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French forces found Jumonville and some of his men dead and scalped and assumed that Washington was responsible. The full Virginia Regiment joined Washington at Fort Necessity the following month with news that he had been promoted to command of the regiment and to colonel upon the death of the regimental commander. The regiment was reinforced by an independent company of South Carolinians , led by Captain James Mackay , whose royal commission outranked Washington, and a conflict of command ensued.
On July 3, a French force attacked with men, and the ensuing battle ended in Washington's surrender. The British suffered two-thirds casualties, including the mortally wounded Braddock. Under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Gage, Washington, still very ill, rallied the survivors and formed a rear guard, which allowed the remnants of the force to disengage and retreat.
The Virginia Regiment was reconstituted in August , and Dinwiddie appointed Washington its commander, again with the colonial rank of colonel. Washington clashed over seniority almost immediately, this time with John Dagworthy , another captain of superior royal rank, who commanded a detachment of Marylanders at the regiment's headquarters in Fort Cumberland. Shirley ruled in Washington's favor only in the matter of Dagworthy; Loudoun humiliated Washington, refused him a royal commission and agreed only to relieve him of the responsibility of manning Fort Cumberland.
The French abandoned the fort and the valley before the assault was launched, with Washington seeing only a friendly-fire incident which left 14 dead and 26 injured. The war lasted another four years, but Washington resigned his commission and returned to Mount Vernon. Some historians have said this was Washington's "only unqualified success" during the war. The destructive competition Washington witnessed among colonial politicians fostered his later support of strong central government. The marriage took place at Martha's estate; She was intelligent and gracious, and experienced in managing a planter's estate, and the couple created a happy marriage.
Washington's bout with smallpox is thought to have rendered him sterile, though it is equally likely "Martha may have sustained injury during the birth of Patsy, her final child, making additional births impossible. He became one of Virginia's wealthiest men which increased his social standing. At Washington's urging, Governor Lord Botetourt fulfilled Dinwiddie's promise of land bounties to all volunteer militia during the French and Indian War.
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As a respected military hero and large landowner, Washington held local offices and was elected to the Virginia provincial legislature, representing Frederick County in the House of Burgesses for seven years beginning in He rarely spoke in his early legislative career, but he became a prominent critic of Britain's taxation and mercantilist policies in the s. By occupation Washington was a planter, and he imported luxuries and other goods from England and paid for them by exporting tobacco.
Washington soon was counted among the political and social elite in Virginia. From to , he invited some 2, guests to his Mount Vernon estate, mostly those whom he considered "people of rank". He became more politically active in , presenting legislation in the Virginia Assembly to establish an embargo on goods from Great Britain. Washington's stepdaughter Patsy Custis suffered from epileptic attacks from age 12, and she died in his arms in The following day, he wrote to Burwell Bassett : "It is easier to conceive, than to describe, the distress of this Family".
Washington played a central role before and during the American Revolution. His disdain for the British military had begun when he was abashedly passed over for promotion into the Regular Army. He was opposed to the continuing taxes imposed by the British Parliament on the Colonies without proper representation.
Washington believed that the Stamp Act of was an "Act of Oppression", and he celebrated its repeal the following year. Parliament sought to punish Massachusetts colonists for their role in the Boston Tea Party in by passing the Coersive Acts , which Washington referred to as "an Invasion of our Rights and Privileges". Congress created the Continental Army on June 14, , and Samuel and John Adams nominated Washington to become its commander in chief.
Washington was chosen over John Hancock because of his military experience and the belief that a Virginian would better unite the colonies. He was considered an incisive leader who kept his "ambition in check. Washington appeared before Congress in uniform and gave an acceptance speech on June 16, declining a salary—though he was later reimbursed expenses.
He was commissioned on June 19 and was roundly praised by Congressional delegates, including John Adams who proclaimed that he was the man best suited to lead and unite the colonies. Henry Knox also impressed Adams with ordnance knowledge; Washington promoted him to colonel and chief of artillery. On January 16, , during the Revolutionary War, Congress allowed free blacks to serve in the militia. Washington initially protested the enlistment of slaves, but later relented when the British emancipated and used slaves. Early in , in response to the growing rebellious movement, including the Boston Tea Party, Parliament sent British troops, commanded by General Thomas Gage, to occupy Boston, disband the local provincial government, and quell the growing state of rebellion.
