Executed: Gadjimagomedova H.
Examined: Akhmedova Z.G.
2. Early Career
3. French and Indian War
4. Life at Mount Vernon
5. Early Political Activity
6. The American Revolution
7. Washington Takes Command
8. Washington Takes Command
9. The Military Campaigns
10. Political Leadership During the War
11. The Confederation Years
12. The Presidency
13. The Executive Departments
14. The Federalist Program
15. The Judiciary System
16. The Western Frontier
17. The British and French
18. Washington Steps Down
19. Last Years
George Washington (1732-1799), first PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES.
When Washington retired from public life in 1797, his homeland was vastly
different from what it had been when he entered public service in 1749. To
each of the principal changes he had made an outstanding contribution.
Largely because of his leadership the Thirteen Colonies had become the
United States, a sovereign, independent nation.
As commander in chief during the American Revolution, he built a large
army, held it together, kept it in a maneuverable condition, and prevented
it from being destroyed by a crushing defeat. By keeping the army close to
the main force of the British, he prevented them from sending raiding
parties into the interior. The British did not risk such forays because of
their belief that their remaining forces might be overwhelmed. The British
evacuation of Boston in 1776, under Washington's siege, gave security to
nearly all New England.
Drawing from his knowledge of the American people and of the way they lived
and fought, Washington took advantage of British methods of fighting that
were not suited to a semiprimitive environment. He alternated between
daring surprise attacks and the patient performance of routine duties.
Washington's operations on land alone could not have overcome the British,
for their superior navy enabled them to move troops almost at will. A
timely use of the French fleet contributed to his crowning victory at
Yorktown in 1781.
After the war Washington took a leading part in the making of the
CONSTITUTION and the campaign for its ratification. Its success was assured
by 1797, at the end of the second term of his presidency. In 1799 the
country included nearly all its present-day territory between the Atlantic
coast and the Mississippi River.
President Washington acted with CONGRESS to establish the first great
executive departments and to lay the foundations of the modern federal
judiciary. He directed the creation of a diplomatic service. Three
presidential and five congressional elections carried the new government,
under the Constitution, through its initial trials.
A national army and navy came into being, and Washington acted with vigor
to provide land titles, security, and trade outlets for pioneers of the
trans-Allegheny West. His policy procured adequate revenue for the national
government and supplied the country with a sound currency, a well-supported
public credit, and an efficient network of national banks. Manufacturing
and shipping received aid for continuing growth.
In the conduct of public affairs, Washington originated many practices that
have survived. He withheld confidential diplomatic documents from the House
of Representatives, and made treaties without discussing them in the Senate
chamber. Above all, he conferred on the presidency a prestige so great that
political leaders afterward esteemed it the highest distinction to occupy
the chair he had honored.
Most of the work that engaged Washington had to be achieved through people.
He found that success depended on their cooperation and that they would do
best if they had faith in causes and leaders. To gain and hold their
approval were among his foremost objectives. He thought of people, in the
main, as right-minded and dependable, and he believed that a leader should
make the best of their good qualities.
As a Virginian, Washington belonged to, attended, and served as warden of
the established (Anglican) church. But he did not participate in communion,
nor did he adhere to a sectarian creed. He frequently expressed a faith in
Divine Providence and a belief that religion is needed to sustain morality
in society. As a national leader he upheld the right of every sect to
freedom of worship and equality before the law, condemning all forms of
bigotry, intolerance, discrimination, and persecution.
Throughout his public life, Washington contended with obstacles and
difficulties. His courage and resolution steadied him in danger, and defeat
steeled his will. His devotion to his country and his faith in its cause
sustained him. Averse to harsh measures, he was generous in victory. "His
integrity," wrote Thomas JEFFERSON, "was the most pure, his justice the
most inflexible I have ever known. He was, indeed, in every sense of the
word, a wise, a good, and a great man."
George Washington was born in Westmoreland county, Va., on a farm, later
known as Wakefield, on Feb. 11, 1731, Old Style (Feb. 22, 1732, New Style).
