Washington was chosen to be the commander-in-chief of the American revolutionary forces in 1775. The following year, he forced the British out of Boston, but was defeated when he lost New York City later that year. Washington later revived the patriot cause, however, by crossing the Delaware River in New Jersey and defeating the surprised enemy units. As a result of his strategy, Revolutionary forces captured the two main British combat armies—Saratoga and Yorktown. Negotiating with Congress, the colonial states, and French allies, he held together a tenuous army and a fragile nation amid the threats of disintegration and failure. Following the end of the war in 1783, Washington retired to his plantation on Mount Vernon.
After being alarmed in the late 1780s at the many weaknesses of the young nation under the Articles of Confederation, he presided over the Philadelphia Convention that drafted the United States Constitution in 1787. Washington became President of the United States in 1789 and established many of the customs and usages of the new government's executive department. He sought to create a great nation capable of surviving in a world torn asunder by war between Britain and France. His unilateral Proclamation of Neutrality of 1793 provided a basis for avoiding any involvement in foreign conflicts. He supported plans to build a strong central government by funding the national debt, implementing an effective tax system, and creating a national bank. Washington avoided the temptation of war and began a decade of peace with Britain via the Jay Treaty in 1795; he used his prestige to get it ratified over intense opposition from the Jeffersonians. Although never officially joining the Federalist Party, he supported its programs and was its inspirational leader. Washington's farewell address was a primer on republican virtue and a stern warning against involvement in foreign wars.
Washington is seen as a symbol of the United States and republicanism in practise. His devotion to civic virtue made him an exemplary figure among early American politicians. Washington died in 1799, and in his funeral oration, Henry Lee said that of all Americans, he was "first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen." Washington has been consistently ranked by scholars as one of the greatest U. S. Presidents.
Washington's Farewell Address (issued as a public letter in 1796) was one of the most influential statements of American political values. Drafted primarily by Washington himself, with help from Hamilton, it gives advice on the necessity and importance of national union, the value of the Constitution and the rule of law, the evils of political parties, and the proper virtues of a republican people. In the address, he called morality "a necessary spring of popular government." He said, "reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle" – making the point that the value of religion is for the benefit of society as a whole.
Retirement and death
After retiring from the presidency in March 1797, Washington returned to Mount Vernon with a profound sense of relief. He devoted much time to farming and, in that year, constructed a 2,250 square foot (75- by-30 feet, 200 m²) distillery, which was one of the largest in the new republic, housing five copper stills, a boiler and 50 mash tubs, at the site of one of his unprofitable farms. At its peak, two years later, the distillery produced 11,000 gallons of corn and rye whiskey worth $7,500, and fruit brandy.
On July 13, 1798, Washington was appointed by President John Adams to be Lieutenant General and Commander-in-chief of all armies raised or to be raised for service in a prospective war with France. He served as the senior officer of the United States Army between July 13, 1798 and December 14, 1799. He participated in the planning for a Provisional Army to meet any emergency that might arise, but didn't take the field. Washington's remains were buried at Mount Vernon. To protect their privacy, Martha Washington burned the correspondence between her husband and herself following his death. Only three letters between the couple have survived.
During the United States Bicentennial year, George Washington was posthumously appointed to the grade of General of the Armies of The United States by the congressional joint resolution of January 19, 1976, approved by President Gerald R. Ford on October 11 1976, and formalized in Department of the Army Order Number 31-3 of March 13, 1978 with an effective appointment date of July 4 1976.
He was upheld as a shining example in schoolbooks and lessons: as courageous and farsighted, holding the Continental Army together through eight hard years of war and numerous privations, sometimes by sheer force of will; and as restrained: at war's end taking affront at the notion he should be King; and after two terms as President, stepping aside.
Washington manifested himself as the exemplar of republican virtue in America. More than any American he was extolled for his great personal integrity, and a deeply held sense of duty, Honor and patriotism. He is seen more as a character model than war hero or founding father. One of Washington's greatest achievements, in terms of republican values, was refraining from taking more power than was due. He was conscientious of maintaining a good reputation by avoiding political intrigue. He rejected nepotism or cronyism. Jefferson observed, "The moderation and virtue of a single character probably prevented this Revolution from being closed, as most others have been, by a subversion of that liberty it was intended to establish."
Monuments and memorials
one-dollar bill and the quarter-dollar coin. Washington, together with Theodore Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln, is depicted in stone at the Mount Rushmore Memorial. The Washington Monument, one of the most well-known American landmarks, was built in his Honor. The George Washington Masonic National Memorial in Alexandria, Virginia, constructed entirely with voluntary contributions from members of the Masonic Fraternity, was also built in his Honor.
