Look down at a dollar bill and you will see one of the most famous early American colonists, George Washington. George Washington is one of the most recognizable figures in American history due to his vast contributions to the country during the American Revolution and continuing after. He is an iconic figure in American history, today being represented in many myths and untrue statements. Although there are a lot of exaggerations and myths, he truly was a man of legend, leading and guiding those who came after him.
George Washington was born on his family’s plantation on February 22, 1732. The plantation was located in Westmoreland County in Virginia. When he was little he moved to Ferry Farm, a plantation is Fredericksburg, Virginia. Because of his family’s wealthy status, he received a good education as a teenager. This helped him later in life, giving him the tools necessary to be a good politician. When his older brother and father died, he gained the plantation, renamed Mount Vernon by his brother. Mount Vernon was a farm that grew many crops and had slaves. Washington was known to be pro slavery in his early years, also was known to be a harsh slave master. After his presidency, Washington had changed his mind about slavery but didn’t choose to take any political action, only choosing to free his slaves after his wife’s death. Mount Vernon became a place of refuge for George, a resting place where he could experiment with crops and spend time with his family, especially after the presidency.
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When he was only twenty years old, he was put in charge of the Virginia militia. He fought in the French and Indian war and then resigned and began to take a more political role in Virginia. While he was pursing his political career, he met and married his wife and continued to expand his plantation. With the outbreak of the American Revolution, he was made commander in chief of the American forces as they tried to fight against the British with little success. With the French assistance, the American Revolution was won and Washington became a large figure in America even though he wanted to retire and live back on his plantation. Though he wanted to retire, he agreed to lead the constitutional convention, where the delegates were able to witness his great leadership skills and decided to make him the first president. He finally agreed, running against John Adams, who became the first vice president after losing the race.
Washington was a very cautious and proactive president, knowing that however he handled the presidency would set the standard for those who followed after him. He made it his goal to make the presidency seem prestigious and important and helped to establish traditions that are still important to this day. He elected the first ever cabinet of advisors, setting a tradition that is still followed and is an important part in the president’s decision making. In his cabinet, the two most prominent members were Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson. Both of these men had opposing views on the role of the government, with Hamilton wanting a more controlling and involved government and Jefferson believing more in state and individual rights. Washington’s cabinet helped to support him as he started to define the presidential role, like the cabinet does today. Another important thing Washington did during his presidency was stopping the whiskey rebellion. Due to a lot of federal debt, the government issued a tax on spirits that caused distillers to rise up in rebellion. This was a key moment for the federal government as it had the first opportunity to show its strength, strength that was lacking under the Articles of Confederation. Washington led the troops to meet the protestors, who vanished and stopped rioting. This led Washington to let the people perceive the Federal Government as one that was united and strong, something that they government has kept up with to this day. Another huge thing that Washington did to help the United States was to create a National Bank. The national bank allowed the US to print and have a standard currency and helped to unite and secure the rapidly growing economy. This was a controversial decision due to that power not being fully described in the constitution, and further deepened the divide between Hamilton and Jefferson.
The most important thing that Washington did for the country was his farewell speech. In the speech he warned against making foreign alliances and political parties, which was something he feared and watched happen in his own cabinet. This speech is one of the most famous speeches in American history, but has been completely ignored. Washington warned against foreign alliances, believing that it would only harm the then weak United States. This warning was super influential when later the United States was debating on whether to get involved in the French Revolution. The second thing that Washington warned against was taking sides through political parties. This was a problem that Washington saw developing, but was essentially unavoidable.
Following the end of his two term presidency in March of 1797 (which he could have had more, there was no law), he retired to Mount Vernon as a national war hero and as a great first president. He ended up dying in December of 1799, leaving a legacy and a hard example to follow.
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