His first American ancestor, John Washington, came to Virginia from England
in 1657. This immigrant's descendants remained in the colony and gained a
respected place in society. Farming, land buying, trading, milling, and the
iron industry were means by which the family rose in the world. George's
father, Augustine, had four children by his first wife and six by his
second wife, Mary Ball, George's mother. From 1727 to 1735, Augustine lived
at Wakefield, on the Potomac River between Popes Creek and Bridges Creek,
about 50 miles (80 km) inland and close to the frontier.
Of George's early life little is known. His formal education was slight. He
soon revealed a skill in mathematics and surveying so marked as to suggest
a gift for practical affairs akin to youthful genius in the arts. Men,
plantation life, and the haunts of river, field, and forest were his
principal teachers. From 1735 to 1738, Augustine lived at "Little Hunting
Creek" (later Mount Vernon). In 1738 he moved to Ferry Farm opposite
Fredericksburg on the Rappahannock River. Augustine died when George was
11, leaving several farms. Lawrence, George's half brother, inherited Mount
Vernon, where he built the central part of the now famous mansion. Another
half brother, Augustine, received Wakefield. Ferry Farm went to George's
mother, and it would pass to George after her death.
These farms bounded the world George knew as a boy. He lived and visited at
each. Ambitious to gain wealth and eminence, mainly by acquiring land, he
was obliged to depend chiefly on his own efforts. His mother once thought
of a career for him in the British Navy but was evidently deterred by a
report from her brother in England that an obscure colonial youth could not
expect more at Britain's hands than a job as a common sailor. George's
youthful model was Lawrence, a cultivated gentleman, whom he accompanied on
a trip to Barbados, West Indies, in 1751. Here George was stricken with
smallpox, which left lasting marks on his face.
When but 15, George was competent as a field surveyor. In 1748 he went as
an assistant on a surveying party sent to the Shenandoah Valley by Thomas,
6th Baron Fairfax, a neighbor of Lawrence and owner of vast tracts of land
in northern Virginia. A year later George secured a commission as surveyor
of Culpeper county. In 1752 he became the manager of a sizable estate when
he inherited Mount Vernon on the death of Lawrence.
George's early experiences had taught him the ways of living in the
wilderness, had deepened his appreciation of the natural beauty of
Virginia, had fostered his interest in the Great West, and had afforded
opportunities for acquiring land. The days of his youth had revealed a
striving nature. Strength and vigor heightened his enjoyment of activities
out of doors. Quick to profit by mistakes, he was otherwise deliberate in
thought. Not a fluent talker, he aspired to gain practical knowledge, to
acquire agreeable manners, and to excel in his undertakings.
French and Indian War
In the early 1750's, Britain and France both strove to occupy the upper
Ohio Valley. The French erected Fort Le Boeuf, at Waterford, Pa., and
seized a British post, Venango, on the Allegheny River. Alarmed by these
acts, Virginia's governor, Robert Dinwiddie, sent Washington late in 1753
on a mission to assert Britain's claim. He led a small party to Fort Le
Boeuf, where its commander stated France's determination to possess the
disputed area. Returning to Williamsburg, Washington delivered the defiant
reply. He also wrote a report which told a vivid winter's tale of
wilderness adventure that enhanced his reputation for resourcefulness and
Dinwiddie then put Washington in command of an expedition to guard an
intended British fort at the forks of the Ohio, at the present site of
Pittsburgh. En route, he learned that the French had expelled the Virginia
fort builders and were completing the works, which they named Fort
Duquesne. He advanced to Great Meadows, Pa., about 50 miles (80 km)
southeast of the fort, where he erected Fort Necessity. On May 28, 1754,
occurred one of the most disputed incidents of his career. He ambushed a
small French detachment, the commander of which, Joseph Coulon de Villiers,
sieur de Jumonville, was killed along with nine of his men. The others were
captured. This incident started the French and Indian War. The French
claimed that their detachment was on a peaceful mission; Washington thought
that it was engaged in spying. He returned to Fort Necessity, which a large
French force attacked on July 3. It fell after a day's fighting. In making
the surrender, Washington signed a paper that imputed to him the blame for
"l'assassinat" (murder) of Jumonville. Not versed in French, Washington
later explained that he had not understood the meaning of the incriminating
By the terms of the surrender, he and his men were permitted to return,
disarmed, to the Virginia settlements. The news of his defeat moved Britain
to send to Virginia an expedition under Gen. Edward Braddock, whom
Washington joined as a voluntary aide-de-camp, without command of troops.