The British set up fortifications about the city, making it impervious to attack. In response, various state militias surrounded the city and effectively trapped the British, resulting in a standoff. As Washington headed for Boston, word of his march preceded him, and he was greeted by local officials and statesmen, gradually becoming a symbol of the patriot cause. In June , Congress ordered an invasion of Canada , led by Benedict Arnold who, despite Washington's strong objection, drew volunteers from the latter's force during the Siege of Boston. The move on Quebec failed, the American forces were reduced to less than half, and retreated.
The Continental Army, further diminished by expiring short-term enlistments, and by January was reduced by half to 9, men, had to be supplemented with militia, and was joined by Knox with heavy artillery , captured from Fort Ticonderoga. Washington reluctantly agreed to secure Dorchester Heights , feet above Boston, in an attempt to force the British out of the city. By March 17 , 9, British troops and Loyalists began a chaotic day evacuation of Boston aboard ships.
Soon after, Washington entered the city with men, with strict orders not to plunder the city. He ordered vaccinations against smallpox to great effect, as he did later in Morristown, New Jersey. Washington proceeded to New York City, arriving on April 13, and began constructing fortifications to thwart British attack. He ordered his occupying forces to treat civilians and their property with respect, to avoid the abuse suffered by civilians in Boston at the hands of British troops.
George Germain , who ran the British war effort in England, believed it could be won with one "decisive blow. Howe's troop strength totaled 32, regulars and Hessians , and Washington's consisted of 23,, mostly raw recruits and militia. On August 30, General William Alexander held off the British and gave cover while the army crossed the East River under darkness to Manhattan Island without loss of life or material, although Alexander was captured. Washington declined, demanding to be addressed with diplomatic protocol, as general and fellow belligerent, not as a "rebel", lest his men be hanged as such if captured.
The British navy bombarded unstable earthworks on lower Manhattan Island. They were unable to hold it, and Washington abandoned it despite General Charles Lee 's objections, as his army retired north to White Plains. Howe then landed his troops on Manhattan in November, and captured Fort Washington , inflicting high casualties on the Americans.
Washington was responsible for delaying the retreat, though he blamed Congress and Nathanael Greene. Loyalists in New York considered Howe a liberator and spread a rumor that Washington had set fire to the city. Washington's army, reduced to 5, troops, retreated through New Jersey , and Howe broke off pursuit, delaying his advance on Philadelphia, and set up winter quarters in New York.
Washington was disappointed that many New Jersey residents were Loyalists or skeptical about the prospect of independence. Howe split up his British Army and posted a Hessian garrison at Trenton to hold western New Jersey and the east shore of the Delaware,  but the army appeared complacent, and Washington and his generals devised a surprise attack on the Hessians at Trenton, which he code named "Victory or Death".
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The force was to then split, with Washington taking the Pennington Road and General Sullivan traveling south on the river's edge. Washington first ordered a mile search for Durham boats , to transport his army, and he ordered the destruction of vessels that could be used by the British  He crossed the Delaware River at sunset Christmas Day and risked capture staking out the Jersey shoreline. His men followed across the ice-obstructed river in sleet and snow at McKonkey's Ferry , with 40 men per vessel. Wind churned up the waters, and they were pelted with hail, but by 3 A. Cadwalader and Ewing failed to cross due to the ice and heavy currents, and a waiting Washington doubted his planned attack on Trenton.
Once Knox arrived, Washington proceeded to Trenton, to take only his troops against the Hessians, rather than risk being spotted returning his army to Pennsylvania. The troops spotted Hessian positions a mile from Trenton, so Washington split his force into two columns, rallying his men: "Soldiers keep by your officers. For God's sake, keep by your officers.
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See map. At sunrise, Washington led them in a surprise attack on the Hessians, aided by Major General Henry Knox and artillery. The Hessians had 22 killed including Colonel Johann Rall , 83 wounded, and captured with supplies. Washington retreated across the Delaware to Pennsylvania but returned to New Jersey on January 3, launching an attack on British regulars at Princeton , with 40 Americans killed or wounded and British killed or captured.
Some British troops retreated after a brief stand, while others took refuge in Nassau Hall , which became the target of Colonel Alexander Hamilton 's cannons. Washington's troops charged, the British surrendered in less than an hour, and soldiers laid down their arms. Washington later said that the British could have successfully counter-attacked his encampment before his troops were dug in. The British still controlled New York, and many Patriot soldiers did not reenlist or had deserted after the harsh winter campaign.
Congress instituted greater rewards for re-enlisting and punishments for desertion in an effort to effect greater troop numbers. Washington's army of less experienced men were defeated in the pitched battles at Philadelphia.
