he held local office and was elected to the Virginia provincial legislature, the House of Burgesses
House of Burgesses
The House of Burgesses was the first assembly of elected representatives of English colonists in North America. The House was established by the Virginia Company, who created the body as part of an effort to encourage English craftsmen to settle in North America...

, beginning in 1758.
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. Washington also was known to play cards, backgammon
Backgammon
Backgammon is one of the oldest board games for two players. The playing pieces are moved according to the roll of dice, and players win by removing all of their pieces from the board. There are many variants of backgammon, most of which share common traits...

, and billiards
Billiards
Cue sports , also known as billiard sports, are a wide variety of games of skill generally played with a cue stick which is used to strike billiard balls, moving them around a cloth-covered billiards table bounded by rubber .Historically, the umbrella term was billiards...

. Like most Virginia planters, he imported luxuries and other goods from England and paid for them by exporting his tobacco crop.

Washington 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. 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, spinning, weaving and (in the 1790s) whiskey production. Patsy Custis's death in 1773 from epilepsy
Epilepsy
Epilepsy is a common chronic neurological disorder characterized by seizures. These seizures are transient signs and/or symptoms of abnormal, excessive or hypersynchronous neuronal activity in the brain.About 50 million people worldwide have epilepsy, and nearly two out of every three new cases...

 enabled Washington to pay off his British creditors, since half of her inheritance passed to him.

A successful planter, he was a leader in the social elite in Virginia. From 1768 to 1775, he invited some 2000 guests to his Mount Vernon estate, mostly those he considered "people of rank". As for people not of high social status, his advice was to "treat them civilly" but "keep them at a proper distance, for they will grow upon familiarity, in proportion as you sink in authority". In 1769, he became more politically active, presenting the Virginia Assembly with legislation to ban the importation
Embargo
An embargo is the partial or complete prohibition of commerce and trade with a particular country, in order to isolate it. Embargoes are considered strong diplomatic measures imposed in an effort, by the imposing country, to elicit a given national-interest result from the country on which it is...

 of goods from Great Britain
Kingdom of Great Britain
The former Kingdom of Great Britain, sometimes described as the 'United Kingdom of Great Britain', That the Two Kingdoms of Scotland and England, shall upon the 1st May next ensuing the date hereof, and forever after, be United into One Kingdom by the Name of GREAT BRITAIN. was a sovereign...

.

In 1754, Lieutenant Governor Dinwiddie
Robert Dinwiddie
Robert Dinwiddie was a British colonial administrator who served as lieutenant governor of colonial Virginia from 1751 to 1758, first under Governor Willem Anne van Keppel, 2nd Earl of Albemarle, and then, from July 1756 to January 1758, as deputy for John Campbell, 4th Earl of Loudoun...

 had promised land bounties to the soldiers and officers who volunteered to serve during the French and Indian War. Washington tried for years to get the lands promised to him and his men. Governor Norborne Berkeley
Norborne Berkeley, 4th Baron Botetourt
Norborne Berkeley, 4th Baron Botetourt , was a courtier, member of parliament, and royal governor of the colony of Virginia from 1768 until his death in 1770.-Life:...

 finally fulfilled that promise in 1769–1770, with Washington subsequently receiving title to 23200 acres (93.9 km²) near where the Kanawha River
Kanawha River
The Kanawha River is a tributary of the Ohio River, approximately 97 mi long, in the U.S. state of West Virginia. The largest inland waterway in West Virginia, it has formed a significant industrial region of the state since the middle of the 19th century.It is formed at the town of Gauley...

 flows into the Ohio River
Ohio River
The Ohio River is the largest tributary, by volume, of the Mississippi River. At the confluence, the Ohio is even bigger than the Mississippi and, thus, is hydrologically the main stream of the whole river system, including the Allegheny River further upstream...

, in what is now western West Virginia.

American Revolution (1775–1787)


Although he expressed opposition to the 1765 Stamp Act
Stamp Act 1765
The Stamp Act 1765 was a direct tax imposed by the British Parliament specifically on the colonies of British America. The act required that many printed materials in the colonies be produced on stamped paper produced in London, carrying an embossed revenue stamp...

, the first direct tax on the colonies, he did not take a leading role in the growing colonial resistance until protests of the Townshend Acts
Townshend Acts
The Townshend Acts were a series of laws passed beginning in 1767 by the Parliament of Great Britain relating to the British colonies in North America. The acts are named after Charles Townshend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who proposed the program...

 (enacted in 1767) became widespread. In May 1769, Washington introduced a proposal, drafted by his friend George Mason
George Mason
George Mason IV was an American Patriot, statesman and a delegate from Virginia to the U.S. Constitutional Convention...

, calling for Virginia to boycott English goods until the Acts were repealed. Parliament repealed the Townshend Acts in 1770. However, Washington regarded the passage of the Intolerable Acts
Intolerable Acts
The Intolerable Acts or the Coercive Acts are names used to describe a series of laws passed by the British Parliament in 1774 relating to Britain's colonies in North America...

 in 1774 as "an Invasion of our Rights and Privileges". In July 1774, he chaired the meeting at which the "Fairfax Resolves
Fairfax Resolves
The Fairfax Resolves was a set of resolutions adopted by a committee in Fairfax County in the colony of Virginia on July 18, 1774, in the early stages of the American Revolution. Written primarily by George Mason, the resolutions rejected the British Parliament's claim of supreme authority over the...

" were adopted, which called for the convening of a Continental Congress
Continental Congress
The Continental Congress was a convention of delegates called together from the Thirteen Colonies that became the governing body of the United States during the American Revolution....

, among other things. In August, Washington attended the First Virginia Convention
Virginia Conventions
The Virginia Conventions were a series of five political meetings in the Colony of Virginia during the American Revolution. Because the House of Burgesses had been dissolved in 1774 by Royal Governor Lord Dunmore, the conventions served as a revolutionary provisional government until the...

, where he was selected as a delegate to the First Continental Congress
First Continental Congress
The First Continental Congress was a convention of delegates from twelve of the thirteen North American colonies that met on September 5, 1774, at Carpenters' Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, early in the American Revolution. It was called in response to the passage of the Coercive Acts by the...

.

Commander in chief


After the Battles of Lexington and Concord
Battles of Lexington and Concord
The Battles of Lexington and Concord were the first military engagements of the American Revolutionary War. They were fought on April 19, 1775, in Middlesex County, Province of Massachusetts Bay, within the towns of Lexington, Concord, Lincoln, Menotomy , and Cambridge, near Boston...

 near Boston in April 1775, the colonies went to war. Washington appeared at the Second Continental Congress
Second Continental Congress
The Second Continental Congress was a convention of delegates from the Thirteen Colonies that started meeting on May 10, 1775, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, soon after warfare in the American Revolutionary War had begun. It succeeded the First Continental Congress, which met briefly during 1774,...

 in a military uniform, signaling that he was prepared for war. Washington had the prestige, military experience, charisma and military bearing of a military leader and was known as a strong patriot. Virginia, the largest colony, deserved recognition, and New England—where the fighting began—realized 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
Continental Army
The Continental Army was formed after the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War by the colonies that became the United States of America. Established by a resolution of the Continental Congress on June 14, 1775, it was created to coordinate the military efforts of the Thirteen Colonies in...

 on June 14, 1775. Nominated by John Adams
John Adams
John Adams was an American lawyer, statesman, diplomat and political theorist. A leading champion of independence in 1776, he was the second President of the United States...

 of Massachusetts, Washington was then appointed Major General and Commander-in-chief
Commander-in-Chief
A commander-in-chief is the commander of a nation's military forces or significant element of those forces. In the latter case, the force element may be defined as those forces within a particular region or those forces which are associated by function. As a practical term it refers to the military...

.

Washington had three roles during the war. In 1775–77, and again in 1781 he led his men against the main British forces. Although he lost many of his battles, 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 and General Friedrich von Steuben
Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben
Friedrich Wilhelm August Heinrich Ferdinand von Steuben , also referred to as the Baron von Steuben, was a Prussian-born military officer who served as inspector general and Major General of the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War...

, a veteran of the Prussian general staff, to train them. 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 Americans' 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 and of all of the militia-officers. The results of his general staff were mixed, as some of his favorites (like John Sullivan
John Sullivan
John Sullivan was the third son of Irish immigrants, a United States general in the Revolutionary War, a delegate in the Continental Congress and a United States federal judge....

