George Washington (February 22, 1732 - December 14, 1799) was the first
(1789 - 1797) President of the United States of America and is recognized
by Americans as "The Father of His Country." (The earliest known image
in which Washington is identified as such is on the cover of the circa
1778 Pennsylvania German almanac, Lancaster: Gedruckt bey Francis Bailey
. This identifies Washington as "Landes Vater" or Father of the Land .)
George Washington's birthday is celebrated on February 22 using the
Gregorian calendar, but under the Julian calendar, which was in use throughout
Britain and its colonies at the time of this birth, he was born on February
Washington was part of the economic and cultural elite of the slave owning
planters of Virginia . His parents Augustine Washington (1693 - April 12,
1743) and Mary Ball (1708 - August 25, 1789) were of English descent.As
a youth, he was trained as a surveyor and helped survey the Shenadoah valley
French and Indian War
Washington was commissioned in 1754 as an Colonel in the Virginia Militia
and built a series of Forts in the western frontier of Virginia. He accompanied
the Braddock Expedition of the British Army during the French and Indian
War . During the battle of the Wilderness near the Monongahela he had three
horses shot out from under him. He showed his coolness under fire in organizing
the retreat from the debacle. Washington then organized the First Virginia
Regiment, which saw service through the war; however, Washington left the
Regiment to serve in the House of Burgesses.
Following his miltiary service, in 1757 he married Martha Dandridge Custis,
the wealthy widow of Daniel Parke Custis. The newlywed couple moved to
his estate Mount Vernon where he took up the life of a genteel farmer.
He became a member of the House of Burgesses. He was initiated as a Freemason
in Fredericksburg, Virginia , on 4 February 1752 .
On July 3 , 1775 he assumed command of the Continental Army in the American
Revolutionary War . After successfully driving the British out of Boston,
Washington lost the Battle of Long Island in 1776 and retreated to Valley
Forge , outside of British-held Philadelphia , where the American forces
recovered. On December 25 , 1776 , Washington led the American forces crossing
the Delaware to attack Hessian forces in Trenton , New Jersey . The successful
attack built morale among the pro-independence colonists.
Washington retained an army in being throughout the Revolution, keeping
British forces tied down in the center of the country while Generals Gates
and Benedict Arnold won the battle of Saratoga in 1777 . This victory led
to French recognition of the United States.
In 1781 , Washington, commanding both American and French forces, besieged
General Cornwallis at Battle of Yorktown , Virginia . The British surrender
there was the effective end of British attempts to quell the Revolution.
In 1783 , by means of the Treaty of Paris , the Kingdom of Great Britain
recognized American independence.
After the war, he presided over the American Constitutional Convention
in 1787 . He was elected President on February 4 , 1789 and 1792 . Washington
remains the only president unanimously elected by the Electoral College
His election as president was a disappointment to his wife, the first
First Lady , who wanted to continue living in quiet retirement at Mount
Vernon after the war. Nevertheless, she quickly assumed the role of hostess,
opening her parlor and organizing weekly dinner parties for as many dignitaries
as could fit around the presidential table.
Washington held the first Cabinet meeting of any US President on February
25 , 1793 .
Events during Washington's
In 1793 , the revolutionary government of France sent diplomat Citizen
Genet , who attempted to turn popular sentiment towards American involvement
in the war against Great Britain. Genet also was authorized to issue letters
of marque and reprisal to American ships and gave authority to any French
consul to serve as a prize court . Genet's activities forced Washington
to ask the French government for his recall
The "Whiskey Rebellion"
In 1791 , the Federal government imposed an excise tax on whiskey . This
tax was highly unpopular on the American frontier, and in July , 1794 ,
in Allegheny County , Pennsylvania , a Federal marshal was attacked by
a mob and a regional inspector's house was burned. On August 7 , 1794 ,
Washington called out the militias of several states and led a force of
13,000 to suppress the unrest. The event has gone down in history as the
" Whiskey Rebellion ".
Washington's estate, Mount Vernon , is located in what is now a suburb
of Washington, D.C. .
Admirers of Washington circulated an apocryphal (and questionable) story
about his honesty as a child. In the story, he wanted to try out a new
axe and chopped down his father's cherry tree. When questioned by his father,
he gave the famous non-quotation "I cannot tell a lie. It was I who chopped
down the cherry tree." The story first appeared after Washington's death
in a naive "inspirational" children's book by Parson Mason Weems , who
had been rector of the Mount Vernon parish.
In 1790 Washington sent a letter to the Jewish community in Rhode Island
. He wrote that he envisioned a country "which gives bigotry no sanction
... persecution no assistance". For the first time in history, Jews lived
in a country where they enjoyed full and equal human and political rights
- as a birthright of citizenship.
In recent years a number of anti-Semitic groups have been promoting
a forged "quote" supposedly written by George Washington. This quote have
been debunked as a forgery by historians.
Because of Washington's involvement in Freemasonry, some publicly visible
collections of Washington memorabilia are maintained by Masonic lodges.
The museum at Fraunces Tavern Museum in New York City includes specimens
of Washington's false teeth.
George Washington was plagued thoughout his adult life with bad teeth,
losing about 1 tooth a year from the age of 24. In his later years he consulted
a number of dentists and had a number of sets of false teeth, (but none
of wood). For a more or less definitive chronicle of his struggles see
George Washington's Teeth , Madeleine Comora and Deborah Chandra, illustrated
by: Brock Cole, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2003, hardcover, ISBN 0374325340
At his time of death, Washington last held the rank of major general
, appointed by John Adams in anticipation of a possible war with France
. Over the years, many military officers outranked him. In 1976, President
Gerald Ford posthumously appointed George Washington as General of the
Armies of the United States , and specified that he would always outrank
all officers of the Army, past and present.
Legacy in the contemporary
The capital city of the United States, Washington, D.C. , is named for
him. The District of Columbia was created by an Act of Congress in 1790
, and Washington was deeply involved in its creation, including the siting
of the White House . At this time, the future site of the capital was a
swamp, and Washington remained largely marshland well into the 19th century
. The capital was placed in the South, rather than in the major towns of
the North, as a compromise during the writing of the United States Constitution
in order to get Southern votes for important compromises.
Washington also selected West Point , New York , as the site for the
United States Military Academy .
Washington State in the Pacific Northwest of the U.S. is also named
for him, the only state named for a president.
Numerous ships of United States Navy have been named USS George Washington
in honor of the man, or USS Washington in honor of the state named in honor
of the man.
His image is on the one dollar bill and the quarter-dollar coin.