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This knack for numbers combined with his quiet confidence and ambition caught the attention of Lord Fairfax, head of one of the most powerful families in Virginia. While working for Lord Fairfax as a surveyor at the age of sixteen, the young Washington traveled deep into the American wilderness for weeks at a time. Because he could be trusted with power, he made the presidency possible.


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In one of the most famous addresses in American history, Washington declines to seek a third term as President, and he thanks the American people for entrusting him with the position. Grant Rutherford B. Hayes James A. Garfield Chester A.

George Washington's Birthday | National Archives

Roosevelt Harry S. Truman Dwight D. Eisenhower John F. Kennedy Lyndon B. Bush Bill Clinton George W. Bush Barack Obama Donald Trump. Help inform the discussion Support the Miller Center. University of Virginia Miller Center. But the constitution which at any time exists till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people is sacredly obligatory upon all.

Farewell Address. Forced to retreat northward, Washington was defeated again at White Plains. The American defense of New York City came to a humiliating conclusion on November 16, , with the surrender of Fort Washington and some 2, men. Washington ordered his army to retreat across New Jersey. The remains of his forces, mud-soaked and exhausted, crossed the Delaware River into Pennsylvania on December 7.

The British had good reason to believe that the American rebellion would be over in a few months and that Congress would seek peace rather than face complete subjugation of the colonies. The enlistments of most of Washington's army were due to expire at the end of December. A few days later Washington again crossed the Delaware, outmaneuvered the force sent to crush him, and fell on the enemy at Princeton, inflicting a humiliating loss on the British.

For much of the remainder of the war, Washington's most important strategic task was to keep the British bottled up in New York.

Although he never gave up hope of retaking the city, he was unwilling to risk his army without a fair prospect of success. In the end, therefore, the allied generals concluded, that an attack on New York could not succeed. Depending on Clinton's inactivity, Washington marched south to lay siege on Cornwallis.

On October 19, , he accepted the surrender of Cornwallis's army. 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.

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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.

Battle of Britain

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.

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George W. Carver (1865? - 1943)

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. 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.

Key Facts about George Washington

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. Today, our experts think they might know what his ailment was.

Otto von Bismarck (1815–1898) / German Unification

George Washington traveled far and wide during his lifetime. Our Washington's World Interactive Map will help you discover all the journeys and places that Washington visited. Learn more about the remarkable life of George Washington in our biography below. Childhood and Education Parents Augustine and Mary Ball Washington George's father, Augustine Washington, was a leading planter in the area and also served as a justice of the county court.

Ferry Farm. Little is known of Washington's childhood, and it remains the most poorly understood part of his life. Washington's Youth. Were the Washingtons Wealthy? Washington's Education Unlike many of his contemporaries, Washington never attended college or received a formal education. Learn More. George Washington the Surveyor. View of George Washington as a year old surveyor. Mission to the Ohio George Washington was only 21 years old when he made a perilous journey across the Allegheny Mountains to command the French to withdraw from the Ohio region claimed by King George II.

Allegheny Expedition. Martha Washington. House of Burgesses The first time George Washington ran for public office, he lost. The Entrepreneur George Washington spent the years between and as a gentleman farmer at Mount Vernon. Washington's Gristmill.


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