) never mastered the art of command. Eventually he found capable officers, like General Nathaniel Greene
Nathanael Greene
Nathanael Greene was a major general of the Continental Army in the American Revolutionary War. When the war began, Greene was a militia private, the lowest rank possible; he emerged from the war with a reputation as George Washington's most gifted and dependable officer. Many places in the United...

, and his chief-of-staff Alexander Hamilton
Alexander Hamilton
Alexander Hamilton was a Founding Father, soldier, economist, political philosopher, one of America's first constitutional lawyers and the first United States Secretary of the Treasury...

. The American officers never equalled 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 of troops.

Third, and most important, Washington was the embodiment of armed resistance to the Crown—the representative man of the Revolution. His enormous stature and political skills kept Congress, the army, the French, the militias, and the states all pointed toward a common goal. By voluntarily stepping down and disbanding his army when the war was won, he permanently established the principle of civilian supremacy in military affairs. And yet his constant reiteration of the point that well-disciplined professional soldiers counted for twice as much as erratic amateurs helped overcome the ideological distrust of a standing army.

Victory at Boston


Washington assumed command of the Continental Army in the field at Cambridge, Massachusetts
Cambridge, Massachusetts
Cambridge is a city in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States, in the Greater Boston area. It was named in honor of the University of Cambridge in England, an important center of the Puritan theology embraced by the town's founders. Cambridge is home to two of the world's most prominent...

 in July 1775, during the ongoing siege of Boston
Siege of Boston
The Siege of Boston was the opening phase of the American Revolutionary War, in which New England militiamen—who later became part of the Continental Army—surrounded the town of Boston, Massachusetts, to prevent movement by the British Army garrisoned within...

. Realizing his army's desperate shortage of gunpowder, Washington asked for new sources. American troops raided British arsenals, including some in the Caribbean
Caribbean
The Caribbean is a crescent-shaped group of islands more than 2,000 miles long separating the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, to the west and south, from the Atlantic Ocean, to the east and north...

, 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, and forced the British to withdraw by putting artillery on Dorchester Heights
Fortification of Dorchester Heights
The Fortification of Dorchester Heights was a decisive action early in the American Revolutionary War that precipitated the end of the siege of Boston and the withdrawal of British troops from that city....

 overlooking the city. The British evacuated Boston
Evacuation Day (Massachusetts)
March 17 is Evacuation Day, a holiday observed in Suffolk County and also by the public schools in Cambridge and Somerville, Massachusetts. The holiday commemorates the evacuation of British forces from the city of Boston following the Siege of Boston, early in the American Revolutionary War...

 in March 1776 and Washington moved his army to New York City.

Although highly disparaging toward most of the Patriots, British newspapers routinely praised Washington's personal character and qualities as a military commander. These articles were bold, as Washington was an enemy general who commanded an army in a cause that many Britons believed would ruin the empire
British Empire
The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom. It originated with the overseas colonies and trading posts established by England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. At its height, it was the...

.

Defeat at New York City and Fabian tactics



In August 1776, British General William Howe
William Howe, 5th Viscount Howe
William Howe, 5th Viscount Howe, KB, PC was a British army officer who rose to become Commander-in-Chief of British forces during the American War of Independence...

 launched a massive naval and land campaign
New York and New Jersey campaign
The New York and New Jersey campaign was a series of battles for control of New York City and the state of New Jersey in the American Revolutionary War between British forces under General Sir William Howe and the Continental Army under General George Washington in 1776 and the winter months of 1777...

 designed to seize New York. The Continental Army under Washington engaged the enemy for the first time as an army of the newly independent United States at the Battle of Long Island
Battle of Long Island
The Battle of Long Island, also known as the Battle of Brooklyn or the Battle of Brooklyn Heights, fought on August 27, 1776, was the first major battle in the American Revolutionary War following the United States Declaration of Independence, the largest battle of the entire conflict, and the...

, the largest battle of the entire war. The Americans were badly outnumbered, many men deserted, and Washington was badly beaten. Subsequently, Washington was forced to retreat across the East River
East River
The East River is a tidal strait in New York City. It connects Upper New York Bay on its south end to Long Island Sound on its north end. It separates Long Island from the island of Manhattan and the Bronx on the North American mainland...

 at night. He did so without loss of life or materiel. Washington retreated north from the city to avoid encirclement, enabling Howe to take the offensive and capture
Battle of Fort Washington
The Battle of Fort Washington was fought in the American Revolutionary War between the United States and Great Britain on November 16, 1776. It was a decisive British victory, forcing the entire garrison of Fort Washington to surrender....

 Fort Washington
Fort Washington (New York)
Fort Washington was a fortified position near the north end of Manhattan Island and was located at the highest point on the island. The Fort Washington Site is listed on the U.S...

 on November 16 with high Continental casualties. Washington then retreated across New Jersey
New Jersey
New Jersey is a state in the Northeastern and Middle Atlantic regions of the United States. , its population was 8,791,894. It is bordered on the north and east by the state of New York, on the southeast and south by the Atlantic Ocean, on the west by Pennsylvania and on the southwest by Delaware...

; the future of the Continental Army was in doubt due to expiring enlistments and the string of losses. On the night of December 25, 1776, Washington staged a comeback with a surprise attack on a Hessian outpost in western New Jersey
Battle of Trenton
The Battle of Trenton took place on December 26, 1776, during the American Revolutionary War, after General George Washington's crossing of the Delaware River north of Trenton, New Jersey. The hazardous crossing in adverse weather made it possible for Washington to lead the main body of the...

. He led his army across the Delaware River to capture nearly 1,000 Hessians in Trenton, New Jersey
Trenton, New Jersey
Trenton is the capital of the U.S. state of New Jersey and the county seat of Mercer County. As of the 2010 United States Census, Trenton had a population of 84,913...

. Washington followed up his victory at Trenton with another over British regulars at Princeton
Battle of Princeton
The Battle of Princeton was a battle in which General George Washington's revolutionary forces defeated British forces near Princeton, New Jersey....

 in early January. The British retreated back to 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.

Historians debate whether or not Washington preferred a Fabian strategy
Fabian strategy
The Fabian strategy is a military strategy where pitched battles and frontal assaults are avoided in favor of wearing down an opponent through a war of attrition and indirection. While avoiding decisive battles, the side employing this strategy harasses its enemy through skirmishes to cause...

 to harass the British with quick, sharp attacks followed by a retreat so the larger British army could not catch him, or whether he preferred to fight major battles. While his southern commander Greene in 1780-81 did use Fabian tactics, Washington, only did so in fall 1776 to spring 1777, after losing New York City and seeing much of his army melt away. Trenton
Battle of Trenton
The Battle of Trenton took place on December 26, 1776, during the American Revolutionary War, after General George Washington's crossing of the Delaware River north of Trenton, New Jersey. The hazardous crossing in adverse weather made it possible for Washington to lead the main body of the...

 and Princeton
Battle of Princeton
The Battle of Princeton was a battle in which General George Washington's revolutionary forces defeated British forces near Princeton, New Jersey....

 were Fabian examples. By summer 1777, however, Washington had rebuilt his strength and his confidence and stopped using raids and went for large-scale confrontations, as at Brandywine, Germantown, Monmouth and Yorktown.

1777 campaigns


In the late summer of 1777 the British under John Burgoyne
John Burgoyne
General John Burgoyne was a British army officer, politician and dramatist. He first saw action during the Seven Years' War when he participated in several battles, mostly notably during the Portugal Campaign of 1762....

 sent a major invasion army
Saratoga campaign
The Saratoga Campaign was an attempt by Great Britain to gain military control of the strategically important Hudson River valley in 1777 during the American Revolutionary War...

 south from Quebec
Province of Quebec (1763-1791)
The Province of Quebec was a colony in North America created by Great Britain after the Seven Years' War. Great Britain acquired Canada by the Treaty of Paris when King Louis XV of France and his advisors chose to keep the territory of Guadeloupe for its valuable sugar crops instead of New France...

