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George Washington · John Adams · Thomas Jefferson · James Madison · James Monroe

George Washington - 1st President of the United States


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As the first President of the United States of America, George Washington (1789-1797) is recognized by Americans as "The Father of His Country."
The earliest known image in which Washington is identified as such is on the cover of the circa 1778 Pennsylvania German almanac, Lancaster: Gedruckt bey Francis Bailey. This identifies Washington as "Landes Vater" (Father of the Land).

Washington was part of the economic and cultural elite of the slave owning planters of Virginia. As a youth, he was trained as a surveyor and helped survey the Shenadoah valley in Virginia.

French and Indian War
Washington was commissioned in 1754 as an Colonel in the Virginia Militia and served with Edward Braddock of the British Army during the French and Indian War. During the battle of the Forks of the Monongehela he had three horses shot out from under him. He showed his coolness under fire in organizing the retreat from the debacle. Washington then organized the First Virginia Regiment, which saw service through the war; however, Washington left the Regiment to serve in the House of Burgesses.


Between Wars
Following his miltiary service, in 1757 he married Martha Dandridge Custis, the wealthy widow of Daniel Parke Custis. The newlywed couple moved to his estate Mount Vernon where he took up the life of a genteel farmer. He became a member of the House of Burgesses. He was initiated as a Freemason in Fredericksburg, Virginia, on 4 February 1752.

American Revolution
On July 3, 1775 he assumed command of the Continental Army in the American Revolutionary War. After successfully driving the British out of Boston, Washington lost the Battle of Long Island in 1776 and retreated to Valley Forge, outside of British-held Philadelphia, where the American forces recovered. On December 25, 1776, Washington led the American forces crossing the Delaware to attack Hessian forces in Trenton, New Jersey. The successful attack built morale among the pro-independence colonists.

Washington retained an army in being throughout the Revolution, keeping British forces tied down in the center of the country while Generals Gates and Benedict Arnold won the battle of Saratoga in 1777. This victory led to French recognition of the United States.

In 1781, Washington, commanding both American and French forces, besieged General Cornwallis at Battle of Yorktown, Virginia. The British surrender there was the effective end of British attempts to quell the Revolution. In 1783, by means of the Treaty of Paris, Great Britain recognized American independence.

Postwar Activities
After the war, he presided over the American Constitutional Convention in 1787. He was elected President in 1788 and 1792. Washington remains the only president unanimously elected by the Electoral College.


Citizen Genet
In 1793, The revolutionary government of France sent diplomat Citizen Genet, who attempted to turn popular sentiment towards American involvement in the war against Great Britain. Genet also was authorized to issue letters of marque and reprisal to American ships and gave authority to any French consul to serve as a prize court. Genet's activities forced Washington to ask the French government for his recall

The Whiskey Rebellion

In 1791, the Federal government imposed an excise tax on whiskey. This tax was highly unpopular on the American frontier, and in July, 1794, in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, a Federal marshal was attacked by a mob and a regional inspector's house was burned. On August 7, 1794, Washington called out the militias of several states and led a force of 13,000 to suppress the unrest


Personal information

Washington's estate, Mount Vernon, is located in what is now a suburb of Washington, D.C.
Admirers of Washington circulated an apocryphal (and questionable) story about his honesty as a child. In the story, he wanted to try out a new axe and chopped down his father's cherry tree. When questioned by his father, he gave the famous non-quotation "I cannot tell a lie. It was I who chopped down the cherry tree." The story first appeared after Washington's death in a naive "inspirational" children's book by Parson Mason Weems, who has been rector of the Mount Vernon parish.

Legacy in the contemporary U.S.

The capital city of the United States, Washington, D.C., is named for him. The District of Columbia was created by an Act of Congress in 1790, and Washington was deeply involved in its creation, including the siting of the White House. At this time, the future site of the capital was a swamp, and Washington remained largely marshland well into the 19th century. The capital was placed in the South, rather than in the major towns of the North, as a compromise during the writing of the United States Constitution in order to get Southern votes for important compromises.

Washington also selected West Point, New York, as the site for the United States Military Academy.

Washington State in the Pacific Northwest of the U.S. is also named for him, the only state named for a president.

His image is on the one dollar bill and the quarter-dollar coin.