Howe outmaneuvered Washington at the Battle of Brandywine on September 11, and marched unopposed into the nation's capital at Philadelphia. An October Patriot attack failed against the British at Germantown. Major General Thomas Conway prompted some members of Congress referred to as the Conway Cabal to consider removing Washington from command because of the losses incurred at Philadelphia. Washington's supporters resisted and the matter was finally dropped after much deliberation.
Washington was concerned with Howe's movements during the Saratoga campaign to the north, and he was also aware that Burgoyne was moving south toward Saratoga from Quebec. Washington took some risks to support Gates' army, sending reinforcements north with Generals Benedict Arnold , his most aggressive field commander, and Benjamin Lincoln.
He was forced to retreat to Saratoga and ultimately surrendered after the Battles of Saratoga. As Washington suspected, Gates's victory emboldened his critics. Washington's army of 11, went into winter quarters at Valley Forge north of Philadelphia in December They suffered between 2, and 3, deaths in extreme cold over six months, mostly from disease and lack of food, clothing, and shelter. The woodlands were soon exhausted of game, and by February morale and increased desertions ensued.
Washington made repeated petitions to the Continental Congress for provisions. He received a congressional delegation to check the Army's conditions, and expressed the urgency of the situation, proclaiming: "Something must be done. Important alterations must be made. By late February, supplies began arriving.
Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben 's incessant drilling soon transformed Washington's recruits into a disciplined fighting force,  and the revitalized army emerged from Valley Forge early the following year. In early , the French responded to Burgoyne's defeat and entered into a Treaty of Alliance with the Americans.
The Continental Congress ratified the treaty in May, which amounted to a French declaration of war against Britain. Generals Charles Lee and Lafayette moved with 4, men, without Washington's knowledge, and bungled their first attack on June Washington relieved Lee and achieved a draw after an expansive battle. At nightfall, the British continued their retreat to New York, and Washington moved his army outside the city. Washington became "America's first spymaster" by designing an espionage system against the British. He was also deeply in debt, had been profiteering from the war and was disappointed by Washington's lack of support during his resultant court-martial.
Arnold repeatedly asked for command of West Point, and Washington finally agreed in August. Washington assumed personal command at West Point and reorganized its defenses. In late , General Clinton shipped 3, troops from New York to Georgia and launched a Southern invasion against Savannah , reinforced by 2, British and Loyalist troops.
They repelled an attack by Patriots and French naval forces, which bolstered the British war effort. Those who managed to escape fled to Canada. Washington's troops went into quarters at Morristown, New Jersey during the winter of — and suffered their worst winter of the war, with temperatures well below freezing. New York Harbor was frozen over, snow and ice covered the ground for weeks, and the troops again lacked provisions. Clinton assembled 12, troops and attacked Charlestown, South Carolina in January , defeating General Benjamin Lincoln who only had 5, Continental troops.
Washington was reinvigorated, however, when Lafayette returned from France with more ships, men, and supplies,  and 5, veteran French troops led by Marshal Rochambeau arrived at Newport, Rhode Island in July Washington's army went into winter quarters at New Windsor, New York in December , and Washington urged Congress and state officials to expedite provisions in hopes that the army would not "continue to struggle under the same difficulties they have hitherto endured".
General Clinton sent Benedict Arnold to Virginia, now a British Brigadier General with 1, troops, to capture Portsmouth and to spread terror from there; Washington responded by sending Lafayette south to counter Arnold's efforts. Grasse's fleet arrived off the Virginia coast and Washington saw the advantage. He made a feint towards Clinton in New York, then headed south to Virginia.
On August 19, the march to Yorktown led by Washington and Rochambeau began, which is known now as the "celebrated march". Lacking in experience in siege warfare, Washington often deferred judgment to Rochambeau, effectively putting him in command, however, Rochambeau never challenged Washington's authority.
By late September, Patriot-French forces completely surrounded Yorktown, trapped the British army, and prevented British reinforcements from Clinton in the North, while the French Navy was victorious at the Battle of the Chesapeake. The final American offensive was begun with a shot fired by Washington. As peace negotiations started, the British gradually evacuated troops from Savannah, Charlestown, and New York by , and the French army and navy likewise departed.
The account was settled, though it was allegedly vague about large sums and included expenses that his wife incurred through visits to his headquarters, as well as his agreed compensation. Washington resigned as commander-in-chief once the Treaty of Paris was signed, and he planned to retire to Mount Vernon. The treaty was ratified in April , and Hamilton 's Congressional committee adapted the army for peacetime. Washington then disbanded his army, giving an eloquent farewell address to his soldiers on November 2.