, with the intention of splitting off rebellious New England. General Howe in New York took his army south to Philadelphia
Philadelphia campaign
The Philadelphia campaign was a British initiative in the American Revolutionary War to gain control of Philadelphia, which was then the seat of the Second Continental Congress...

 instead of going up the Hudson River to join with Burgoyne near Albany. It was a major strategic mistake for the British, and Washington rushed to Philadelphia to engage Howe, while closely following the action in upstate New York. In pitched battles that were too complex for his relatively inexperienced men, Washington was defeated. At the Battle of Brandywine
Battle of Brandywine
The Battle of Brandywine, also known as the Battle of the Brandywine or the Battle of Brandywine Creek, was fought between the American army of Major General George Washington and the British-Hessian army of General Sir William Howe on September 11, 1777. The British defeated the Americans and...

 on September 11, 1777, Howe outmaneuvered Washington, and marched into the American capital at Philadelphia unopposed on September 26. Washington's army unsuccessfully attacked
Battle of Germantown
The Battle of Germantown, a battle in the Philadelphia campaign of the American Revolutionary War, was fought on October 4, 1777, at Germantown, Pennsylvania between the British army led by Sir William Howe and the American army under George Washington...

 the British garrison at Germantown
Germantown, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Germantown is a neighborhood in the northwest section of the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States, about 7–8 miles northwest from the center of the city...

 in early October. Meanwhile, Burgoyne, out of reach from help from Howe, was trapped and forced to surrender his entire army at Saratoga, New York
Saratoga, New York
Saratoga is a town in Saratoga County, New York, United States. The population was 5,141 at the 2000 census. It is also the commonly used, but not official, name for the neighboring and much more populous city, Saratoga Springs. The major village in the town of Saratoga is Schuylerville which is...

. It was a major turning point militarily and diplomatically. France responded to Burgoyne's defeat by entering the war, openly allying with America and turning the Revolutionary War into a major worldwide war. Washington's loss of Philadelphia prompted some members of Congress to discuss removing Washington from command. This attempt
Conway Cabal
The Conway Cabal refers to a series of events in late 1777 and early 1778 suggesting that George Washington be replaced as commander of the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. It was named after Brigadier General Thomas Conway, whose letters criticizing Washington were forwarded...

 failed after Washington's supporters rallied behind him.

Valley Forge



Washington's army of 11,000 went into winter quarters at Valley Forge
Valley Forge
Valley Forge in Pennsylvania was the site of the military camp of the American Continental Army over the winter of 1777–1778 in the American Revolutionary War.-History:...

 north of Philadelphia in December 1777. Over the next six months, the deaths in camp numbered in the thousands (the majority being from disease), with historians' death toll estimates ranging from 2000 to 2500, to over 3000 men. The next spring, however, the 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 to New York in 1778, shadowed by Washington. Washington attacked them at Monmouth
Battle of Monmouth
The Battle of Monmouth was an American Revolutionary War battle fought on June 28, 1778 in Monmouth County, New Jersey. The Continental Army under General George Washington attacked the rear of the British Army column commanded by Lieutenant General Sir Henry Clinton as they left Monmouth Court...

, fighting to an effective draw in one of the war's largest battles. Afterwards, the British continued to head towards New York, and Washington moved his army outside of New York.

Victory at Yorktown



In the summer of 1779 at Washington's direction, General John Sullivan
Sullivan Expedition
The Sullivan Expedition, also known as the Sullivan-Clinton Expedition, was an American campaign led by Major General John Sullivan and Brigadier General James Clinton against Loyalists and the four nations of the Iroquois who had sided with the British in the American Revolutionary War.The...

 carried out a scorched earth
Scorched earth
A scorched earth policy is a military strategy or operational method which involves destroying anything that might be useful to the enemy while advancing through or withdrawing from an area...

 campaign that destroyed at least 40 Iroquois
Iroquois
The Iroquois , also known as the Haudenosaunee or the "People of the Longhouse", are an association of several tribes of indigenous people of North America...

 villages in central and upstate New York; the Indians were British allies who had been raiding American settlements on the frontier. In July 1780, 5,000 veteran French troops led by General Comte Donatien de Rochambeau
Jean-Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, comte de Rochambeau
Marshal of France Jean-Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, comte de Rochambeau was a French nobleman and general who participated in the American Revolutionary War as the commander-in-chief of the French Expeditionary Force which came to help the American Continental Army...

 arrived at Newport, Rhode Island
Newport, Rhode Island
Newport is a city on Aquidneck Island in Newport County, Rhode Island, United States, about south of Providence. Known as a New England summer resort and for the famous Newport Mansions, it is the home of Salve Regina University and Naval Station Newport which houses the United States Naval War...

 to aid in the war effort. The Continental Army having been funded by $20,000 in French gold, Washington delivered the final blow to the British in 1781, after a French naval victory
Battle of the Chesapeake
The Battle of the Chesapeake, also known as the Battle of the Virginia Capes or simply the Battle of the Capes, was a crucial naval battle in the American War of Independence that took place near the mouth of Chesapeake Bay on 5 September 1781, between a British fleet led by Rear Admiral Sir Thomas...

 allowed American and French forces to trap a British army in Virginia. The surrender at Yorktown
Siege of Yorktown
The Siege of Yorktown, Battle of Yorktown, or Surrender of Yorktown in 1781 was a decisive victory by a combined assault of American forces led by General George Washington and French forces led by the Comte de Rochambeau over a British Army commanded by Lieutenant General Lord Cornwallis...

 on October 17, 1781, marked the end of major fighting in continental North America.

Demobilization


Washington could not know that after Yorktown the British would not reopen hostilities. They still had 26,000 troops occupying New York City, Charleston and Savannah, together with a powerful fleet. The French army and navy departed, so the Americans were on their own in 1782-83. The treasury was empty, and the unpaid soldiers were growing restive, almost to the point of mutiny or possible coup d'état. Washington dispelled unrest among officers by suppressing the Newburgh Conspiracy
Newburgh conspiracy
The Newburgh Conspiracy was unrest in 1783 among officers of the American Continental Army due to many officers and men of the Army not receiving pay for many years. Commander-in-Chief George Washington stopped any serious talk by appealing successfully to his officers to support the supremacy of...

 in March 1783, and Congress came up with the promise of a five years bonus.

By the Treaty of Paris
Treaty of Paris (1783)
The Treaty of Paris, signed on September 3, 1783, ended the American Revolutionary War between Great Britain on the one hand and the United States of America and its allies on the other. The other combatant nations, France, Spain and the Dutch Republic had separate agreements; for details of...

 (signed that September), Great Britain recognized the independence of the United States. Washington disbanded his army and, on November 2, gave an eloquent farewell address to his soldiers.

On November 25, the British evacuated New York City
Evacuation Day (New York)
Following the American Revolution, Evacuation Day on November 25 marks the day in 1783 when the last vestige of British authority in the United States — its troops in New York — departed from Manhattan...

, and Washington and the governor took possession. At Fraunces Tavern
Fraunces Tavern
Fraunces Tavern is a tavern, restaurant and museum housed in a conjectural reconstruction of a building that played a prominent role in pre-Revolution and American Revolution history. The building, located at 54 Pearl Street at the corner of Broad Street, has been owned by Sons of the Revolution in...

 on December 4, Washington formally bade his officers farewell and on December 23, 1783, he resigned his commission as commander-in-chief. Historian Gordon Wood
Gordon S. Wood
Gordon S. Wood is Alva O. Way University Professor and Professor of History Emeritus at Brown University and the recipient of the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for History for The Radicalism of the American Revolution. His book The Creation of the American Republic, 1776–1787 won a 1970 Bancroft Prize...

 concludes that the greatest act in his life was his resignation as commander of the armies—an act that stunned aristocratic Europe. King George III
George III of the United Kingdom
George III was King of Great Britain and King of Ireland from 25 October 1760 until the union of these two countries on 1 January 1801, after which he was King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland until his death...

 called Washington "the greatest character of the age" because of this.

Constitutional Convention (1787)


Washington's retirement to Mount Vernon was short-lived. He made an exploratory trip to the western frontier in 1784, was persuaded to attend the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in the summer of 1787, and was unanimously elected president of the Convention. He participated little in the debates (though he did vote for or against the various articles), but his high prestige maintained collegiality and kept the delegates at their labors. The delegates designed the presidency with Washington in mind, and allowed him to define the office once elected. After the Convention, his support convinced many to vote for ratification; the new Constitution
United States Constitution
The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the United States of America. It is the framework for the organization of the United States government and for the relationship of the federal government with the states, citizens, and all people within the United States.The first three...

 was ratified by all thirteen states.

