George Washington (1732 – 1799), the First President of the United States, is a prominent individual of the American history. He was commander in chief of the victorious Continental army of the American Revolution and won many important battles that helped the Americans defeat the British. During his presidential terms, he set many important precedents for the following Presidents, such as having Presidential Cabinet Members. He was nicknamed for his accomplishments as the “Father of His Country”.
George Washington was born on Feb. 22, 1732 in Westmoreland County, Virginia on an estate along the Potomac River. He was the oldest son of Augustine Washington and his second wife, Mary Ball Washington. When Washington was eleven, his father died and left only himself, his mother and his five other brothers and sisters. After the his father’s death, Washington could not go to school because he needed to help at the family farm to acquire enough money for his family to live. In his free time he practiced land surveying for fun with his father’s tools. Later, Washington started his occupation as a surveyor. When Washington turned 16, he surveyed lands of the Shenandoah for Thomas, Lord Fairfax.
After his half-brother, Lawrence, had died, Washington inherited the farm and large amount of land at Mount Vernon, Virginia. Also, Lawrence was adjutant of the colony so Washington took over this responsibility. As district adjutant, he was referred to as Major Washington and was had trained the militia in the quarter he was assigned to. He first gained public awareness by being adjutant of Virginia and was sent off to warn the French to stop additional intrusion on the land of the northern colonies. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel in 1754 to carry out this task and he departed to the North. Washington found out that the French already had a set up a fort and had a large number of soldiers camped, so he quickly built Fort Necessity. However, the French surrounded and attacked Fort Necessity.
The French captured Washington in this attack. Luckily, Washington was released based on the earlier agreements of the British and French. These first several battles fought were the beginnings of the French and Indian War. The next year, Washington volunteered to be the aide of General Edward Braddock because he was discouraged and angered by the defeat. At that time, Washington tried to convince Braddock to use the style of fighting of the Native Americans, but Braddock disagreed and used the regular fighting technique. Braddock was mortally wounded in this battle and Washington was nearly injured because of four bullets that ripped his coat and two horses that were shot from under him.
After the French and Indian War, Washington was 26 years old and fell in love with Martha Dandridge Custis. She was a wealthy widow with her two children, Martha “Patsy” and John Parke. They married and moved to Mount Vernon where Lawrence once lived. Washington was very successful in farming there. While they lived in Mount Vernon, Washington was a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses from 1759 to 1774 and he strongly against the British Stamp Act and the Townsend Act which set taxes on many products. Washington like many others did not buy these taxed products and boycotted them. In the middle of 1774, Washington thought that the many British laws were striving to stop self-government within the colonies and were attempting to have tyrannical rule over the colonies as the King had over England. Washington was one of the few that proposed of a continental congress to be held to govern the colonies.
He was elected to be a delegate of Virginia for the First Continental Congress. The Congress created a new government devoted to overthrow unfair rule of Britain. The Second Continental Congress joined together on May 10, 1775, after the fighting of Lexington and Concord had took place. Surrounded by almost 14,000 of Massachusetts’s soldiers, the British army was trapped in Boston. The British government announced that Massachusetts had committed treason after this rebellion, and were trying to take over MA. Washington appeared at the Second Congress in full uniform conveying the message that he was in support of Massachusetts. Congress created the Continental Army for this reason to fight the British. Washington was unanimously elected as general and commander in chief of the army.
As commander of the Continental Army, Washington’s actions were left to him because the Congress could not provide laws to help. Washington was given full power to do anything with authority to improve the service. As General, Washington lost many battles such as the Battle of Long Island but Washington learned from his many experiences and he began to have many successes such as the Battle of Saratoga which was the turning point of the Revolutionary War. The colonies in this war had a great number of help from other countries, such as France, and Washington became good friends with Marquis de Lafayette. This war was won by the help of the French and Washington’s expertise. After the war, Washington left the power of general and returned back to Mount Vernon to be with his wife.
Washington became President on April 30, 1789. Washington did not have any examples to follow of previous Presidents since he was the first. One of the first precedents that Washington set was to have only two terms in office. This precedent was followed until 1940. Another was to have the Cabinet contain two leaders of different ideas to balance the Cabinet. Washington appointed John Jay as the Chief Justice because Washington felt he was most suitable. In the Whiskey Rebellion, Washington sent many soldiers to stop the farmers from revolting and the farmers instantly stopped. Washington also pardoned the farmers for their actions because the government’s strength was already shown. This event is very similar to Shay’s Rebellion, but the swift ending of the Whiskey Rebellion showed that the Constitution worked well and strong.
In the Spirit of Cincinnatus, Washington left his power after being the General of the Continental Army, and after the Presidency to go back to his farm at Mount Vernon. Each morning he rode his large farm on horseback. Sometimes he rode fifteen miles north of Mount Vernon to watch the building of a new city. The city would be the capital of the United States, named after him, as Washington D.C. Washington died at Mount Vernon of a throat infection in December 14, 1799, after he made his last tour of his property on horseback in the winter weather. It has been said that George Washington was, “First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.”