Apr 21 2015
George Washington was the first president of the United States of America. Born on February 22, 1732, in Westmoreland County, Virginia, Washington served as a general as well as a commander-in-chief of the colonial army in the 18th century America.
There is not a lot of information about the early life of this pioneer of the great American democracy. His family was originally from England and subsequently migrated to North America like a lot of other colonial settlers. George’s father, Augustine Washington was an affluent businessman with slaves and land. He had an interest in opening up iron mines. Augustine married Mary Ball in 1731 and the couple had six children of whom George was the eldest.
George’s father died when he was 11. He was then raised by his half-brother, Lawrence. George received fine schooling and a typical colonial upbringing.
In 1748, when he was 16, George traveled with a surveying party plotting land in Virginia’s western territory. The following year, aided by Lord Fairfax, Washington received an appointment as official surveyor of Culpeper County. For two years he was very busy surveying the land in Culpeper, Frederick and Augusta counties.
George inherited his father’s interest in lands and farming. In July, 1752, George Washington’s brother, Lawrence, died of tuberculosis making him the heir apparent of the Washington lands. Lawrence’s only child, Sarah, died two months later and Washington became the head of one of Virginia’s most prominent estates, Mount Vernon. He later expanded his properties to 8,000 acres.
Washington showed early signs of guileless leadership and shortly after Lawrence’s death, Virginia’s Lieutenant Governor, Robert Dinwiddie, appointed George as a major in the Virginia militia.
On October 31, 1753, Dinwiddie sent Washington to Fort LeBoeuf, at what is now Waterford, Pennsylvania, to warn the French to remove themselves from land claimed by Britain. The French refused. Washington went back with his small army and char killing the commander, Coulon de Jumonville, and nine others and taking the rest as prisoners. A bitter French and Indian War had begun.
Washington was given the honorary rank of colonel and joined British General Edward Braddock’s army in Virginia in 1755. Though he fought bravely at the war, he could do little to turn back the rout and led the broken army back to safety. Subsequently, his health failed and he was sent home ailing from dysentery.
George Washington left the army in 1758. He returned to Mount Vernon and married Martha Dandridge Custis, a widow, who was only a few months older than him. The marriage brought to children and an an 18,000-acre estate under George’s administration. With this land, his inherited property and the land he was granted for his military service, Washington became one of the wealthiest landowners in Virginia.
Though the British Proclamation Act of 1763—prohibiting settlement beyond the Alleghenies—irritated him and he opposed the Stamp Act of 1765, Washington did not take a leading role in the growing colonial resistance against the British until the widespread protest of the Townshend Acts in 1767. In 1769, Washington introduced a resolution to the House of Burgesses calling for Virginia to boycott British goods until the Acts were repealed.
On June 15, he was appointed Major General and Commander-in-Chief of the colonial forces against Great Britain. Washington and his small army did taste victory early in March 1776 by placing artillery above Boston, on Dorchester Heights, forcing the British to withdraw.
But in June, a new British commander, Sir William Howe, arrived in the Colonies with the largest expeditionary force Britain had ever deployed to date.In the summer of 1777, Howe mounted an offensive against Philadelphia. George Washington moved in his army to defend the city and was defeated at the Battle of Brandywine. Philadelphia fell two weeks later.
The darkest time for Washington and the Continental Army was during the winter of 1777 at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. The 11,000-man force went into winter quarters and over the next six months suffered thousands of deaths, mostly from disease. But the army emerged from the winter still intact and in relatively good order. Realizing their strategy of capturing Colonial cities had failed, the British command replaced General Howe with Sir Henry Clinton.
After the war was nearly over, with a remarkable contribution from George Washington, he resigned is commission as commander-in-chief of the army and returned to Mount Vernon. He resumed his landlord-life for a good four years but in 1787, Washington was again called to the duty of his country. Since independence, the young republic had been struggling under the Articles of Confederation, a structure of government that centered power with the states. But the states were not unified. There were a of disputes between the states for land and people.
Washington was intensely dismayed at the state of affairs, but only slowly came to the realization that something should be done about it. Perhaps he wasn’t sure the time was right so soon after the Revolution to be making major adjustments to the democratic experiment. Or perhaps because he hoped he would not be called upon to serve, he remained noncommittal.
Soon, a convention was held in Philadelphia to amend the Articles of Confederation. Washington was chosen as the president unanimously. In the end, the Convention produced a plan for government that not only would address the country’s current problems, but would endure through time. After the convention adjourned, Washington’s reputation and support for the new government were indispensable to the Constitution’s ratification.
During the presidential election of 1789, he received a vote from every elector to the Electoral College, the only president in American history to be elected by unanimous approval. He took the oath of office at Federal Hall in New York City, the capital of the United States at the time. George Washington proved to be an able administrator. He surrounded himself with some of the most capable people in the country, appointing Alexander Hamilton as Secretary of the Treasury and Thomas Jefferson as Secretary of State. He delegated authority wisely and consulted regularly with his cabinet listening to their advice before making a decision. Washington established broad-ranging presidential authority, but always with the highest integrity, exercising power with restraint and honesty. In doing so, he set a standard rarely met by his successors, but one that established an ideal by which all are judged.
During the presidential elections of 1789, Washington was the choice of every elector at the Electoral College, the only president in American history to be elected by unanimous approval. He took the oath of office at Federal Hall in New York City, the capital of the United States at the time. George Washington proved to be an able administrator. He surrounded himself with some of the most capable people in the country, appointing Alexander Hamilton as Secretary of the Treasury and Thomas Jefferson as Secretary of State. He delegated authority wisely and consulted regularly with his cabinet listening to their advice before making a decision. Washington established broadranging presidential authority, but always with the highest integrity, exercising power with restraint and honesty. In doing so, he set a standard rarely met by his successors, but one that established an ideal by which all are judged.