Business and political leaders

Washington, George

Category: Business and political leaders

George Washington (1732 -1799) was the first President of the United States (1789–1797), the commander-in-chief of the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War, and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. He presided over the convention that drafted the Constitution, which replaced the Articles of Confederation and established the position of President.

Washington was born into the provincial gentry of Colonial Virginia; his wealthy planter family owned tobacco plantations and slaves. After both his father and older brother died when he was young, Washington became personally and professionally attached to the powerful William Fairfax, who promoted his career as a surveyor and soldier. Washington quickly became a senior officer in the colonial forces during the first stages of the French and Indian War.

He was chosen by the Second Continental Congress in 1775 to be commander-in-chief of the Continental Army in the American Revolution. Historians laud Washington for his selection and supervision of his generals, encouragement of morale and ability to hold together the army, coordination with the state governors and state militia units, relations with Congress and attention to supplies, logistics, and training. After victory had been finalized in 1783, Washington resigned as Commander-in-chief rather than seize power, proving his opposition to dictatorship.

 

Dissatisfied with the weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation, in 1787 Washington presided over the Constitutional Convention that drafted the United States Constitution.

Washington was elected President as the unanimous choice of the 69 electors in 1788/9, and he served two terms in office. He oversaw the creation of a strong, well-financed national government that won acceptance among Americans of all types. His leadership style established many forms and rituals of government that have been used since, such as using a cabinet system and delivering an inaugural address.

Washington proclaimed the United States neutral in the wars raging in Europe after 1793. He avoided war with Great Britain and guaranteed a decade of peace and profitable trade by securing the Jay Treaty in 1795. He retired from the presidency in 1797 and returned to his home, Mount Vernon, and his domestic life where he managed a variety of enterprises. He freed all his slaves by his final will. The peaceful transition from his presidency to the presidency of John Adams established a tradition that continues into the 21st century. Washington was hailed as "father of his country" even during his lifetime.

 

Washington had a vision of a great and powerful nation and sought to use the national government to preserve liberty, improve infrastructure, open the western lands, promote commerce, found a permanent capital, reduce regional tensions and promote a spirit of American nationalism.

Why is he on the site?

During the dark days of the American revolution, George Washington was cheered and encouraged by a real vision that he had - a spiritual experience of extraordinary potency. The story was reported by Anthony Sherman as it was told to him by General Washington himself. It was originally published by Wesley Bradshaw but later appeared also in the National Tribune of 1880.

Sherman reported that it was a chilly winters day with a cloudless sky and bright sunshine in the year 1777. General Washington had remained alone in his quarters alone all afternoon.  When he came out he looked pale and shaken. After some hesitation he eventually felt compelled to tell Sherman exactly what had happened and from his own account we get our observation. It actually makes very very chilling reading in hindsight.

 

The spirit he saw described three great crises for the American nation, the first was the revolution and its likely outcome which was then in full swing, the second would occur well after Washington's death and was the Civil War. But there was a third................

 What provided Washington with his vision? Well he admits himself he was in a state of real anxiety about the war, but something very prosaic may have also been a contributor.

 Washington suffered from problems with his teeth throughout his life. He lost his first adult tooth when he was twenty-two and had only one left by the time he became President. Why did he lose his teeth? Modern historians suggest that he was slowly being poisoning by mercury oxide, which he was given to treat illnesses such as smallpox and malaria. Dental problems left Washington in constant pain, for which he took laudanum. This distress may be apparent in many of the portraits painted while he was still in office. What an amazingly heady brew – angst, mercury poisoning, extreme pain, smallpox, malaria and laudunum – no wonder the poor man had a vision.

 Washington died at home around 10 p.m. on Saturday, December 14, 1799, aged 67.

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