Presidency (1789–1797)


The Electoral College elected Washington unanimously as the first president in 1789
United States presidential election, 1789
The United States presidential election of 1789 was the first presidential election in the United States of America and the only election to ever take place in a year that is not a multiple of four. The election took place following the ratification of the United States Constitution in 1788...

, and again in the 1792 election
United States presidential election, 1792
The United States presidential election of 1792 was the second presidential election in the United States, and the first in which each of the original 13 states appointed electors...

; he remains the only president to have received 100 percent of the electoral votes.Under the system in place at the time, each elector cast two votes, with the winner becoming president and the runner-up vice president. All electors in the elections of 1789 and 1792 cast one of their votes for Washington; thus it may be said that he was elected president unanimously. John Adams
John Adams
John Adams was an American lawyer, statesman, diplomat and political theorist. A leading champion of independence in 1776, he was the second President of the United States...

, who received the next highest vote total, was elected Vice President
Vice President of the United States
The Vice President of the United States is the holder of a public office created by the United States Constitution. The Vice President, together with the President of the United States, is indirectly elected by the people, through the Electoral College, to a four-year term...

. At his inauguration
First inauguration of George Washington
The first inauguration of George Washington as the first President of the United States took place on April 30, 1789.The inauguration marked the commencement of the first four-year term of George Washington as President and John Adams as Vice President...

, Washington took the oath of office as the first President of the United States of America on April 30, 1789, on the balcony of Federal Hall
Federal Hall
Federal Hall, built in 1700 as New York's City Hall, later served as the first capitol building of the United States of America under the Constitution, and was the site of George Washington's inauguration as the first President of the United States. It was also where the United States Bill of...

 in New York City.

The 1st United States Congress
1st United States Congress
-House of Representatives:During this congress, five House seats were added for North Carolina and one House seat was added for Rhode Island when they ratified the Constitution.-Senate:* President: John Adams * President pro tempore: John Langdon...

 voted to pay Washington a salary of $25,000 a year—a large sum in 1789. Washington, already wealthy, declined the salary, since he valued his image as a selfless public servant. At the urging of Congress, however, 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, aware that everything he did set a precedent, 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 suggested.

Washington proved an able administrator. 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."

Washington reluctantly served a second term. He refused to run for a third, establishing the customary policy of a maximum of two terms for a president.

Domestic issues



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
First Party System
The First Party System is a model of American politics used by political scientists and historians to periodize the political party system existing in the United States between roughly 1792 and 1824. It featured two national parties competing for control of the presidency, Congress, and the states:...

. Secretary of Treasury Alexander Hamilton
Alexander Hamilton
Alexander Hamilton was a Founding Father, soldier, economist, political philosopher, one of America's first constitutional lawyers and the first United States Secretary of the Treasury...

 had bold plans to establish the national credit and build a financially powerful nation, and formed the basis of the Federalist Party. Secretary of the State Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson was the principal author of the United States Declaration of Independence and the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom , the third President of the United States and founder of the University of Virginia...

, founder of the Jeffersonian Republicans, strenuously opposed Hamilton's agenda, but 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
National Gazette
The National Gazette was a Democratic-Republican partisan newspaper that was first published on October 31, 1791. It was edited and published semiweekly by poet and printer Philip Freneau until October 23, 1793....

, and his attempt to undermine Hamilton, nearly led George Washington to dismiss Jefferson from his cabinet. Though Jefferson left the cabinet voluntarily, Washington never forgave him, and never spoke to him again.

The Residence Act of 1790
Residence Act
The Residence Act of 1790, officially titled An Act for establishing the temporary and permanent seat of the Government of the United States, is the United States federal law that settled the question of locating the capital of the United States, selecting a site along the Potomac River...

, which Washington signed, authorized the President to select the specific location of the permanent seat of the government, which would be located along the Potomac River. The Act authorized the President to appoint three commissioners to survey and acquire property for this seat. 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, which led to protests in frontier districts, especially Pennsylvania. By 1794, after Washington ordered the protesters to appear in U.S. district court
United States district court
The United States district courts are the general trial courts of the United States federal court system. Both civil and criminal cases are filed in the district court, which is a court of law, equity, and admiralty. There is a United States bankruptcy court associated with each United States...

, the protests turned into full-scale defiance of federal authority known as the Whiskey Rebellion
Whiskey Rebellion
The Whiskey Rebellion, or Whiskey Insurrection, was a tax protest in the United States in the 1790s, during the presidency of George Washington. Farmers who sold their corn in the form of whiskey had to pay a new tax which they strongly resented...

. The federal army was too small to be used, so Washington invoked the Militia Act of 1792
Militia Act of 1792
The Militia Act of 1792 was a series of statutes enacted by the second United States Congress in 1792. The act provided for the President of the United States to take command of the state militias in times of imminent invasion or insurrection.-History:...

 to summon militias from Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland and New Jersey. The governors sent the troops and Washington took command, marching into the rebellious districts. The rebels dispersed and there was no fighting, as Washington's forceful action proved the new government could protect itself. These events marked the first time under the new constitution that the federal government used strong military force to exert authority over the states and citizens.

Foreign affairs


In spring 1793 a major war
French Revolutionary Wars
The French Revolutionary Wars were a series of major conflicts, from 1792 until 1802, fought between the French Revolutionary government and several European states...

 broke out between conservative Great Britain and its allies and revolutionary France, launching an era of large-scale warfare that engulfed Europe until 1815. Washington, with cabinet approval, proclaimed American neutrality. The revolutionary government of France
French Revolution
The French Revolution , sometimes distinguished as the 'Great French Revolution' , was a period of radical social and political upheaval in France and Europe. The absolute monarchy that had ruled France for centuries collapsed in three years...

 sent diplomat Edmond-Charles Genêt
Edmond-Charles Genêt
Edmond-Charles Genêt , also known as Citizen Genêt, was a French ambassador to the United States during the French Revolution.-Early life:Genêt was born in Versailles in 1763...

, called "Citizen Genêt," to America. Genêt was welcomed with great enthusiasm and propagandized the case for France in the French war against Great Britain, and for this purpose promoted a network of new Democratic Societies
Democratic-Republican Societies
Democratic-Republican Societies were local political organizations formed in the United States in 1793-94 to promote republicanism and democracy and to fight aristocratic tendencies...

 in major cities. He issued French letters of marque and reprisal
Letter of marque
In the days of fighting sail, a Letter of Marque and Reprisal was a government licence authorizing a person to attack and capture enemy vessels, and bring them before admiralty courts for condemnation and sale...

 to French ships manned by American sailors so they could capture British merchant ships. Washington, warning and mistrustful of the influence of Illuminism that had been so strong in the French Revolution
French Revolution
The French Revolution , sometimes distinguished as the 'Great French Revolution' , was a period of radical social and political upheaval in France and Europe. The absolute monarchy that had ruled France for centuries collapsed in three years...

 (as recounted by John Robison
John Robison (physicist)
John Robison FRSE was a Scottish physicist and mathematician. He was a professor of philosophy at the University of Edinburgh....

 and Abbé Augustin Barruel
Augustin Barruel
Abbé Augustin Barruel was a French Jesuit priest. He is now mostly known for setting forth the conspiracy theory involving the Bavarian Illuminati and the Jacobins in his book Memoirs Illustrating the History of Jacobinism published in 1797...

)
and its Reign of Terror
Reign of Terror
The Reign of Terror , also known simply as The Terror , was a period of violence that occurred after the onset of the French Revolution, incited by conflict between rival political factions, the Girondins and the Jacobins, and marked by mass executions of "enemies of...

, demanded the French government recall Genêt, and denounced the societies.

Hamilton and Washington designed the Jay Treaty
Jay Treaty
Jay's Treaty, , also known as Jay's Treaty, The British Treaty, and the Treaty of London of 1794, was a treaty between the United States and Great Britain that is credited with averting war,, resolving issues remaining since the Treaty of Paris of 1783, which ended the American Revolution,, and...

 to normalize trade relations with Great Britain, remove them from western forts, and resolve financial debts left over from the Revolution. John Jay
John Jay
John Jay was an American politician, statesman, revolutionary, diplomat, a Founding Father of the United States, and the first Chief Justice of the United States ....

 negotiated and signed the treaty on November 19, 1794. The Jeffersonians supported France and strongly attacked the treaty. Washington's strong support mobilized public opinion and proved decisive in securing ratification in the Senate by the necessary two-thirds majority. The British agreed to depart from their forts around the Great Lakes
Great Lakes
The Great Lakes are a collection of freshwater lakes located in northeastern North America, on the Canada – United States border. Consisting of Lakes Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Ontario, they form the largest group of freshwater lakes on Earth by total surface, coming in second by volume...