Washington advised Congress in August to keep a standing army, create a "national militia" of separate state units, and establish a navy and a national military academy. He circulated his "Farewell" orders that discharged his troops, whom he called "one patriotic band of brothers ". Before his return to Mount Vernon, he oversaw the evacuation of British forces in New York and was greeted by parades and celebrations, where he announced that Knox had been promoted commander-in-chief.
George Washington Letter to Lafayette February 1, . Creditors paid him in depreciated wartime currency, and he owed significant amounts in taxes and wages. Mount Vernon had made no profit during his absence, and he saw persistently poor crop yields due to pestilence and poor weather. His estate recorded its eleventh year running at a deficit in , and there was little prospect of improvement. Before returning to private life in June , Washington called for a strong union.
Though he was concerned that he might be criticized for meddling in civil matters, he sent a circular letter to all the states maintaining that the Articles of Confederation was no more than "a rope of sand" linking the states. He believed that the nation was on the verge of "anarchy and confusion", was vulnerable to foreign intervention and that a national constitution would unify the states under a strong central government. One of their biggest efforts, however, was getting Washington to attend. On December 4, , Washington was chosen to lead the Virginia delegation, but he declined on December He had concerns about the legality of the convention and consulted James Madison , Henry Knox , and others.
They persuaded him to attend it, however, as his presence might induce reluctant states to send delegates and smooth the way for the ratification process. Washington arrived in Philadelphia on May 9, , though a quorum was not attained until Friday, May Benjamin Franklin nominated Washington to preside over the convention, and he was unanimously elected to serve as president general.
It called for an entirely new constitution and a sovereign national government, which Washington highly recommended. Washington wrote Alexander Hamilton on July "I almost despair of seeing a favorable issue to the proceedings of our convention and do therefore repent having had any agency in the business.
He unsuccessfully lobbied many to support ratification of the Constitution , such as anti-federalist Patrick Henry , to whom he said "the adoption of it under the present circumstances of the Union is in my opinion desirable", declaring that the alternative would be anarchy. The delegates to the Convention anticipated a Washington presidency and left it to him to define the office once elected.
The votes were tallied the next day,  and Congressional Secretary Charles Thomson was sent to Mount Vernon to tell Washington that he had been elected president. Washington won the majority of every state's electoral votes; John Adams received the next highest number of votes and therefore became vice president.
Livingston administered the oath, using a Bible provided by the Masons , after which the militia fired a gun salute. Washington wrote to James Madison: "As the first of everything in our situation will serve to establish a precedent, it is devoutly wished on my part that these precedents be fixed on true principles. President" over more majestic names proposed by the Senate, including "His Excellency" and "His Highness the President".
Washington had planned to resign after his first term, but the political strife in the nation convinced him that he should remain in office. Washington dealt with major problems. The old Confederation lacked the powers to handle its workload and had weak leadership, no executive, a small bureaucracy of clerks, a large debt, worthless paper money, and no power to establish taxes.
Finally, he appointed Alexander Hamilton as Secretary of the Treasury. Washington's cabinet became a consulting and advisory body, not mandated by the Constitution. Washington's cabinet members formed rival parties with sharply opposing views, most fiercely illustrated between Hamilton and Jefferson. He occasionally requested cabinet opinions in writing and expected department heads to agreeably carry out his decisions.
Washington was apolitical and opposed the formation of parties, suspecting that conflict would undermine republicanism. Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton formed the Federalist Party to promote the national credit and a financially powerful nation. Washington favored Hamilton's agenda, however, and it ultimately went into effect—resulting in bitter controversy.
Washington proclaimed November 26 as a day of Thanksgiving in order to encourage national unity. In response to two antislavery petitions, Georgia and South Carolina objected and were threatening to "blow the trumpet of civil war". Washington and Congress responded with a series of pro-slavery measures: citizenship was denied to black immigrants; slaves were barred from serving in state militias; two more slave states Kentucky in , Tennessee in were admitted; and the continuation of slavery in federal territories south of the Ohio River was guaranteed.
On February 12, , Washington signed into law the Fugitive Slave Act , which overrode state laws and courts, allowing agents to cross state lines to capture and return escaped slaves. Washington's first term was largely devoted to economic concerns, in which Hamilton had devised various plans to address matters. Congress authorized the assumption and payment of the nation's debts, with funding provided by customs duties and excise taxes.
Hamilton created controversy among Cabinet members by advocating the establishment of the First Bank of the United States. Madison and Jefferson objected, but the bank easily passed Congress. Jefferson and Randolph insisted that the new bank was beyond the authority granted by the constitution, as Hamilton believed.