Many things have been named in Honor of Washington. Washington's name became that of the nation's capital, Washington, D.C., and the State of Washington, the only state to be named after an American (Maryland,, the Carolinas and Georgia are named in Honor of British monarchs). George Washington University and Washington University in St. Louis were named for him, as was Washington and Lee University (once Washington Academy), which was renamed due to Washington’s large endowment in 1796.
The Confederate Seal prominently featured George Washington on horseback, in the same position as a statue of him in Richmond, Virginia.
Washington and slavery
For most of his life, Washington operated his plantations as a typical Virginia slave owner. In the 1760s, he dropped tobacco (which was prestigious but unprofitable) and shifted to hemp and wheat growing and diversified into milling flour, weaving cloth, and distilling brandy. By the time of his death, there were 317 slaves at Mount Vernon.
Before the American Revolution, Washington expressed no moral reservations about slavery, but by 1778, he'd stopped selling slaves without their consent because he didn't want to break up slave families. In 1778, while Washington was at war, he wrote to his manager at Mount Vernon that he wished to sell his slaves and "to get quit of Negroes" since maintaining a large (and increasingly elderly) slave population wasn't economically profitable. Washington couldn't legally sell "dower slaves" (those that belonged to his wife) however, and because these slaves had long intermarried with his own slaves, he couldn't sell his slaves without breaking up families.
Washington was the only prominent, slave holding Founding Father who succeeded at emancipating his slaves. He didn't free his slaves in his lifetime, however, but instead included a provision in his will to free his slaves upon the death of his wife. Not all the slaves at his estate at Mt. Vernon were owned by him, his wife Martha owned a large number of slaves and Washington didn't feel that he could unilaterally free slaves that came to Mt. Vernon from his wife's estate. His actions were influenced by his close relationship with the Marquis de La Fayette. Martha Washington would free slaves to which she'd title late in her own life. He didn't speak out publicly against slavery, argues historian Dorothy Twohig, because he didn't wish to risk splitting apart the young republic over what was already a sensitive and divisive issue.
Washington was baptized into the Church of England. In 1765, when the Church of England was still the state religion, he served on the vestry (lay council) for his local church. Throughout his life, he spoke of the value of righteousness, and of seeking and offering thanks for the "blessings of Heaven."
In a letter to George Mason in 1785, Washington wrote that he wasn't among those alarmed by a bill "making people pay towards the support of that [religion] which they profess," but felt that it was "impolitic" to pass such a measure, and wished it had never been proposed, believing that it would disturb public tranquility.
His adopted daughter, Nelly Custis Lewis, stated: "I have heard her [Nelly'smother, Eleanor Calvert Custis, who resided in Mount Vernon for two years] say that General Washington always received the sacrament with my grandmother [MarthaWashington] before the revolution." After the revolution, Washington frequently accompanied his wife to Christian church services; however, there's no record of his ever taking communion, and he'd regularly leave services before communion—with the other non- communicants (as was the custom of the day), until he ceased attending at all on communion Sundays. Prior to communion, believers are admonished to take stock of their spiritual lives and not to participate in the ceremony unless he finds himself in the will of God. Historians and biographers continue to debate the degree to which he can be counted as a Christian, and the degree to which he was a deist.
He was an early supporter of religious toleration and freedom of religion. In 1775, he ordered that his troops not show anti-Catholic sentiments by burning the pope in effigy on Guy Fawkes Night. When hiring workmen for Mount Vernon, he wrote to his agent, "If they be good workmen, they may be from Asia, Africa, or Europe; they may be Mohammedans, Jews, or Christians of any sect, or they may be Atheists." In 1790, he wrote a response to a letter from the Touro Synagogue, in which he said that as long as people remain good citizens, their faith doesn't matter. This was a relief to the Jewish community of the United States, since the Jews had been either expelled from or prejudiced against in many European countries.
In addition to Martha's biological family noted above, George Washington had a close relationship with his nephew and heir Bushrod Washington, son of George's younger brother John Augustine Washington, who became an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court after George's death.
As a young man, Washington had red hair. A popular myth is that he wore a wig, as was the fashion among some at the time. Washington didn't wear a wig; instead he powdered his hair, as represented in several portraits, including the well-known unfinished Gilbert Stuart depiction.
Washington suffered from problems with his teeth throughout his life. He lost his first tooth when he was twenty-two and had only one left by the time he became President. According to John Adams, he lost them because he used them to crack Brazil nuts, although modern historians suggest it was probably the mercury oxide he was given to treat illnesses such as smallpox and malaria. The hippo ivory was used for the plate, into which real human teeth and also bits of horses and donkeys teeth were inserted. It, along with the story of Washington throwing a silver dollar across the Potomac River, was part of a book of stories authored by Mason Weems that made Washington somewhat of a legendary figure.
George Washington (February 22, 1732 – December 14, 1799) was the first President of the United States, (1789–1797), and led the Continental Army to victory over the Kingdom of Great Britain in the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783).