, subsequently the U.S.-Canadian 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 with Great Britain. The treaty angered the French and became a central issue in many political debates. Relations with France deteriorated after the treaty was signed, leaving his successor, John Adams
John Adams
John Adams was an American lawyer, statesman, diplomat and political theorist. A leading champion of independence in 1776, he was the second President of the United States...

, with the prospect of war.

Farewell Address


Washington's Farewell Address (issued as a public letter in 1796) 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 called morality "a necessary spring of popular government". He 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."

Washington's public political address warned against foreign influence in domestic affairs and American meddling in European affairs. He warned against bitter partisanship in domestic politics and called for men to move beyond partisanship and serve the common good. He warned against "permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world", saying the United States must concentrate primarily on American interests. He counseled friendship and commerce with all nations, but warned against involvement in European wars and entering into long-term "entangling" alliances. The address quickly set American values regarding foreign affairs.

Retirement (1797–1799)


After retiring from the presidency in March 1797, Washington returned to Mount Vernon with a profound sense of relief. He devoted much time to farming and other business interests, including his distillery which produced its first batch of spirits in February 1797. As explains, his farm operations were at best marginally profitable. The lands out west yielded little income because they were under attack by Indians and the squatters living there refused to pay him rents. However most Americans assumed he was truly rich because of the well-known "glorified façade of wealth and grandeur" at Mount Vernon. Historians estimate his estate was worth about $1 million in 1799 dollars, equivalent to about $18 million in 2009 purchasing power.

By 1798, relations with France had deteriorated to the point that war seemed imminent, and on July 4, 1798, President Adams offered Washington a commission as lieutenant general
Lieutenant General (United States)
In the United States Army, the United States Air Force and the United States Marine Corps, lieutenant general is a three-star general officer rank, with the pay grade of O-9. Lieutenant general ranks above major general and below general...

 and Commander-in-chief
Commander-in-Chief
A commander-in-chief is the commander of a nation's military forces or significant element of those forces. In the latter case, the force element may be defined as those forces within a particular region or those forces which are associated by function. As a practical term it refers to the military...

 of the armies raised or to be raised for service in a prospective war
Quasi-War
The Quasi-War was an undeclared war fought mostly at sea between the United States and French Republic from 1798 to 1800. In the United States, the conflict was sometimes also referred to as the Franco-American War, the Pirate Wars, or the Half-War.-Background:The Kingdom of France had been a...

. He reluctantly accepted, and served as the senior officer of the United States Army
Commanding General of the United States Army
Prior to the institution of the Chief of Staff of the United States Army in 1903, there was generally a single senior-most officer in the army. From 1783, he was known simply as the Senior Officer of the United States Army, but in 1821, the title was changed to Commanding General of the United...

 between July 13, 1798, and December 14, 1799. 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, delegating most of the work, including leadership of the army, to Hamilton.

Death


On Thursday December 12, 1799, Washington spent several hours inspecting his farms on horseback, in snow, hail and freezing rain — later that evening eating his supper without changing from his wet clothes. Friday morning, he awoke with a severe sore throat (either quinsy
Peritonsillar abscess
Peritonsillar abscess , also called a quinsy or abbreviated as PTA is a recognised complication of tonsillitis and consists of a collection of pus beside the tonsil .-Symptoms and signs:...

 or acute epiglottitis
Epiglottitis
Epiglottitis is an inflammation of the epiglottis - the flap that sits at the base of the tongue, which keeps food from going into the trachea . Due to its place in the airway, swelling of this structure can interfere with breathing and constitutes a medical emergency...

) and became increasingly hoarse as the day progressed. Sometime around 3 am that Saturday morning, he awoke his wife and said he felt ill. Following common medical practice at the time, he was bled
Bloodletting
Bloodletting is the withdrawal of often little quantities of blood from a patient to cure or prevent illness and disease. Bloodletting was based on an ancient system of medicine in which blood and other bodily fluid were considered to be "humors" the proper balance of which maintained health...

; initially by an employee and later again by physicians. "A vein was opened, but no relief afforded. Couriers were dispatched to Dr. Craik, the family, and Drs. Dick and Brown, the consulting physicians, all of whom came with speed. The proper remedies were administered, but without producing their healing effects; while the patient, yielding to the anxious looks of all around him, waived his usual objections to medicines, and took those which were prescribed without hesitation or remark." Washington died at home around 10 pm on Saturday December 14, 1799, aged 67. The last words in his diary were "'Tis well."At least three modern medical authors have concluded that Washington most probably died from acute bacterial epiglottitis complicated by the treatments given (all of which were accepted medical practice of that era). See for these references, also his article's quotation of Doctors James Craik
James Craik
James Craik was Physician General of the United States Army, as well as George Washington's personal physician and close friend.-Education and emigration to America:...

 and Elisha C. Dick
Elisha C. Dick
Elisha Cullen Dick, M.D. was a mayor of Alexandria, Virginia, and attending physician at George Washington's death.- Family :...

's account in the Times of Alexandria (newspaper) of what happened during their treatment of Washington. These treatments included multiple doses of calomel
Mercury(I) chloride
Mercury chloride is the chemical compound with the formula Hg2Cl2. Also known as calomel or mercurous chloride, this dense white or yellowish-white, odorless solid is the principal example of a mercury compound...

, as well as performing extensive bloodletting
Bloodletting
Bloodletting is the withdrawal of often little quantities of blood from a patient to cure or prevent illness and disease. Bloodletting was based on an ancient system of medicine in which blood and other bodily fluid were considered to be "humors" the proper balance of which maintained health...

, with a total of 3.75 liters of blood taken and the massive deliberate blood-loss contributing to the additional serious complication of shock.


Throughout the world, men and women were saddened by Washington's death. Napoleon ordered ten days of mourning throughout France; in the United States, thousands wore mourning clothes for months. To protect their privacy, Martha Washington burned the correspondence between her husband and herself following his death. Only a total of five letters between the couple are known to have survived, two letters from Martha to George and three from George to Martha.

On December 18, 1799, a funeral was held at Mount Vernon, where his body was interred. Congress passed a joint resolution to construct a marble monument in the United States Capitol
United States Capitol
The United States Capitol is the meeting place of the United States Congress, the legislature of the federal government of the United States. Located in Washington, D.C., it sits atop Capitol Hill at the eastern end of the National Mall...

 for his body, supported by Martha. In December 1800, the United States House passed an appropriations bill for $200,000 to build the mausoleum, which was to be a pyramid that had a base 100 feet (30.5 m) square. Southern opposition to the plan defeated the measure because they felt it was best to have his body remain at Mount Vernon.

In 1831, for the centennial of his birth, a new tomb was constructed to receive his remains. That year, an attempt was made to steal the body of Washington, but proved to be unsuccessful. Despite this, a joint Congressional committee in early 1832 debated the removal of Washington's body from Mount Vernon to a crypt in the Capitol, built by Charles Bulfinch
Charles Bulfinch
Charles Bulfinch was an early American architect, and has been regarded by many as the first native-born American to practice architecture as a profession....

 in the 1820s. Yet again, Southern opposition proved very intense, antagonized by an ever-growing rift between North and South. Congressman Wiley Thompson
Wiley Thompson
Wiley Thompson was a United States Representative from Georgia.Born in Amelia County, Virginia, Thompson moved to Elberton, Georgia, and served as a commissioner of the Elbert County Academy in 1808...

 of Georgia
Georgia (U.S. state)
Georgia is a state located in the southeastern United States. It was established in 1732, the last of the original Thirteen Colonies. The state is named after King George II of Great Britain. Georgia was the fourth state to ratify the United States Constitution, on January 2, 1788...

 expressed the fear of Southerners when he said:

This ended any talk of the movement of his remains, and he was moved to the new tomb that was constructed there on October 7, 1837, presented by John Struthers of Philadelphia. After the ceremony, the inner vault's door was closed and the key was thrown into the Potomac
Potomac River
The Potomac River flows into the Chesapeake Bay, located along the mid-Atlantic coast of the United States. The river is approximately long, with a drainage area of about 14,700 square miles...

.

