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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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The action infuriated Thomas Jefferson, who supported the French and felt that the U.S. needed to honor its treaty obligations. Washington was able to mobilize public support for the treaty, which proved decisive in securing ratification in the Senate. Though controversial, the treaty proved beneficial to the United States by removing British forts along the western frontier, establishing a clear boundary between Canada and the United States,
and most importantly, delaying a war with Britain and providing over a decade of prosperous trade and development the fledgling country so desperately needed.
All through his two terms as president, Washington was dismayed at the growing partisanship within government and the nation. The power bestowed on the federal government by the Constitution made for important decisions, and people joined together to influence those decisions. The formation of political parties at first were influenced more by personality than by issues.
As Treasury secretary, Alexander Hamilton pushed for a strong national government and an economy built in industry. Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson desired to keep government small and center power more at the local level, where citizen's freedom could be better protected. He envisioned an economy based on farming. Those who followed Hamilton's vision took the name Federalists and people who opposed those ideas and tended to lean toward Jefferson’s view began calling themselves Democratic-Republicans. Washington despised political partisanship, believing that ideological differences should never become institutionalized. He strongly felt that political leaders should be free to debate important issues without being bound by party loyalty.
However, Washington could do little to slow the development of political parties. The ideals promoted by Hamilton and Jefferson produced a two-party system that proved remarkably durable. These opposing viewpoints represented a continuation of the debate over the proper role of government, a debate that began with the conception of the Constitution and continues today.
Washington's administration was not without its critics who questioned what they saw as extravagant conventions in the office of the president. During his two terms, Washington rented the best houses available and was driven in a coach drawn by four horses, with outriders and lackeys in rich uniforms. After being overwhelmed by callers, he announced that except for the scheduled weekly reception open to all, he would only see people by appointment. Washington entertained lavishly, but in private dinners and receptions at invitation only. He was, by some, accused of conducting himself like a king.
However, ever mindful his presidency would set the precedent for those to follow, he was careful to avoid the trappings of a monarchy. At public ceremonies, he did not appear in a military uniform or the monarchical robes. Instead, he dressed in a black velvet suit with gold buckles and powdered hair, as was the common custom.
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