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Реферат: George Washington



Executed: Gadjimagomedova H.

Examined: Akhmedova Z.G.

Makhachkala 2001


1. Introduction

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."

Early Career

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 daring.

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 word.

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 buy them.

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 servants.

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 British troops.

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 Empire. Washington

agreed with the militants and the moderates as to the need for offensive

action. The conciliationists and the moderates, as men of fortune, trusted

him not to use the army to effect an internal revolution that would strip

them of their property and political influence.

Early in the war, Washington and the army had to act as if they were agents

of a full-grown nation. Yet Congress, still in an embryonic state, could not

provide suddenly a body of law covering all the issues that figure in a major

war. Many actions had to be left to Washington's discretion. His commission

(June 17, 1775) stated: "You are hereby vested with full power and authority

to act as you shall think for the good and welfare of the service." There was

a danger that a strong general might use the army to set up a military

dictatorship. It was therefore urgent that the army would be under a civil

authority. Washington agreed with the other leaders that Congress must be the

superior power. Yet the army needed a good measure of freedom of action. A

working arrangement gave such freedom, while preserving the authority of

Congress. If there was no need for haste, Washington advised that certain

steps should be taken, and Congress usually approved. In emergencies, he

acted on his own authority and at once reported what he had done. If Congress

disapproved, he was so informed, and the action was not repeated. If Congress

did nothing, its silence signified assent. So attentive was Washington to

Congress, and so careful was he when acting on his own initiative, that no

serious conflict clouded his relations with the civil authority.

Washington Takes Command

When he took command of the army at Cambridge on July 3, 1775, the majority

of Congress was reluctant to adopt measures that denoted independence,

although favoring an energetic conduct of the war. The government of Lord

North decided to send an overpowering army to America, and to that end tried

to recruit 20,000 mercenaries in Russia. On August 23, George III issued the

Royal Proclamation of Rebellion, which branded Washington as guilty of

treason and threatend him with "condign punishment." Early in October,

Washington concluded that in order to win the war the colonies must become


In August 1775, Washington insisted to Gen. Thomas Gage, the British

commander at Boston, that American officers captured by the British should be

treated as prisoners of war--not as criminals (that is, rebels). In this,

Washington asserted that the conflict was a war between two separate powers

and that the Union was on a par with Britain. He defended the rank of

American officers as being drawn from "the uncorrupted choice of a brave and

free people, the purest source and original fountain of all power." In

August-September he initiated an expedition for the conquest of Canada and

invited the king's subjects there to join the 13 colonies in an "indissoluble

union." About the same time he created a navy of six vessels, which he sent

out to capture British ships bringing supplies to Boston. Congress had not

favored authorizing a navy, then deemed to be an arm of an independent state.

Early in November, Washington inaugurated a campaign for arresting,

disarming, and detaining the Tories. Because their leaders were agents of the

British crown, his policy struck at the highest symbol of Britain's

authority. He urged the opening of American ports to French ships and used

his prestige and the strength of the army to encourage leaders of the

provincial governments to adopt measures that committed their colonies to

independence. His influence was evident in the campaigns for independence in

Connecticut, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Virginia,

Pennsylvania, and New York. He contributed as much to the decision for

independence as any man. The Declaration of Independence was formally adopted

on July 4, 1776.

The Military Campaigns

Washington's military record during the revolution is highly creditable. His

first success came on March 17, 1776, when the British evacuated Boston. He

had kept them surrounded and immobilized during a siege of more than eight

months. He had organized a first American army and had recruited and trained

a second. His little fleet had distressed the British by intercepting their

supplies. Lack of powder and cannon long kept him from attacking. Once they

had been procured, he occupied, on March 4-5, 1776, a strong position on

Dorchester Heights, Mass., where he could threaten to bombard the British

camp. The evacuation made him a hero by proving that the Americans could

overcome the British in a major contest. For five months thereafter the

American cause was brightened by the glow of this outstanding victory--a

perilous time when confidence was needed to sustain morale.