Legacy


Congressman Henry "Light-Horse Harry" Lee, a Revolutionary War comrade, famously eulogized Washington:
Lee's words set the standard by which Washington's overwhelming reputation was impressed upon the American memory. Washington set many precedents for the national government, and the presidency in particular, and was called the "Father of His Country
Father of the Nation
Father of the Nation is an honorific title given to a man considered the driving force behind the establishment of their country, state or nation...

" as early as 1778.The earliest known image in which Washington is identified as the Father of (His/Our/the) 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 the words "Der Landes Vater" (translated as "the father of the country" or "the father of the land") comes forth. Washington's Birthday
Washington's Birthday
Washington's Birthday is a United States federal holiday celebrated on the third Monday of February in honor of George Washington, the first President of the United States. It is also commonly known as Presidents Day...

 (celebrated on Presidents' Day), is a federal holiday in the United States.

During the United States Bicentennial
United States Bicentennial
The United States Bicentennial was a series of celebrations and observances during the mid-1970s that paid tribute to the historical events leading up to the creation of the United States as an independent republic...

 year, George Washington was posthumously appointed to the grade of General of the Armies of the United States
General of the Armies
General of the Armies of the United States, or more commonly referred to as General of the Armies, is the highest possible officer rank of the United States Army.Only two soldiers have been granted the rank of General of the Armies; John J...

 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 Washington's position as the highest-ranking military officer in U.S. history.In , William Gardner Bell states that when Washington was recalled back into military service from his retirement in 1798, "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 only associated with two people...one being Washington and the other being John J. Pershing.


Cherry tree


Apocryphal stories about Washington's childhood include a claim that he skipped a silver dollar across the Potomac River at Mount Vernon, and that he chopped down his father's cherry tree and admitted the deed when questioned: "I can't tell a lie, Pa." The anecdote was first reported by biographer Parson Weems
Parson Weems
Mason Locke Weems , generally known as Parson Weems, was an American book agent and author. He is best known as the source of some of the apocryphal stories about George Washington...

, who after Washington's death interviewed people who knew him as a child. The Weems version was very widely reprinted throughout the 19th century, for example in McGuffey Readers. Moralistic adults wanted children to learn moral lessons from the past from history, especially as taught by great national heroes like Washington. After 1890 however, historians insisted on scientific research methods to validate every story, and there was no evidence for this anecdote apart from Weems' report. Joseph Rodman in 1904 noted that Weems plagiarized other Washington tales from published fiction set in England. No one has found an alternative source for the cherry tree story, thus Weems' credibility is questioned.

Monuments and memorials



Starting with victory in their Revolution, there were many proposals to build a monument to Washington. After his death, Congress authorized a suitable memorial in the national capital, but the decision was reversed when the Republicans took control of Congress in 1801. The Republicans were dismayed that Washington had become the symbol of the Federalist Party; furthermore, the values of Republicanism seemed hostile to the idea of building monuments to powerful men. Further political squabbling, along with the North-South division on the Civil War, blocked the completion of the Washington Monument until the late 19th century. By that time, Washington had the image of a national hero who could be celebrated by both North and South, and memorials to him were no longer controversial. Predating the obelisk on the National Mall by several decades, the first public memorial to Washington was built by the citizens of Boonsboro, Maryland
Boonsboro, Maryland
Boonsboro is a town in Washington County, Maryland, United States, located at the foot of South Mountain. It nearly borders Frederick County and is proximate to the Antietam National Battlefield...

, in 1827.

Today, Washington's face and image are often used as national symbols of the United States. He appears on contemporary currency, including the one-dollar bill
United States one-dollar bill
The United States one-dollar bill is the most common denomination of US currency. The first president, George Washington, painted by Gilbert Stuart, is currently featured on the obverse, while the Great Seal of the United States is featured on the reverse. The one-dollar bill has the oldest...

 and the quarter coin
Quarter (United States coin)
A quarter dollar, commonly shortened to quarter, is a coin worth ¼ of a United States dollar, or 25 cents. The quarter has been produced since 1796. The choice of 25¢ as a denomination, as opposed to 20¢ which is more common in other parts of the world, originated with the practice of dividing...

, and on U.S. postage stamps. Along with appearing on the first postage stamps issued by the U.S. Post Office
United States Postal Service
The United States Postal Service is an independent agency of the United States government responsible for providing postal service in the United States...

 in 1847, Washington, together with Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt was the 26th President of the United States . He is noted for his exuberant personality, range of interests and achievements, and his leadership of the Progressive Movement, as well as his "cowboy" persona and robust masculinity...

, Thomas Jefferson, and Lincoln, is depicted in stone at the Mount Rushmore Memorial
Mount Rushmore
Mount Rushmore National Memorial is a sculpture carved into the granite face of Mount Rushmore near Keystone, South Dakota, in the United States...

. The Washington Monument
Washington Monument
The Washington Monument is an obelisk near the west end of the National Mall in Washington, D.C., built to commemorate the first U.S. president, General George Washington...

, one of the most well known American landmarks, was built in his honor. The George Washington Masonic National Memorial
George Washington Masonic National Memorial
George Washington Masonic National Memorial is a Masonic building and memorial located in Alexandria, Virginia, outside Washington, D.C.. It is dedicated to the memory of George Washington, the first President of the United States and a Mason. The tower is fashioned after the ancient Lighthouse of...

 in Alexandria, Virginia, was constructed between 1922 and 1932 with voluntary contributions from all 52 local governing bodies
Grand Lodge
A Grand Lodge, or "Grand Orient", is the usual governing body of "Craft", or "Blue Lodge", Freemasonry in a particular jurisdiction. The first Masonic Grand Lodge was established in England in 1717 as the Premier Grand Lodge of England....

 of the Freemasons in the United States.
Many places and entities have been named in honor of Washington. Washington's name became that of the nation's capital, Washington, D.C., one of two national capitals across the globe to be named after an American president (the other is Monrovia
Monrovia
Monrovia is the capital city of the West African nation of Liberia. Located on the Atlantic Coast at Cape Mesurado, it lies geographically within Montserrado County, but is administered separately...

, Liberia
Liberia
Liberia , officially the Republic of Liberia, is a country in West Africa. It is bordered by Sierra Leone on the west, Guinea on the north and Côte d'Ivoire on the east. Liberia's coastline is composed of mostly mangrove forests while the more sparsely populated inland consists of forests that open...

). The state of Washington is the only state to be named after a United States President. George Washington University
George Washington University
The George Washington University is a private, coeducational comprehensive university located in Washington, D.C. in the United States...

 and Washington University in St. Louis
Washington University in St. Louis
Washington University in St. Louis is a private research university located in suburban St. Louis, Missouri. Founded in 1853, and named for George Washington, the university has students and faculty from all fifty U.S. states and more than 110 nations...

 were named for him, as was Washington and Lee University
Washington and Lee University
Washington and Lee University is a private liberal arts college in Lexington, Virginia, United States.The classical school from which Washington and Lee descended was established in 1749 as Augusta Academy, about north of its present location. In 1776 it was renamed Liberty Hall in a burst of...

 (once Washington Academy), which was renamed due to Washington's large endowment in 1796. Washington College
Washington College
Washington College is a private, independent liberal arts college located on a campus in Chestertown, Maryland, on the Eastern Shore. Maryland granted Washington College its charter in 1782...

 in Chestertown, Maryland
Chestertown, Maryland
Chestertown is a town in Kent County, Maryland, United States. The population was 4,746 at the 2000 census. It is the county seat of Kent County. The ZIP code is 21620 and the area codes are 410 and 443...

 (established by Maryland state charter in 1782) was supported by Washington during his lifetime with a 50 guineas pledge and with service on the college's Board of Visitors and Governors until 1789 (when Washington was elected President). According to the 1993 US Census, Washington is the 17th most common street name in the United States and the only person's name so honored. The rest of the Top 20 street names are all descriptive (Hill, View and so on), arboreal (Pine, Maple, etc.) or numeric (Second, Third, etc.).

The Confederate Seal
Confederate Seal
The Great Seal of the Confederate States was the official seal of the government of the Confederate States of America, which consisted of eleven states that voted to secede from the United States, leading to the American Civil War....

 prominently featured George Washington on horseback, in the same position as a statue of him in Richmond, Virginia
Richmond, Virginia
Richmond is the capital of the Commonwealth of Virginia, in the United States. It is an independent city and not part of any county. Richmond is the center of the Richmond Metropolitan Statistical Area and the Greater Richmond area...