Braddock's main force reached a point on the Monongahela River about 7
miles (11 km) southeast of Fort Duquesne where, on July 9, 1755, he
suffered a surprise attack and a defeat that ended in disordered flight.
Washington's part was that of inspiriting the men. His bravery under fire
spread his fame to nearby colonies and abroad. Dinwiddie rewarded him by
appointing him, in August, to the command of Virginia's troops, with the
rank of colonel.
His new duties excluded him from leadership in the major campaigns of the
war, the operations of which were directed by British officials who
assigned to Virginia the humdrum task of defending its inland frontiers. No
important battles were fought there. Washington drilled his rough and often
unsoldierly recruits, stationed them at frontier posts, settled disputes,
struggled to maintain order and discipline, labored to procure supplies and
to get them transported, strove to have his men paid promptly and provided
with shelter and medical care, sought support from the Virginia government,
and kept it informed. His command trained him in the management of self-
willed men, familiarized him with the leaders of Virginia, and schooled him
in the rugged politics of a vigorous society.
The French and Indian War also estranged him from the British. Thereafter,
he never expressed a feeling of affection for them. He criticized Braddock
for blaming the Virginians as a whole for the shortcomings of a few local
contractors. He also thought that Braddock was too slow in his marches. As
commander in Virginia, he resented his subordination to a British captain,
John Dagworthy, and made a trip to Boston early in 1756 in order to get
confirmation of his authority from the British commander in America. He
objected that one of his major plans was upset by ill-considered orders
from Britain, and in 1758 he disputed with British officers about the best
route for an advance to Fort Duquesne. The war ended in such a way as to
withhold from him a suitable recognition for his arduous services of nearly
six years and to leave him, if not embittered, a somewhat disappointed man.
Life at Mount Vernon
Resigning his commission late in 1758, he retired to Mount Vernon. On Jan.
6, 1759, he married Martha Dandridge, widow of Daniel Parke Custis, whose
estate included 15,000 acres (6,000 hectares) and 150 slaves. Washington
became devoted to Martha's two children by her first marriage, John Parke
Custis and Martha Custis.
As a planter, Washington concentrated at first on tobacco raising, keeping
exact accounts of costs and profits. He soon learned that it did not pay.
British laws required that his exports should be sent to Britain, sold for
him by British merchants, and carried in British ships. Also, he had to buy
in Britain such foreign finished goods as he needed. On various occasions
he complained that his tobacco was damaged on shipboard or sold in England
at unduly low prices. He thought that he was often overcharged for freight
and insurance, and he objected that British goods sent to him were
overpriced, poor in quality, injured in transit, or not the right type or
size. Unable to control buying and selling in England, he decided to free
himself from bondage to British traders. Hence he reduced his production of
tobacco and had his slaves make goods of the type he had imported,
especially cloth. He developed a fishery on the Potomac, increased his
production of wheat, and operated a mill. He sent fish, wheat, and flour to
the West Indies where he obtained foreign products or money with which to
From the start he was a progressive farmer who promoted reforms to
eliminate soil-exhausting practices that prevailed in his day. He strove to
improve the quality of his livestock, and to increase the yield of his
fields, experimenting with crop rotation, new implements, and fertilizers.
His frequent absences on public business hindered his experiments, for they
often required his personal direction.
He also dealt in Western lands. Virginia's greatest estates, he wrote, were
made "by taking up ... at very low prices the rich back lands" which "are
now the most valuable lands we possess." His Western urge had largely
inspired his labors during the French and Indian War. At that time, Britain
encouraged settlement in the Ohio Valley as a means of gaining it from the
French. In July 1754, Governor Dinwiddie offered 200,000 acres (80,000
hectares) in the West to colonial volunteers. Washington became entitled to
one of these grants. After the war he bought claims of other veterans,
served as agent of the claimants in locating and surveying tracts, and
obtained for himself (by July 1773) 10,000 acres (4,000 hectares) along the
Ohio between the Little Kanawha and Great Kanawha rivers, and 10,000 acres
on the Great Kanawha. In 1775 he sought to settle his Kanawha land with
Washington lived among neighbors who acquiesced in slavery and, if opposed
to it, saw no feasible means of doing away with it. In 1775 he endorsed a
strong indictment of the slave trade, but in 1776 he opposed the royal
governor of Virginia who had urged slaves of patriot masters to gain
freedom by running away and joining the British army to fight for the king.