Washington's next major achievement was made in the second half of 1776, when

he avoided a serious defeat and held the army together in the face of

overwhelming odds. In July and August the British invaded southern New York

with 34,000 well-equipped troops. In April, Washington's force had consisted

of only 7,500 effective men. Early in June, Congress had called 19,800

militia for service in Canada and New York. In a few weeks Washington had to

weld a motley throng into a unified force. Even then his men were outnumbered

three to two by the British. Although he suffered a series of minor defeats

(Brooklyn Heights, August 26-29; Kip's Bay, September 15; Harlem Heights,

September 16; White Plains, October 28; Fort Washington, November 16), the

wonder is that he escaped a catastrophe.

After the setbacks in New York, he retreated through New Jersey, crossing the

Delaware River in December. The American cause now sank to its lowest ebb.

Washington's main army, reduced to 3,000 men, seemed about to disintegrate.

It appeared that the British could march easily to Philadelphia. Congress

moved to Baltimore. In these dire straits Washington made a dramatic move

that ended an agonizing campaign in a blaze of glory. On the stormy night of

December 25-26 he recrossed the Delaware, surprised Britain's Hessian

mercenaries at Trenton, and captured 1,000 prisoners. This move gave him a

striking position in central New Jersey, whereupon the British ceased

offensive operations and pulled back to the vicinity of New York.

On Oct. 17, 1777, Gen. John Burgoyne surrendered at Saratoga, N. Y., his army

of 5,000 men--all that were left of the 9,500 who had invaded New York from

Canada. To this great victory Washington made two contributions. First, in

September 1775, he sent an expedition to conquer Canada. Although that aim

was not attained, the project put the Americans in control of the approaches

to northern New York, particularly Lake Champlain. Burgoyne encountered so

many obstacles there that his advance was seriously delayed. That in turn

gave time for the militia of New England to turn out in force and to

contribute decisively to his defeat. Second, in 1777, Washington conducted a

campaign near Philadelphia that prevented Gen. William Howe from using his

large army for the relief of Burgoyne. Washington's success at Trenton had

placed him where he could both defend Philadelphia and strike at British-held

New York. Howe had thereupon undertaken a campaign with the hope of occupying

Philadelphia and of crushing Washington's army. Although Washington suffered

minor defeats--at Brandywine Creek on September 11 and at Germantown on

October 4--he again saved his army and, by engaging Howe in Pennsylvania,

made possible the isolation and eventual defeat of Burgoyne.

Unable to overcome Washington in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, the British

shifted their main war effort to the South. In 1781 their invasion of

Virginia enabled Washington to strike a blow that virtually ended the war.

France had joined the United States as a full-fledged ally in February 1778,

thereby putting French troops at Washington's disposal and, more important,

giving him the support of a strong navy which he deemed essential to victory.

His plan of 1781 called for an advance from New York to Virginia of a large

American-French army which would act in concert with the French fleet, to

which was assigned the task of controlling Chesapeake Bay, thereby preventing

an escape by sea of the British forces under Lord Cornwallis. Washington's

army trapped Cornwallis at Yorktown, Va., on the York River, and the French

admiral, count de Grasse, gained command of the bay. Outnumbered, surrounded

on land, and cut off by sea, Cornwallis surrendered his 7,000 troops on

October 19. Although Britain still had large forces in America, the Yorktown

blow, along with war weariness induced by six years of failure, moved the war

party in England to resign in March 1782 in favor of a ministry willing to

make peace on the basis of the independence of the United States.

