George Washington was the 1stAmerican President of the United States. His life experience helped build a man that was confident and steadfast in his beliefs concerning the traits that would make a strong leader.
Early Life of George Washington
On February 22, 1732, George Washington was born in Westmoreland County, Virginia. He was the oldest of the six children born from his father’s second marriage, and was considered landed gentry because of the family estate, Wakefield Plantation. From early childhood until the age of 16, he lived at Wakefield and at other plantations along the Rappahannock and Potomac Rivers. One of those plantations was later renamed Mount Vernon.
George Washington’s education was rudimentary, probably having tutors or possibly private schools, but he did learn surveying. He was 11 when his father died and his half-brother Lawrence, who served as part of the Royal Navy, became his mentor. During this time, Washington developed an interest in becoming part of the navy himself, but he followed his mother’s advice to stay home.
Military Experience of George Washington
By the 1770s, the relationship between the colonies and England had become tense. Mindful of his reactions but powerfully understanding of the Whig position and insulted by British policies, George Washington chose to represent Virginia at both the First and the Second Continental Congresses. After the violence at Lexington and Concord in 1775, Congress selected him to lead the Continental Army as commander in chief. He was faced with serious obstacles, especially provisions, but he overcame them and he eventually trained a fierce and disciplined military group.
George Washington’s strategy involved continually harassing the British while trying to avoid larger interactions. Even though his troops lost ground and didn’t win many direct battles, they persisted even during the worst of the dark, cold winters in Valley Forge, PA, and Morristown, NJ. After the many impediments he was faced with, he won a major victory in 1781, with the help of the French, at the Battle of Yorktown in Virginia.
The American President, George Washington
George Washington’s character served him well while he was an American President. He set an example with his presidential restraint wisdom, solemnity, and nonpartisan standing which helped to create an image of presidential dignity, or grandeur, that dominates the office even today. He could have opted to be a king, but chose instead to build the republic.
While he was sponsoring and supporting proposals to be submitted to Congress for enactment, George Washington was careful to steer clear of trying to direct or improperly sway the judicial and legislative branches of the newly formed government. He set a precedent when he did not veto bills he disagreed with unless there were constitutional issues. This restraint was followed by the five presidents elected after Washington.
Despite being remembered as one of the best American Presidents, George Washington did have several notable shortcomings, one of those was that he did not identify himself with Hamilton. This helped to promote the partisanship he so strongly denounced in his farewell speech to the nation. He, along with other members of the founding generation, have also been criticized for owning slaves.
Death of George Washington
After complaining of feeling sick during his routine check around his farm yard, George Washington succumbed to illness on December 14, 1799, in Mount Vernon, Virginia.
The following poster highlights George Washington’s achievements throughout his lifetime: