"First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen"
- President George Washington's Memorial Service, December 26, 1799
George Washington, Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army and 1st President of the United States.
George Washington is often referred to as the father of the United States, for the role he played in the founding of the country. He served in the American Revolutionary War as Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army and under his military and political leadership, the United States gained their official independence from Great Britain in 1783. In the years following the war, Washington helped lay the foundation for the U.S. government as it is known today. He presided over the 1787 writing of the U.S. Constitution, the document that provides the basis for the laws governing the country. He also won the presidency in a unanimous vote in 1789 and would go on to serve two terms as the first President of the United States. The overarching ideas he is known for include preserving the liberty of the newly freed nation and improving the government's overall infrastructure. Washington advocated for a national bank, a system to pay off the national debt, and an effective tax system. In this way, he hoped to keep the newly freed country together and to promote a new sense of nationalism. He also warned against sectionalism and partisanship. Unfortunately, this last goal was not realized, as after Washington left office, the U.S. did form political parties and remains deeply divided politically today.
Washington spent his early life in the state of Virginia and retired there after his two terms as U.S. President. Washington was in fact inaugurated in New York City, and he and his Vice President John Adams governed from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The area now known as Washington, D.C. did not become the capital of the U.S. until July 1790. Washington himself played a leading role in the decision to locate the permanent national capital in the District of Columbia, which would come to be his namesake. Washington is the only president that did not live in the White House, as New York City was the U.S. capital at the time of his inauguration, followed by Philadelphia. George Washington's famous Mount Vernon estate in Virginia is a fantastic place to visit if you are ever in the Washington DC area. In fact, it is featured on our Top 10 List of U.S. Historical Sites to Visit!
George Washington was born on February 22, 1732 and died December 14, 1799 at the age of 67. Born into a wealthy family in Colonial Virginia, Washington started out as a soldier fighting in the French and Indian War and became a lieutenant in the army by the time he was 22. During the American Revolutionary War from 1775-1783, Washington fought for independence as the Commander-in-Chief of the army. He led the army to victory and the U.S. gained its independence. He was then sworn into presidential office (a brand new position) on April 30, 1789 after winning 100 percent of the electoral votes. Retiring after two terms as President, Washington returned to his Mount Vernon Estate where he died December 14, 1799 from a throat infection.
Why? So why is George Washington an important American to know? For starters, his face is on every U.S. one-dollar bill! George Washington is one of the most significant American historical figures, not only for his role in founding and governing the young nation, but for his leadership style, political ideas and revolutionary (no pun intended!) vision for the United States of America.
Did You Know?
- The nation's capital, along with 1 state, 31 counties and 17 cities are named in Washington's honor.
- A common misconception is that George Washington had wooden teeth. He actually wore dentures that were made of either walrus or elephant ivory and were fitted with real human teeth. Over time, as the ivory got cracked and stained, it resembled the grain of wood.
- George Washington did not attend college. He was home-schooled by his older half brother.
- Washington married Martha Custis in 1759. They never had children.
- Washington loved ice cream so much that he had ice cream coolers installed in his house!
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