When Washington was famous as a world figure he dissociated himself,
publicly, from slavery, although he continued to own many slaves. He
favored emancipation if decreed by law. In his will he ordered that his
slaves be freed after the death of Mrs. Washington.
Early Political Activity
After expelling France from North America, Britain decided to reserve most
of the Ohio Valley as a fur-producing area. By the Quebec Act (1774),
Britain detached from Virginia the land it claimed north of the Ohio River
and added it to the royal Province of Quebec. This act struck at
Washington's plans because it aimed to leave the Indians in possession of
the north bank of the Ohio, where they could menace any settlers on his
lands across the river. In April 1775 the governor of Virginia, John
Murray, 4th earl of Dunmore, canceled Washington's Kanawha claims on the
pretext that his surveyor had not been legally qualified to make surveys.
At this time, also, Britain directed Dunmore to stop granting land in the
West. Thus Washington stood to lose the fruits of his efforts during the
French and Indian War.
As a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses from 1759 to 1774,
Washington opposed the Stamp Act, which imposed crushing taxes on the
colonies for the support of a large British army in America. Virginia, he
said, was already paying enough to Britain: its control of Virginia's trade
enabled it to acquire "our whole substance." When the Townshend Revenue Act
(1767) levied taxes on tea, paper, lead, glass, and painter's colors,
Washington pledged not to buy such articles ("paper only excepted"). By mid-
1774 he believed that British laws, such as the Boston Port Act and the
Massachusetts Government Act, showed that Britain intended to do away with
self-government in the colonies and to subject them to a tyrannical rule.
In May he joined other Virginia burgesses in proposing that a continental
congress should be held, and that a "provincial congress" be created to
take the place of the Virginia assembly, which Dunmore had disbanded.
Washington was chairman of a meeting at Alexandria in July that adopted the
Fairfax Resolves, and he was elected one of the delegates to the 1st
Continental Congress, which met in Philadelphia in September. There the
Fairfax Resolves provided the basis for the principal agreement signed by
its members--the Continental Association. This forbade the importing into
the colonies of all goods from Britain and all goods subject to British
taxes. Moreover, it authorized all towns and counties to set up committees
empowered to enforce its provisions. The Continental Congress thus enacted
law and created a new government dedicated to resisting British rule.
Washington spent the winter of 1774-1775 in Virginia, organizing
independent military companies which were to aid the local committees in
enforcing the Continental Association and, if need be, to fight against
The American Revolution
When the 2d Continental Congress met on May 10, 1775, the fighting near
Boston (Lexington-Concord) had occurred. The British Army was cooped up in
Boston, surrounded by nearly 14,000 New England militiamen. On Feb. 2,
1775, the British House of Commons had declared Massachusetts to be in a
state of rebellion. This imputed to the people of that colony the crime of
treason. Washington, by appearing at the 2d Congress in uniform (the only
member thus attired), expressed his support of Massachusetts and his
readiness to fight against Britain. In June, Congress created the
Continental Army and incorporated into it the armed New Englanders around
Boston, undertaking to supply and pay them and to provide them with
generals. On June 15, Washington was unanimously elected general and
commander in chief.
The tribute of a unanimous election reflected his influence in Congress,
which endured throughout the American Revolution despite disagreements
among the members. In 1775 they divided into three groups. The militants,
led by Samuel Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Richard Henry Lee, favored
vigorous military action against Britain. Most of them foresaw the need of
effective aid from France, which the colonies could obtain only by offering
their commerce. Before that could be done they must become independent
states. Another group, the moderates, represented by Benjamin Harrison and
Robert Morris, hoped that a vigorous prosecution of the war would force
Britain to make a pro-American settlement. Only as a last resort would the
moderates turn to independence. The third group, the conciliationists, led
by John Dickinson, favored defensive measures and looked to "friends of
America" in England to work out a peace that would safeguard American
rights of self-taxation, thereby keeping the colonies in the British
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