Political Leadership During the War

Washington's political leadership during the Revolution suggests that of an

active president of later times. He labored constantly to keep people of all

classes at work for the cause. He held a central position between two

extremes. He strove to retain the support of the common people, who made up

the army and--as farmers and workers--produced the supplies. Composing the

left wing, they cherished democratic ideas that they hoped to realize by

popular rule in the state governments. Washington appealed to them by his

faith in popular sovereignty, his sponsorship of a republic and the rights of

man, and his unceasing efforts to assure that his soldiers were well paid and

adequately supplied with food, clothing, arms, medical care, and shelter. His

personal bravery, industry, and attention to duty also endeared him to the

rank and file, as did his sharing of dangers and hardships, as symbolized by

his endurance at Valley Forge during the bleak winter of 1777-1778. The right

wing consisted of conservatives whose leaders were men of wealth. Washington

retained their confidence by refusing to use the army to their detriment and

by insisting on order, discipline, and respect for leadership. It was his aim

that the two wings should move in harmony. In this he succeeded so fully that

the American Revolution is rare among political upheavals for its absence of

purges, reigns of terror, seizures of power, and liquidation of opponents.

Before 1778, Washington was closely affiliated with the left wing. Afterward,

he depended increasingly on the conservatives. In the winter of 1777-1778

there was some talk of replacing him with Gen. Horatio Gates, the popular

hero of Saratoga. This estranged Washington from some of the democratic

leaders who sponsored Gates. The French alliance, coming after the American

people had made heavy sacrifices, tended to relax their efforts now that

France would carry much of the burden. These developments lessened the

importance of the popular leaders in Washington's counsels and increased the

standing of the conservatives. Washington sought maximum aid from France, but

also strove to keep the American war effort at a high pitch lest France

should become the dominant partner--a result he wished to avoid. His

character and tact won the confidence and respect of the French, as typified

by the friendship of the Marquis de Lafayette.

In 1782 some of the army officers, irked by the failure of Congress to

fulfill a promise concerning their pay, threatened to march to Philadelphia

and to use force to obtain satisfaction. In an address on March 15, 1783,

Washington persuaded the officers to respect Congress and pledged to seek a

peaceful settlement. Congress responded to his appeals by granting the

officers five years' full pay, and the crisis ended. It evoked from

Washington a striking statement condemning government by mere force. "If

men," he wrote, "are to be precluded from offering their sentiments on a

matter which may involve the most serious ... consequences, ... reason is of

no use to us, the freedom of speech may be taken away, and dumb and silent we

may be led, like sheep, to the slaughter."

Throughout the war, Washington retained a commanding position in the army.

Generals Philip Schuyler, Henry Knox, Nathanael Green, and Henry Lee were

especially attached to him. His relations with Horatio Gates became strained

but not ruptured. A rebuke to Charles Lee so angered that eccentric general

as to cause him eventually to retire and to denounce Washington as a demigod.

General Benedict Arnold suffered a somewhat milder, though merited, rebuke

shortly before he agreed to sell information to Britain about the defenses at

West Point.

(In 1976 an act of Congress promoted Washington to six-star General of the

Armies so that he would rank above all other American generals.)

The Confederation Years

After the war, several states were beset with troubles that alarmed

Washington and conservative leaders who were close to him. British merchants

flooded the United States with British goods. Inadequate markets abroad for

American products obliged American merchants to export coin or to buy imports

on credit. Britain excluded American ships from the trade of the British West

Indies, to the distress of New England. A shortage of money depressed the

prices of American products and enhanced the difficulty of paying debts--not

only those owed to British merchants but also those that had been contracted

by Congress or the states to finance the war. As the debt burdens grew,

debtors demanded that the states issue large quantities of paper money. About

half the states did so. Such paper depreciated, to the loss of creditors. The

strife between debtor and creditor in Massachusetts exploded in an uprising,

Shays' Rebellion, that threatened to overthrow the state government.

