George Washington Biography
George Washington was the first president of the United States. He served as president for two terms from 1789 to 1797. The office of president was largely defined by Washington during these eight years. He established the first cabinet, appointed the first Supreme Court, and set precedents for future presidents to follow. He rightfully earned his nickname "Father of the Country" by not only birthing the country during the American Revolution, but also guiding the country through its formative years as the first president.
What was George Washington like as president?
Most candidates for president today want the position more than anything in the world. It's the culmination of their career and the capstone of their legacy. However, this wasn't the case with Washington. He is probably the only president who didn't want the job. He didn't feel he was qualified for the position, he was exhausted from the Revolutionary War, and what he wanted most was to retire from public life to live out his final years at his estate at Mount Vernon.
Perhaps it was his reticence for the job that enabled Washington to be such a good president. He listened to all sides during debates and then made a decision. He thought long and hard about his actions, knowing that he was setting precedents for future presidents of the country. He refused to ally with any political party and tried to get the various factions of the government to work together. In the end, despite his lack of experience in politics, Washington turned out to be a strong leader and an excellent administrator.
Where did he live while president?
There were three executive residences during Washington's two terms. He first lived at the Samuel Osgood House in New York City and, after around a year, moved to the Alexander Macomb House (also in New York City) for a short period. When the nation's capital moved to Philadelphia in late 1790, Washington's family moved to the President's House in Philadelphia where he would reside for the remainder of his presidency.
Washington helped to select the location of the permanent capital of the United States and the formation of the District of Columbia. The construction of the White House began while Washington was president, but wasn't completed until 1800.
The United States did not get involved in any major wars during Washington's presidency. When war broke out between France and England in 1792, the French asked for American aide. Many American leaders including Thomas Jefferson thought the U.S. should side with France, just as France had sided with the U.S. during the Revolutionary War. However, Washington wanted no part of another war with Britain. Much to France's disappointment, he declared neutrality in the war.
Relations with France would continue to deteriorate when Washington gave his support to the Jay Treaty with Great Britain. This treaty resolved many of the remaining issues between the U.S. and Britain and opened the way for trade between the two countries.
Washington had a lot on his plate when he took the oath of office. One of the issues was debt from the war and the federal government had no income. Washington's Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, established the First Bank of the United States and the United States Mint. Income was provided through tariffs on imports and excise taxes on goods such as whiskey. Other major domestic events included the ratification of the Bill of Rights to the Constitution, the Northwest Indian War, and the formation of two political parties in the government system.
The first tax placed on American goods by the federal government was an excise tax on whiskey. The farmers in western Pennsylvania thought this tax was unfair as it adversely affected the pricing on grains. What started out as a protest soon became a full-scale rebellion. Washington knew he had to act decisively. He called up 13,000 militiamen from several states and took command of the army himself. Once his army arrived in western Pennsylvania, they quickly put down the rebellion with little fighting. This show of force demonstrated to the rest of the country that the federal government was the supreme law of the land and that Washington would take action to uphold the law.
Only Two Terms
At the end of Washington's first term, he once again wanted to retire to Mount Vernon. However, many of his fellow leaders begged him to stay. He agreed to remain on for one more term, but was adamant that his second term would be his last. People and leaders throughout the world were shocked when Washington stepped down after two terms. This wasn't something leaders did in that time period. By stepping down and peacefully transferring power to the next president, Washington provided a lesson in democracy to the world and to future leaders of the United States.
Interesting Facts About George Washington
He was unanimously elected by the electoral college for both terms and has since been the only president unanimously elected. Washington could have easily been elected for a third term, but choose to step down. He felt that serving another term would turn the presidency into a monarchy.
In 1793, Washington laid the cornerstone for the Capitol building of the United States.
Washington appointed the entire Supreme Court and several replacements for a total of 10 Supreme Court appointments during his presidency. This is by far the most of any president.
George Washington Biography Contents
- Overview and Interesting Facts
- Growing Up George Washington
- French and Indian War
- Fort Duquesne
- Married Life and Mount Vernon
- The American Revolution Begins
- Commander in Chief
- Crossing the Delaware
- 1777 and Valley Forge
- Victory in the American Revolution
- End of the War, King Washington, and the Constitutional Convention
- First President of the United States
- The Presidency
- Leaving the Presidency, Retirement, and Death
- George Washington Quotes and Bibliography