Washington sided with Hamilton and signed the legislation on February 25, and the rift became openly hostile between Hamilton and Jefferson. The nation's first financial crisis occurred in March Hamilton's Federalists exploited large loans to gain control of U. Jefferson and Hamilton adopted diametrically opposed political principles. Hamilton believed in a strong national government requiring a national bank and foreign loans to function, while Jefferson believed that the government should be primarily directed by the states and the farm element; he also resented the idea of banks and foreign loans.
To Washington's dismay, the two men persistently entered into disputes and infighting. Washington reversed his decision to retire after his first term in order to minimize party strife, but the feud continued after his re-election. The feud led to the well-defined Federalist and Republican parties, and party affiliation became necessary for election to Congress by The Hamilton—Reynolds sex scandal opened Hamilton to disgrace, but Washington continued to hold him in "very high esteem" as the dominant force in establishing federal law and government.
In March , at Hamilton's urging, with support from Madison, Congress imposed an excise tax on distilled spirits to help curtail the national debt, which took effect in July. On August 2, Washington assembled his cabinet to discuss how to deal with the situation. Unlike Washington who had reservations about using force, Hamilton had long waited for such a situation and was eager to suppress the rebellion by use of Federal authority and force.
On August 7, Washington issued his first proclamation for calling up state militias. After appealing for peace, he reminded the protestors that, unlike the rule of the British crown, the Federal law was issued by state-elected representatives. Threats and violence against tax collectors, however, escalated into defiance against federal authority in and gave rise to the Whiskey Rebellion. Washington issued a final proclamation on September 25, threatening the use of military force to no avail.
They took prisoners, and the remaining rebels dispersed without further fighting. Two of the prisoners were condemned to death, but Washington exercised his Constitutional authority for the first time and granted them both pardons. Washington's forceful action demonstrated that the new government could protect itself and its tax collectors.
This represented the first use of federal military force against the states and citizens,  and remains the only time that a sitting president has commanded troops in the field. Washington justified his action against "certain self-created societies" which he regarded as "subversive organizations" that threatened the national union.
He did not dispute their right to protest, but he insisted that their dissent must not violate federal law. Congress agreed and extended their congratulations to him, with only Madison and Jefferson expressing indifference. Washington deliberated, then supported the treaty because it avoided war with Britain,  but he was disappointed that its provisions favored Britain. The British agreed to abandon their forts around the Great Lakes , and the United States modified the boundary with Canada.
The government liquidated numerous pre-Revolutionary debts, and the British opened the British West Indies to American trade. The treaty secured peace with Britain and a decade of prosperous trade. Jefferson claimed that it angered France and "invited rather than avoided" war.
The French refused to accept his replacement Charles Cotesworth Pinckney , and the French Directory declared the authority to seize American ships two days before Washington's term ended. Washington always tried to be evenhanded in dealing with the Indians. He hoped that they would abandon their itinerant hunting life and adapt to fixed agricultural communities in the manner of Anglo-Saxon settlers. He never advocated outright confiscation of their land or the forcible removal of tribes, and he berated American settlers who abused Indians, admitting that he held out no hope for pacific relations with the Indians as long as "frontier settlers entertain the opinion that there is not the same crime or indeed no crime at all in killing an Indian as in killing a white man.
During the Fall of , Washington had to contend with the British military occupation in the Northwest frontier and their concerted efforts to incite hostile Indian tribes to attack American settlers. Washington decided that "The Government of the United States are determined that their Administration of Indian Affairs shall be directed entirely by the great principles of Justice and humanity",  and provided that their land interests should be negotiated by treaties. In the Southwest, negotiations failed between federal commissioners and raiding Indian tribes seeking retribution.
Washington invited Creek Chief Alexander McGillivray and 24 leading chiefs to New York to negotiate a treaty and treated them like foreign dignitaries. In , Washington sent Brigadier General Josiah Harmar to pacify the Northwest tribes, but Little Turtle routed him twice and forced him to withdraw. Washington sent Major General Arthur St.
Clair from Fort Washington on an expedition to restore peace in the territory in On November 4, St. Clair's forces were ambushed and soundly defeated by tribal forces with few survivors, despite Washington's warning of surprise attacks. Washington was outraged over what he viewed to be excessive Native American brutality and execution of captives, including women and children. From to , Wayne instructed his troops on Indian warfare tactics and instilled discipline which was lacking under St. Originally Washington had planned to retire after his first term, while many Americans could not imagine anyone else taking his place.
Jefferson also pleaded with him not to retire and agreed to drop his attacks on Hamilton, or he would also retire if Washington did. When the election of neared, Washington did not publicly announce his presidential candidacy, but silently consented to run, to prevent a further political-personal rift in his cabinet.
