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George Washington was a leader of the Continental Army in the American Revolution, and was the first to become U.S. president.
Founding Father George Washington served as commander-in-chief of the Colonial Armies during the American Revolution and was the first President of the United States.
Learn about a young George Washington and how his early years shaped the man he later became.
After leaving the military, George Washington set out to become a farmer with the land at Mount Vernon he received from his brother, Lawrence.
When George Washington was 11 years old, his father passed away and he immediately took on adult responsibilities.
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A near mutiny was avoided when Washington convinced Congress to grant a five-year bonus for soldiers in March 1783. By November of that year, the British had evacuated New York City and other cities and the war was essentially over. The Americans had won their independence. Washington formally bade his troops farewell and on December 23, 1783, he resigned is commission as commander-in-chief of the army and returned to Mount Vernon.
For four years,
George Washington attempted to fulfill his dream of resuming life as a gentleman farmer and to give his much-neglected plantation the care and attention it deserved. The war had been costly to the Washington family with lands neglected, no exports of goods, and the depreciation of paper money. But Washington was able to repair his fortunes with a generous land grant from Congress for his military service and become profitable once again.
In 1787, Washington was again called to the duty of his country. Since independence, the young republic had been struggling under the Articles of Confederation, a structure of government that centered power with the states. But the states were not unified. They fought among themselves over boundaries and navigation rights and refused to contribute to paying off the nation's war debt. In some instances, state legislatures imposed tyrannical tax policies on their own citizens.
Washington was intensely dismayed at the state of affairs, but only slowly came to the realization that something should be done about it. Perhaps he wasn't sure the time was right so soon after the Revolution to be making major adjustments to the democratic experiment. Or perhaps because he hoped he would not be called upon to serve, he remained noncommittal. But when Shays's rebellion erupted in Massachusetts, Washington knew something needed to be done to improve the nation’s government. In 1786, Congress approved a convention to be held in Philadelphia to amend the Articles of Confederation.
At the Constitution Convention, Washington was unanimously chosen as president. Among others, such as James Madison and Alexander Hamilton, Washington had come to the conclusion that it wasn't amendments that were needed, but a new constitution that would give the national government more authority. He spoke but once during the proceedings, but he lobbied hard with his fellow delegates in the afterhours for major changes in the structure of government.
In the end, the Convention produced a plan for government that not only would address the country's current problems, but would endure through time. After the convention adjourned, Washington's reputation and support for the new government were indispensable to the Constitution’s ratification. Opposition was strident, if not organized, with many of America's leading political figures—including Patrick Henry and Sam Adams—condemning the proposed government as a grab for power. Even in Washington's native Virginia, the Constitution was ratified by only one vote.
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