Apprehensive men turned to Washington for leadership. It seemed to them, and

to him, that the troubles of the times flowed from the weaknesses of the

central government under the Articles of Confederation. The Union could not

provide a single, stable, adequate currency because the main powers over

money were vested in the states. Because Congress could not tax, it could not

maintain an army and navy. Nor could it pay either the principal or the

interest on the national debt. Washington believed that the central

government should be strengthened so that it could safeguard property,

protect creditors against hostile state laws, afford the Union a uniform,

nondepreciating currency, and collect taxes in order both to pay the national

debt and to obtain revenues sufficient for current needs. He also thought

that Congress should be empowered to foster domestic manufacturing industries

as a means of lessening the importation of foreign goods. Washington's

anxieties over events in the 1780's were deepened by his memories of bitter

experiences during the Revolution, when the weakness of Congress and the

power of the states had handicapped the army in countless ways.

The Constitutional Convention met at Philadelphia in May 1787. Washington, a

delegate of Virginia, served as its president. His closest associate then was

James MADISON. The Constitution, as adopted, embodied Washington's essential

ideas. It provided for a "mixed" or "balanced" government of three branches, so

devised that all three could not easily fall under the sway of any faction,

thus assuring that every important group would have some means of exerting

influence and of protecting its interests in a lawful manner. The federal

government, as remodeled, was vested with powers adequate for managing the

common affairs of the Union, while leaving to the states control over

state-confined property and business, schools, family relations, and nonfederal

crimes and lesser offenses. Washington helped to persuade the Virginia

legislature to ratify the Constitution, making use of The Federalist

papers written in its defense by James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John


The Presidency

Unanimously elected the first president, Washington was inaugurated in New

York City on April 30, 1789. Acting with a cooperative Congress, he and his

aides constructed the foundations on which the political institutions of the

country have rested since that time.

His qualifications for his task could hardly have been better. For 15 years

he had contended with most of the problems that faced the infant government.

By direct contact he had come to know the leaders who were to play important

parts during his presidency. Having traveled widely over the country, he had

become well acquainted with its economic conditions and practices. Experience

had schooled him in the arts of diplomacy. He had listened closely to the

debates on the Constitution and had gained a full knowledge both of its

provisions and of the ideas and interests of representative leaders. He had

worked out a successful method for dealing with other men and with Congress

and the states. Thanks to his innumerable contacts with the soldiers of the

Revolutionary army, he understood the character of the American people and

knew their ways. For eight years after 1775 he had been a de facto president.

The success of his work in founding a new government was a by-product of the

qualifications he had acquired in the hard school of public service.

The Executive Departments

The Constitution designated the president as the only official charged with

the duty of enforcing all the federal laws. In consequence, Washington's

first concern was to establish and develop the executive departments. In a

sense such agencies were arms of the president--the instruments by which he

could perform his primary duty of executing the laws. At the outset,

Washington and his co-workers established two rules that became enduring

precedents: the president has the power to select and nominate executive

officers and the power to remove them if they are unworthy.

Congress did its first important work in 1789, when it made provision for

five executive departments. The men heading these departments formed the

president's cabinet. One act established the war department, which Washington

entrusted to Gen. Henry Knox. Then came the creation of the treasury

department, its beginnings celebrated by the brilliant achievements of its

first secretary, Alexander Hamilton. The department of state was provided

for, and Thomas Jefferson took office as its first secretary in March 1790.

The office of postmaster general came into being next, and the appointment

went to Samuel Osgood. Washington's first attorney general, Edmund Randolph,

was selected after his office had been created.

In forming his CABINET Washington chose two liberals--Jefferson and Randolph-

-and two conservatives--Hamilton and Knox. The liberals looked to the South

and West, the conservatives to the Northeast. On subjects in dispute,

Washington could secure advice from each side and so make informed decisions.

In constructing the new government, Washington and his advisers acted with

exceptional energy. The challenge of a large work for the future inspired

creative efforts of the highest order. Washington was well equipped for the

work of building an administrative structure. His success arose largely from

his ability to blend planning and action for the attainment of a desired

result. First, he acquired the necessary facts, which he weighed carefully.