The Electoral College unanimously elected him president on February 13, , and John Adams as vice president by a vote of 77 to Sworn into office by Associate Justice William Cushing on March 4, , in the Senate Chamber of Congress Hall in Philadelphia, Washington gave a brief address, and then immediately retired to his Philadelphia presidential house, weary of office, and in poor health.
On April 22, , during the French Revolution , Washington issued his famous Neutrality Proclamation and was resolved to pursue, "a conduct friendly and impartial toward the belligerent Powers" while he warned Americans not to intervene in the international conflict. Navy, and he commissioned the first six federal frigates to combat Barbary pirates. In January , Hamilton, who desired more income for his family, resigned office and was replaced by Washington appointment Oliver Wolcott, Jr.
Washington and Hamilton remained friends, however, Washington's relationship with his Secretary of War Henry Knox deteriorated. Knox resigned office on the rumor he profited from construction contracts on U. In the final months of his presidency, Washington was assailed by his political foes and a partisan press who accused him of being ambitious and greedy, while he argued that he had taken no salary during the war and had risked his life in battle. He regarded the press as a disuniting, "diabolical" force of falsehoods, sentiments that he expressed in his Farewell Address.
He did not feel bound to a two-term limit, but his retirement set a significant precedent. Washington is often credited with setting the principal of a two-term presidency, but it was Thomas Jefferson who first refused to run for a third term on political grounds. In , Washington declined to run for a third term of office, believing his death in office would create an image of a lifetime appointment. The precedent of a two-term limit was created by his retirement from office. Washington stressed that national identity was paramount, while a united America would safeguard freedom and prosperity.
He warned the nation of three eminent dangers: regionalism, partisanship, and foreign entanglements, and said the "name of AMERICAN, which belongs to you, in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of patriotism, more than any appellation derived from local discriminations. He warned against foreign alliances and their influence in domestic affairs and against bitter partisanship and the dangers of political parties.
Though in reviewing the incidents of my Administration I am unconscious of intentional error, I am nevertheless too sensible of my defects not to think it probable that I may have committed many errors. Whatever they may be, I fervently beseech the Almighty to avert or mitigate the evils to which they may tend. I shall also carry with me the hope that my country will never cease to view them with indulgence, and that, after forty-five years of my life dedicated to its service with an upright zeal, the faults of incompetent abilities will be consigned to oblivion, as myself must soon be to the mansions of rest.
After initial publication, many Republicans, including Madison, criticized the Address and believed it was an anti-French campaign document. Madison believed Washington was strongly pro-British. Madison also was suspicious of who authored the Address. In , Washington biographer Jared Sparks maintained that Washington's " Farewell Address was printed and published with the laws, by order of the legislatures, as an evidence of the value they attached to its political precepts, and of their affection for its author.
Washington retired to Mount Vernon in March and devoted time to his plantations and other business interests, including his distillery. He attempted to sell these but without success. Washington grew restless in retirement, prompted by tensions with France, and he wrote to Secretary of War James McHenry offering to organize President Adams' army. Without consulting Washington, Adams nominated him for a lieutenant general commission on July 4, and the position of commander-in-chief of the armies. He participated in planning for a provisional army, but he avoided involvement in details.
In advising McHenry of potential officers for the army, he appeared to make a complete break with Jefferson's Democratic-Republicans: "you could as soon scrub the blackamoor white, as to change the principles of a profest Democrat; and that he will leave nothing unattempted to overturn the government of this country. No army invaded the United States during this period, and Washington did not assume a field command. To supplement his income he erected a distillery for substantial whiskey production. On Thursday, December 12, , Washington inspected his farms on horseback in snow and sleet.
He returned home late for dinner but refused to change out of his wet clothes, not wanting to keep his guests waiting. He had a sore throat the following day but again went out in freezing, snowy weather to mark trees for cutting. That evening, he complained of chest congestion but was still cheerful.
On Saturday, he awoke to an inflamed throat and difficulty breathing, so he ordered estate overseer George Rawlins to remove nearly a pint of his blood , a practice of the time. William Thornton arrived some hours after Washington died. Brown thought that Washington had quinsy ; Dick thought that the condition was a more serious "violent inflammation of the throat". Dick proposed a tracheotomy , but the other two doctors were not familiar with that procedure and therefore disapproved. Washington's death came more swiftly than expected. He was Congress immediately adjourned for the day upon news of Washington's death, and the Speaker's chair was shrouded in black the next morning.