.

London hosts a standing statue of Washington, one of 22 bronze identical replicas. Based on Jean-Antoine Houdon
Jean-Antoine Houdon
Jean-Antoine Houdon was a French neoclassical sculptor. Houdon is famous for his portrait busts and statues of philosophers, inventors and political figures of the Enlightenment...

's original marble statue in the Rotunda of the State Capitol in Richmond, Virginia, the duplicate was given to the British in 1921 by the Commonwealth of Virginia. It stands in front of the National Gallery
National gallery
The National Gallery is an art gallery on Trafalgar Square, London, United Kingdom.National Gallery may also refer to:*Armenia: National Gallery of Armenia, Yerevan*Australia:**National Gallery of Australia, Canberra...

 at Trafalgar Square
Trafalgar Square
Trafalgar Square is a public space and tourist attraction in central London, England, United Kingdom. At its centre is Nelson's Column, which is guarded by four lion statues at its base. There are a number of statues and sculptures in the square, with one plinth displaying changing pieces of...

.

In space, asteroid
Asteroid
Asteroids are a class of small Solar System bodies in orbit around the Sun. They have also been called planetoids, especially the larger ones...

 886 Washingtonia
886 Washingtonia
-External links:*...

 is named in his honor.

Papers



The serious collection and publication of Washington's documentary record began with the pioneer work of Jared Sparks
Jared Sparks
Jared Sparks was an American historian, educator, and Unitarian minister. He served as President of Harvard University from 1849 to 1853.-Biography:...

 in the 1830s, Life and Writings of George Washington (12 vols., 1834–1837). The Writings of 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
University of Virginia
The University of Virginia is a public research university located in Charlottesville, Virginia, United States, founded by Thomas Jefferson...

.

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.

Personal life



Along with Martha's biological family noted above, George Washington had a close relationship with his nephew and heir Bushrod Washington
Bushrod Washington
Bushrod Washington was a U.S. Supreme Court associate justice and the nephew of George Washington.Washington was born in Westmoreland County, Virginia, and was the son of John Augustine Washington, brother of the first president. Bushrod attended Delamere, an academy administered by the Rev....

, son of George's younger brother John Augustine Washington
John Augustine Washington
John Augustine Washington was a member of the fifth Virginia Convention and a founding member of the Mississippi Land Company. During the American Revolution he was a member of Westmoreland County's...

. After his uncle's death, Bushrod became an Associate Justice on the US Supreme Court. George's relationship with his mother, Mary Ball Washington
Mary Ball Washington
Mary Ball Washington was the second wife to Augustine Washington, and was the mother of George Washington.-Life:...

, however, was apparently somewhat difficult and strained.

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 represented in several portraits, including the well-known unfinished Gilbert Stuart
Gilbert Stuart
Gilbert Charles Stuart was an American painter from Rhode Island.Gilbert Stuart is widely considered to be one of America's foremost portraitists...

 depiction.

Washington had unusually great physical strength that amazed younger men. While the story of him throwing a silver dollar across the Potomac River is untrue, he did throw a rock to the top of the 215 feet-tall Natural Bridge
Natural Bridge (Virginia)
Natural Bridge, known as Natty B by locals, in the eponymous Rockbridge County, Virginia is a geological formation in which Cedar Creek has carved out a gorge in the mountainous limestone terrain, forming an arch 215 ft high with a span of 90 ft...

. 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 referencing Shakespeare in letters. He drank in moderation and precisely recorded gambling wins and losses, but Washington disliked the excessive drinking, gambling, smoking, and profanity that was common in colonial Virginia. Although he grew tobacco he eventually stopped smoking, and considered drunkenness a man's worst vice; Washington was glad that post-Revolutionary Virginia society was less likely to "force [guests] to drink and to make it an honor to send them home drunk."

Washington suffered from problems with his teeth throughout his life. He lost his first adult tooth when he was twenty-two and had only one left by the time he became President. John Adams
John Adams
John Adams was an American lawyer, statesman, diplomat and political theorist. A leading champion of independence in 1776, he was the second President of the United States...

 claims he lost them because he used them to crack Brazil nut
Brazil Nut
The Brazil nut is a South American tree in the family Lecythidaceae, and also the name of the tree's commercially harvested edible seed.- Order :...

s but modern historians suggest the mercury oxide
Mercury(II) oxide
Mercury oxide, also called mercuric oxide or simply mercury oxide, has a formula of HgO. It has a red or orange color. Mercury oxide is a solid at room temperature and pressure...

, which he was given to treat illnesses such as smallpox
Smallpox
Smallpox was an infectious disease unique to humans, caused by either of two virus variants, Variola major and Variola minor. The disease is also known by the Latin names Variola or Variola vera, which is a derivative of the Latin varius, meaning "spotted", or varus, meaning "pimple"...

 and malaria
Malaria
Malaria is a mosquito-borne infectious disease of humans and other animals caused by eukaryotic protists of the genus Plasmodium. The disease results from the multiplication of Plasmodium parasites within red blood cells, causing symptoms that typically include fever and headache, in severe cases...

, probably contributed to the loss. He had several sets of false teeth made, four of them by a dentist named John Greenwood. Contrary to popular belief, 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. The hippo ivory was used for the plate, into which human teeth (quite possibly from slaves) and bits of horses' and donkeys' teeth were inserted. Dental problems left Washington in constant pain, for which he took laudanum
Laudanum
Laudanum , also known as Tincture of Opium, is an alcoholic herbal preparation containing approximately 10% powdered opium by weight ....

. 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.

Slavery


Regarding slavery, Washington is best known for setting the example of freeing his slaves in his 1799 will, to take effect upon the death of his widow. His will provided for training the younger slaves in useful skills, and created a fund for old age pensions for the older ones.

Upon the death of his father in 1743, the 11-year-old inherited 10 slaves. At the time of his marriage to Martha Custis in 1759, he personally owned at least 36 (and the widow's third of her first husband's estate brought at least 85 "dower
Dower
Dower or morning gift was a provision accorded by law to a wife for her support in the event that she should survive her husband...

 slaves" to Mount Vernon). Using his wife's great wealth, he bought land, tripling the size of the plantation, and additional slaves to farm it. By 1774, he paid taxes on 135 slaves (this 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 servant
Indentured servant
Indentured servitude refers to the historical practice of contracting to work for a fixed period of time, typically three to seven years, in exchange for transportation, food, clothing, lodging and other necessities during the term of indenture. Usually the father made the arrangements and signed...

s; in April 1775, he offered a reward for the return of two runaway white servants.

One historian claims that Washington desired the material benefits from owning slaves and wanted to give his wife's family a wealthy inheritance. Before the American Revolution, Washington expressed no moral reservations about slavery, but in 1786, Washington wrote to Robert Morris, saying, "There is not a man living who wishes more sincerely than I do, to see a plan adopted for the abolition of slavery." In 1779, he told his manager at Mount Vernon that he wished to sell his slaves when the war ended, if it ended in an American victory. Maintaining a large, and increasingly elderly, slave population at Mount Vernon was not economically profitable. Washington could not legally sell the "dower slaves," however, and because these slaves had long intermarried with his own slaves, he could not sell his slaves without breaking up families.

As president, Washington brought seven slaves to New York City in 1789 to work in the first presidential household. Following the transfer of the national capital to Philadelphia in 1790, he brought nine slaves to work in the President's House
President's House (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
The President's House in Philadelphia at 524-30 Market Street was the third Presidential mansion. It was occupied by President George Washington from November 1790 to March 1797 and President John Adams from March 1797 to May 1800....

. At the time of his death, there were 317 slaves at Mount Vernon—123 owned by Washington, 154 "dower slaves," and 40 rented from a neighbor. Dorothy Twohig argues that Washington did not speak out publicly against slavery, because he did not wish to create a split in the new republic, with an issue that was sensitive and divisive.

By 1794, as he contemplated retirement, Washington began organizing his affairs so that he could free all the slaves he owned outright in his will. He did so. His will provided they be freed when Martha died, but she freed them 12 months after his death. Chernow says, "By freeing his slaves Washington accomplished ... what no other founding father dared to do. He brought the American experience that much closer to the ideals of the American revolution."