Once he had reached a decision, he carried it out with vigor and tenacity.

Always averse to indolence and procrastination, he acted promptly and

decisively. In everything he was thorough, systematic, accurate, and

attentive to detail. From subordinates he expected standards like his own. In

financial matters he insisted on exactitude and integrity.

The Federalist Program

From 1790 to 1792 the elements of Washington's financial policies were

expounded by Hamilton in five historic reports. Hamilton was a highly useful

assistant who devised plans, worked out details, and furnished cogent

arguments. The Federalist program consisted of seven laws. Together they

provided for the payment, in specie, of debts incurred during the Revolution;

created a sound, uniform currency based on coin; and aimed to foster home

industries in order to lessen the country's dependence on European goods.

The Tariff Act (1789), the Tonnage Act (1789), and the Excise Act (1791)

levied taxes, payable in coin, that gave the government ample revenues. The

Funding Act (1790) made provision for paying, dollar for dollar, the old

debts of both the Union and the states. The Bank Act (1791) set up a

nationwide banking structure owned mainly by private citizens, which was

authorized to issue paper currency that could be used for tax payments as

long as it was redeemed in coin on demand. A Coinage Act (1792) directed the

government to mint both gold and silver coins, and a Patent Law (1791) gave

inventors exclusive rights to their inventions for 14 years.

The Funding Act, the Excise Act, and the Bank Act aroused an accelerating

hostility so bitter as to bring into being an opposition group. These

opponents, the Republicans, precursors of the later Democratic party, were

led by Jefferson and Madison. The Funding Act enabled many holders of

government certificates of debt, which had been bought at a discount, to

profit as the Treasury redeemed them, in effect, at their face values in

coin. Washington undoubtedly deplored this form of private gain, but he

regarded it as unavoidable if the Union was to have a stable currency and a

sound public credit. The Bank Act gave private citizens the sole privilege of

issuing federal paper currency, which they could lend at a profit. The Excise

Act, levying duties on whiskey distilled in the country, taxed a commodity

that was commonly produced by farmers, especially on the frontier. The act

provoked armed resistance--the Whiskey Rebellion--in western Pennsylvania,

which Washington suppressed with troops, but without bloodshed or reprisals,

in 1794.

The Republicans charged that the Federalist acts tended to create an all-

powerful central government that would devour the states. A protective tariff

that raised the prices of imported goods, a centralized banking system

operated by moneyed men of the cities, national taxes that benefited the

public creditors, a restricted currency, and federal securities (as good as

gold) that could be used to buy foreign machines and tools needed by

manufacturers--all these features of Washington's program, so necessary to

industrial progress, repelled debtors, the poorer farmers, and the most

zealous defenders of the states.

The Judiciary System

Under Washington's guidance a federal court system was established by the

Judiciary Act of Sept. 24, 1789. The Constitution provided for its basic

features. Because the president is the chief enforcer of federal laws, it is

his duty to prosecute cases before the federal courts. In this work his agent

is the attorney general. To guard against domination of judges, even by the

president, the Constitution endowed them with tenure during good behavior.

The Judiciary Act of 1789 was so well designed that its most essential

features have survived. It provided for 13 judicial districts, each with a

district court of federal judges. The districts were grouped into three

circuits in which circuit courts were to hear appeals from district courts.

The act also created a supreme court consisting of a chief justice and five

associate justices to serve as the final arbiter in judicial matters,

excepting cases of impeachment. Washington's selection of John Jay as the

first chief justice was probably the best choice possible for the work of

establishing the federal judiciary on a sound and enduring basis.

Foreign Affairs

In foreign affairs, Washington aimed to keep the country at peace, lest

involvement in a great European war should shatter the new government before

it could acquire strength. He also sought to gain concessions from Britain

and Spain that would promote the growth of pioneer settlements in the Ohio

Valley. In addition, he desired to keep up the import trade of the Union,

which yielded revenue from tariff duties that enabled the government to

sustain the public credit and to meet its current expenses.