Cavalry and foot soldiers led the procession, and six colonels served as the pallbearers. The Mount Vernon funeral service was restricted mostly to family and friends. Word of his death traveled slowly; church bells rang in the cities, and many places of business closed. Martha wore a black mourning cape for one year, and she burned their correspondence to protect their privacy. Only five letters between the couple are known to have survived, two letters from Martha to George and three from him to her.
The diagnosis of Washington's illness and the immediate cause of his death have been subjects of debate since the day that he died. The published account of Drs. The final effect was stately: a white building with a blue and white cupola topped by a weather vane. The procession wound slowly through the narrow Manhattan streets, emerging yards from Federal Hall. After alighting from his carriage, Washington strode through a double line of soldiers to the building and mounted to the Senate chamber, where members of Congress awaited him expectantly.
As he entered, Washington bowed to both houses of the legislature—his invariable mark of respect—then occupied an imposing chair up front. A profound hush settled on the room. Vice President John Adams rose for an official greeting, then informed Washington that the epochal moment had arrived.
As he stepped through the door onto the balcony, a spontaneous roar surged from the multitude tightly squeezed into Wall and Broad streets and covering every roof in sight. This open-air ceremony would confirm the sovereignty of the citizens gathered below. A member of the crowd, the Count de Moustier, the French minister, noted the solemn trust between Washington and the citizens who stood packed below him with uplifted faces. The sole constitutional requirement for the swearing-in was that the president take the oath of office.
That morning, a Congressional committee decided to add solemnity by having Washington place his hand on a Bible during the oath, leading to a frantic, last-minute scramble to locate one. A Masonic lodge came to the rescue by providing a thick Bible, bound in deep brown leather and set on a crimson velvet cushion. By the time Washington appeared on the portico, the Bible rested on a table draped in red.
Livingston administered the oath to Washington, who was visibly moved. As the president finished the oath, he bent forward, seized the Bible and brought it to his lips. Whether or not Washington actually said it, very few people would have heard him anyway, since his voice was soft and breathy. For the crowd below, the oath of office was enacted as a kind of dumb show. Long live our beloved president! When the balcony ceremony was concluded, Washington returned to the Senate chamber to deliver his inaugural address. In an important piece of symbolism, Congress rose as he entered, then sat down after Washington bowed in response.
As Washington began his speech, he seemed flustered and thrust his left hand in his pocket while turning the pages with a trembling right hand. His weak voice was barely audible in the room. On the other hand, Washington refrained from endorsing any particular form of religion. After this speech, Washington led a broad procession of delegates up Broadway, along streets lined by armed militia, to an Episcopal prayer service at St.
After these devotions ended, Washington had his first chance to relax until the evening festivities. That night Lower Manhattan was converted into a shimmering fairyland of lights. From the residences of Chancellor Livingston and General Knox, Washington observed the fireworks at Bowling Green, a pyrotechnic display that flashed lights in the sky for two hours. This sort of celebration, ironically, would have been familiar to Washington from the days when new royal governors arrived in Williamsburg and were greeted by bonfires, fireworks and illuminations in every window.
To the world's amazement, Washington had prevailed over the more numerous, better supplied, and fully trained British army, mainly because he was more flexible than his opponents. He learned that it was more important to keep his army intact and to win an occasional victory to rally public support than it was to hold American cities or defeat the British army in an open field. Over the last years revolutionary leaders in every part of the world have employed this insight, but never with a result as startling as Washington's victory over the British.
On December 23, , Washington presented himself before Congress in Annapolis, Maryland, and resigned his commission. He left Annapolis and went home to Mount Vernon with the fixed intention of never again serving in public life. This one act, without precedent in modern history, made him an international hero. Although Washington longed for a peaceful life at Mount Vernon, the affairs of the nation continued to command his attention.
He watched with mounting dismay as the weak union created by the Articles of Confederation gradually disintegrated, unable to collect revenue or pay its debts. He was appalled by the excesses of the state legislatures and frustrated by the diplomatic, financial, and military impotence of the Confederation Congress. By Washington had concluded that reform was essential. In , Washington ended his self-imposed retirement and traveled to Philadelphia to attend a convention assembled to recommend changes to the Articles of Confederation.
He spoke very little in the convention, but few delegates were more determined to devise a government endowed with real energy and authority. My wish, he wrote, is that the convention may adopt no temporizing expedients but probe the defects of the Constitution to the bottom and provide a radical cure.