Religion


Washington was an outspoken leader in calling for religious liberty and tolerance, and used his prestige as general and president to promote good will among Protestants, Catholics, and Jews. He sought to create a national ethos that would enable every American to, in his paraphrase of the Book of Micah
Book of Micah
The Book of Micah is one of fifteen prophetic books in the Hebrew bible/Old Testament, and the sixth of the twelve minor prophets. It records the sayings of Mikayahu, meaning "Who is like Yahweh?", an 8th century prophet from the village of Moresheth in Judah...

, "sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid." In private and in public he strongly rejected any sign of intolerance, prejudice, and "every species of religious persecution", while hoping that "bigotry and superstition" would be overcome by "truth and reason" in the United States. In a letter to George Mason in 1785, Washington wrote that he was not among those alarmed by a bill "making people pay towards the support of that [religion] which they profess," but felt that it was "impolitic" to pass such a measure, and wished it had never been proposed, believing that it would disturb public tranquility. As president he made a point of being seen attending services at numerous churches, including Presbyterian, Quaker, Congregational and Catholic
Catholic
The word catholic comes from the Greek phrase , meaning "on the whole," "according to the whole" or "in general", and is a combination of the Greek words meaning "about" and meaning "whole"...

.

As president he officially saluted 22 religious groups and proclaimed his general support for religion. Washington was known for his generosity. Highly gregarious, he attended many charity events and donated money to colleges, schools and to the poor. As Philadelphia's leading citizen, President Washington took the lead in providing charity to widows and orphans hit by the yellow fever
Yellow fever
Yellow fever is an acute viral hemorrhagic disease. The virus is a 40 to 50 nm enveloped RNA virus with positive sense of the Flaviviridae family....

 epidemic that devastated the capital city in 1793.
In Virginia, Washington was a member of the Anglican Church, which had 'established status' (meaning tax money was used to pay its minister). As a leading land owner he served on the vestry
Vestry
A vestry is a room in or attached to a church or synagogue in which the vestments, vessels, records, etc., are kept , and in which the clergy and choir robe or don their vestments for divine service....

 (governing board) for Christ Church in Alexandria, Virginia and for Pohick Church near his Mount Vernon home until the war began. The parish was the unit of local government and the vestry dealt mostly with civic affairs such as roads and poor relief.

The exact nature of Washington's religious beliefs have been debated by historians and biographers for over two hundred years. Washington rarely discussed or wrote about his religious and philosophical opinions in any great detail, yet he frequently displayed a humble and gracious respect towards God in his personal letters and public speeches. Washington frequently accompanied his wife to church services. Although there are third-hand reports that he took communion
Eucharist
The Eucharist , also called Holy Communion, the Sacrament of the Altar, the Blessed Sacrament, the Lord's Supper, and other names, is a Christian sacrament or ordinance...

, 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, after being admonished by a rector
Rector
The word rector has a number of different meanings; it is widely used to refer to an academic, religious or political administrator...

, he ceased attending at all on communion Sundays. Eyewitness accounts exist of Washington engaging in morning devotions. Biographer Jared Sparks
Jared Sparks
Jared Sparks was an American historian, educator, and Unitarian minister. He served as President of Harvard University from 1849 to 1853.-Biography:...

 recorded the following account from Washington's nephew George W. Lewis: "Mr. Lewis said he had accidentally witnessed [Washington's] private devotions in his library both morning and evening; that on those occasions he had seen him in a kneeling position with a Bible open before him and that he believed such to have been his daily practice." During the Revolutionary war, General Robert Porterfield stated he "found him on his knees, engaged in his morning's devotions." Alexander Hamilton
Alexander Hamilton
Alexander Hamilton was a Founding Father, soldier, economist, political philosopher, one of America's first constitutional lawyers and the first United States Secretary of the Treasury...

 corroborated Porterfield's account, stating "such was his most constant habit." A French citizen who knew Washington well during the Revolutionary War and the presidency stated "Every day of the year, he rises at five in the morning; as soon as he is up, he dresses, then prays reverently to God." Indeed, Washington had purchased a prayer book "with the New Version of Psalms & good plain Type" a few years before the Revolutionary War.

Historians have different views on the question. Paul F. Boller, Jr. has aruged "Washington was in fact a typical 18th-century deist
Deism
Deism in religious philosophy is the belief that reason and observation of the natural world, without the need for organized religion, can determine that the universe is the product of an all-powerful creator. According to deists, the creator does not intervene in human affairs or suspend the...

." David L. Holmes describes Washington as a Christian deist by arguing that his religious behavior fell somewhere between that of an orthodox Christian and a strict deist. Historian Peter Lillback argues in his book George Washington's Sacred Fire that Washington was an orthodox Christian within the framework of his time. Lillback has explained more recently that evidence unavailable to earlier historians shows that

Washington referred to himself frequently using the words “ardent,” “fervent,” “pious,” and “devout.” There are over one hundred different prayers composed and written by Washington in his own hand, with his own words, in his writings....Although he never once used the word “Deist” in his voluminous writings, he often mentioned religion, Christianity, and the Gospel....Historians ought no longer be permitted to do the legerdemain of turning Washington into a Deist even if they found it necessary and acceptable to do so in the past. Simply put, it is time to let the words and writings of Washington’s faith speak for themselves.


Biographer Ron Chernow
Ron Chernow
Ronald Chernow is an American biographer. He is the author of Washington: A Life, Alexander Hamilton, The House of Morgan, and Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr., among other works...

, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Washington: A Life, has acknowledged the profound role Christianity, through the 18th-century Virginian Anglican/Episcopalian church, played in Washington's life:


There has been a huge controversy, to put it mildly, about Washington's religious beliefs. Before the Revolutionary War he was Anglican - Church of England - which meant after the war, he was Episcopalian. So, he was clearly Christian...
He was quite intensely religious, because even though he uses the word Providence, he constantly sees Providence as an active force in life, particularly in American life. I mean, every single victory in war he credits to Providence. The miracle of the Constitutional Convention he credits to Providence. The creation of the federal government and the prosperity of the early republic, he credits to Providence... I was struck at how frequently in his letters he's referring to Providence, and it's Providence where there's a sense of design and purpose, which sounds to me very much like religion... Unfortunately, this particular issue has become very very politicized.

Freemasonry


Washington was initiated into Freemasonry
Freemasonry
Freemasonry is a fraternal organisation that arose from obscure origins in the late 16th to early 17th century. Freemasonry now exists in various forms all over the world, with a membership estimated at around six million, including approximately 150,000 under the jurisdictions of the Grand Lodge...

 in 1752. Washington 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 Enlightenment
Age of Enlightenment
The Age of Enlightenment was an elite cultural movement of intellectuals in 18th century Europe that sought to mobilize the power of reason in order to reform society and advance knowledge. It promoted intellectual interchange and opposed intolerance and abuses in church and state...

 principles of rationality, reason and fraternalism; the American lodges did not share the anti-clerical perspective that made the European lodges so controversial.

Postage and currency



Since 1847, one of the defining hallmarks of a U.S. President is his appearance on U.S. currency and postage. George Washington appears on contemporary U.S. currency, including the one-dollar bill
United States one-dollar bill
The United States one-dollar bill is the most common denomination of US currency. The first president, George Washington, painted by Gilbert Stuart, is currently featured on the obverse, while the Great Seal of the United States is featured on the reverse. The one-dollar bill has the oldest...

 and the U.S. quarter dollar
Quarter (United States coin)
A quarter dollar, commonly shortened to quarter, is a coin worth ¼ of a United States dollar, or 25 cents. The quarter has been produced since 1796. The choice of 25¢ as a denomination, as opposed to 20¢ which is more common in other parts of the world, originated with the practice of dividing...

. On U.S. postage stamps, Washington appears numerous times, more than all other presidents combined.

See also



  • 1932 Washington Bicentennial
    1932 Washington Bicentennial
    The 1932 Washington Bicentennial are postage stamps issued by the United States government in 1932 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of President George Washington's birth...

  • Genealogical relationships of Presidents of the United States
  • List of federal judges appointed by George Washington
  • List of Presidents of the United States, sortable by previous experience
  • Town Destroyer
    Town Destroyer
    Town Destroyer, also translated as Town Taker, Burner of Towns, or Devourer of Villages, was a nickname given to George Washington by Iroquois Indians...

    , a nickname given to Washington by the Iroquois
    Iroquois
    The Iroquois , also known as the Haudenosaunee or the "People of the Longhouse", are an association of several tribes of indigenous people of North America...


External links




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