The British and French

The foreign policy of Washington took shape under the pressure of a war

between Britain and revolutionary France. At the war's inception Washington

had to decide whether two treaties of the French-American alliance of 1778

were still in force. Hamilton held that they were not, because they had been

made with the now-defunct government of Louis XVI. Washington, however,

accepted Jefferson's opinion that they were still valid because they had been

made by an enduring nation--a principle that has since prevailed in American


Fearing that involvement in the European war would blight the infant

government, Washington issued a proclamation of neutrality on April 22, 1793.

This proclamation urged American citizens to be impartial and warned them

against aiding or sending war materials to either belligerent.

Because Britain was the dominant sea power, France championed the doctrine of

neutral rights that was asserted in the French-American alliance. The

doctrine held that neutrals--the United States in this case--might lawfully

trade with belligerents in articles not contraband of war. Britain acted on a

contrary theory respecting wartime trade and seized American ships, thereby

violating rights generally claimed by neutrals. Such seizures goaded the

Republican followers of Jefferson to urge measures that might have led to a

British-American war. Washington then sent John Jay on a treaty-making

mission to London.

Jay's Treaty of Nov. 19, 1794, outraged France because it did not uphold the

French-American alliance and because it conferred benefits on Britain.

Although Washington disliked some of its features, he signed it (the Senate

had ratified it by a two-thirds vote). One reason was that keeping open the

import trade from Britain continued to provide the Treasury with urgently

needed revenues from tariff duties.

Unable to match Britain on the sea, the French indulged in a campaign to

replace Washington with their presumed partisans, in order to vitiate the

treaty. They also waged war on the shipping of the United States, and

relations between the two countries went from bad to worse.

The Western Frontier

Washington's diplomacy also had to deal with events in the West that involved

Britain and Spain. Pioneers in Tennessee, Kentucky, and the Ohio country, who

were producers of grain, lumber, and meats, sought good titles to farmlands,

protection against Indians, and outlets for their products via the Ohio and

Mississippi rivers and New Orleans.

In the northern area, Britain held, within the United States, seven trading

posts of which the most important were Niagara, Detroit, and Mackinac. The

determination of the Indians to preserve their hunting lands against the

inroads of pioneers seeking farms encouraged the British in Canada in their

efforts to maintain their hold on the fur trade and their influence on the

Indians of the area north of the Ohio River.

The focus of the strife was the land south of present-day Toledo. The most

active Indian tribes engaged were the Ottawa, the Pottawatomi, the Chippewa,

and the Shawnee. Two American commanders suffered defeats that moved

Washington to wrath. British officials in Canada then backed the Indians in

their efforts to expel the Americans from the country north of the Ohio

River. A third U.S. force, under Gen. Anthony Wayne, defeated the Indians so

decisively in 1794 in the Battle of Fallen Timbers, at the site of present-

day Toledo, that they lost heart and the English withdrew their support.

Wayne then imposed a victor's peace. By the Treaty of Greenville (1795) the

tribes gave up nearly all their lands in Ohio, thereby clearing the way for

pioneers to move in and form a new state.

In 1796 the British evacuated the seven posts that they had held within the

United States. Because Jay's Treaty had called for the withdrawal, it

registered another victory for Washington's diplomacy.

The Spanish Frontier

On the southwestern frontier the United States faced Spain, then the

possessor of the land south of the 31st parallel, from the Atlantic coast to

the Mississippi River. Intent upon checking the growth of settlement south of

the Ohio River, the Spaniards used their control of the mouth of the

Mississippi at New Orleans to obstruct the export of American products to

foreign markets. The two countries each claimed a large area, known as the

Yazoo Strip, north of the 31st parallel.