After the convention adjourned, Washington's reputation and support were essential to overcome opposition to the ratification of the proposed Constitution. He worked for months to rally support for the new instrument of government. It was a difficult struggle. Even in Washington's native Virginia, the Constitution was ratified by a majority of only one vote. Once the Constitution was approved, Washington hoped to retire again to private life. But when the first presidential election was held, he received a vote from every elector.
He remains the only President in American history to be elected by the unanimous voice of the people. Most popular revolutions throughout history have descended into bloody chaos or fallen under the sway of dictators. So how did the United States, born of its own 8-year revolution, ultimately avoid these common pitfalls?
Washington served two terms as President. His first term was occupied primarily with organizing the executive branch of the new government and establishing administrative procedures that would make it possible for the government to operate with the energy and efficiency he believed were essential to the republic's future. An astute judge of talent, he surrounded himself with the most able men in the new nation. James Madison was one of his principal advisors.
He administered the government with fairness and integrity, assuring Americans that the President could exercise extensive executive authority without corruption. Further, he executed the laws with restraint, establishing precedents for broad-ranging presidential authority. His integrity was most pure, Thomas Jefferson wrote, his justice the most inflexible I have ever known, no motive of interest or consanguinity, friendship, or hatred, being able to bias his decision.
Washington set a standard for presidential integrity rarely met by his successors, although he established an ideal by which they all are judged. During Washington's first term the Federal Government adopted a series of measures proposed by Alexander Hamilton to resolve the escalating debt crisis and established the nation's finances on a sound basis, concluded peace treaties with the southeastern Indian tribes, and designated a site on the Potomac River for the permanent capital of the United States.
But as Washington's first term ended, a bloody Indian war continued on the northwestern frontier. The warring tribes were encouraged by the British, who retained military posts in the northwest. Further, the Spanish denied Americans use of the Mississippi River. These problems limited the westward expansion to which Washington was committed. Growing partisanship within the government also concerned Washington. Many men in the new government -- including Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and other leaders of the emerging Republican party -- were opposed to Hamilton's financial program.
Washington despised political partisanship but could do little to slow the development of political parties. During his first term Washington toured the northern and southern states and found that the new government enjoyed the general support of the American people. Convinced that the government could get along without him, he planned to step down at the end of his first term.
George Washington's Birthday
But his cabinet members convinced him that he alone could command the respect of members of both burgeoning political parties. Thomas Jefferson visited Washington at Mount Vernon to urge him to accept a second term. Although longing to return home permanently, Washington reluctantly agreed. Washington assumed the Presidency on the eve of the French Revolution, a time of great international crisis. The outbreak of a general European war in forced the crisis to the center of American politics. Washington believed the national interest of the United States dictated neutrality.
War would be disastrous for commerce and shatter the nation's finances. The country's future depended on the increase in wealth and opportunity that would come from commerce and westward expansion. One of Washington's most important accomplishments was keeping the United States out of the war, giving the new nation an opportunity to grow in strength while establishing the principle of neutrality that shaped American foreign policy for more than a century.
Although Washington's department heads agreed that the United States should remain neutral, disagreements over foreign policy aggravated partisan tensions among them. The disagreements were part of the deepening division between Federalists and Republicans. Washington directed the army to restore order, a step applauded by Federalists and condemned by Republicans.
Despite Washington's disappointment with the rise of partisanship, the last years of his Presidency were distinguished by important achievements. The long Indian war on the northwest frontier was won, Britain surrendered its forts in the northwest, and Spain opened the Mississippi to American commerce. These achievements opened the West to settlement. Justice Kennedy talks about the vital role Washington played in establishing the office of the President…. Finally retired from public service, George and Martha Washington returned to their beloved Mount Vernon.
Unfortunately for Washington, his time at the estate would be short lived. On Thursday, December 12, , George Washington was out on horseback supervising farming activities from late morning until three in the afternoon. The weather shifted from light snow to hail and then to rain. Upon Washington's return it was suggested that he change out of his wet riding clothes before dinner. Known for his punctuality, Washington chose to remain in his damp attire. Washington recognized the onset of a sore throat and became increasingly hoarse.
After retiring for the night Washington awoke in terrible discomfort at around two in the morning. Martha was concerned about his state and wanted to send for help. James Craik , the family doctor and Washington's trusted friend and physician for forty years. Washington called for his two wills and directed that the unused one should be burned. Between ten and eleven at night on December 14, , George Washington passed away. He was surrounded by people who were close to him including his wife who sat at the foot of the bed, his friends Dr.
According to his wishes, Washington was not buried for three days. During that time his body lay in a mahogany casket in the New Room. On December 18, a solemn funeral was held at Mount Vernon. To his doctors in , the cause of Washington's death was unknown.