In dealing with Spain, Washington sought both to gain for the western

settlers the right to export their products, duty free, by way of New

Orleans, and to make good the claim of the United States to the territory in

dispute. The land held by Spain domiciled some 25,000 people of European

stocks, who were generally preferred by the resident Indians (Cherokee,

Creek, Choctaw, and Chickasaw, with 14,000 warriors), to the 150,000

frontiersmen who had pushed into Kentucky, Tennessee, and western Georgia.

The selection of Jefferson as the first secretary of state reflected the

purpose of Washington to aid the West. But before 1795 he failed to attain

that goal. His task was complicated by a tangle of frontier plots, grandiose

land-speculation schemes, Indian wars, and preparations for war that involved

Spanish officials, European fur traders, and the Indian tribes, along with

settlers, adventurers, military chieftains, and speculators from the United


Conditions in Europe forced Washington to neglect the Southwest until 1795,

when a series of misfortunes moved Spain to yield and agree to the Treaty of

San Lorenzo. The treaty recognized the 31st parallel as the southern boundary

of the United States and granted to Americans the right to navigate the whole

of the Mississippi, as well as a three-year privilege of landing goods at New

Orleans for shipment abroad.

When Washington left office the objectives of his foreign policy had been

attained. By avoiding war he had enabled the new government to take root, he

had prepared the way for the growth of the West, and by maintaining the

import trade he had safeguarded the national revenues and the public credit.

Washington Steps Down

By the end of 1795, Washington's creative work had been done. Thereafter he

and his collaborators devoted their efforts largely to defending what they

had accomplished. A conservative spirit became dominant and an era of "High

Federalism" dawned. As his health declined, Washington became saddened by

attacks made by his Republican opponents, who alleged that Hamilton had

seized control of the administration, that a once-faithful ally, France, had

been cast aside, that the Federalists were plotting to create a monarchy on

the British model, and that they had corrupted Congress in order to effect

their program. The attack reached its high (or low) point when Washington's

foes reprinted forged letters that had been published to impugn his loyalty

during the Revolution. He made no reply to his detractors.

Washington had been reelected unanimously in 1792. His decision not to seek a

third term established a tradition that has been broken only once and is now

embedded in the 22d Amendment of the Constitution. In his Farewell Address of

Sept. 17, 1796, he summarized the results of his varied experience, offering

a guide both for that time and for the future. He urged his countrymen to

cherish the Union, to support the public credit, to be alert to "the

insidious wiles of foreign influence," to respect the Constitution and the

nation's laws, to abide by the results of elections, and to eschew political

parties of a sectional cast. Asserting that America and Europe had different

interests, he declared that it "is our true policy to steer clear of

permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world," trusting to

temporary alliances for emergencies. He also warned against indulging in

either habitual favoritism or habitual hostility toward particular nations,

lest such attitudes should provoke or involve the country in needless wars.

Last Years

Washington's retirement at Mount Vernon was interrupted in 1798 when he

assumed nominal command of a projected army intended to fight against France

in an anticipated war. Early in 1799 he became convinced that France desired

peace and that Americans were unwilling to enlist in the proposed army. He

successfully encouraged President John Adams to break with the war party,

headed by Hamilton, and to end the quarrel.

Washington's last public efforts were devoted to opposing the Virginia and

Kentucky Resolutions of 1798, which challenged his conviction that the

Constitution decreed that federal acts should be the supreme law of the land.

Continuing to work at his plantation, he contracted a cold and died on Dec.

14, 1799, after an illness of two days.

Among Americans, Washington is unusual in that he combined in one career many

outstanding achievements in business, warfare, and government. He took the

leading part in three great historic events that extended over a period of 20

years. After 1775 he was animated by the purpose of creating a new nation

dedicated to the rights of man. His success in fulfilling that purpose places

him in the first rank among the figures of world history.

Curtis P. Nettels

Cornell University




2. http://gi.grolier.com/presidents/ea/prescont.html