George Washington

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George Washington
1st President of the United States
In office
April 30, 1789 – March 3, 1797
Vice President John Adams
Succeeded by John Adams
Personal details
Born February 22, 1732(1732-02-22)
Westmoreland County, Virginia, British America
Died December 14, 1799(1799-12-14) (aged 67)
Mount Vernon, Virginia, USA
Nationality American
Political party None (1789-93) none (1793-1797)
Spouse(s) Martha Custis Washington
Religion Deism
Episcopalian

George Washington (February 22, 1732[1][2][3] – December 14, 1799) was the first President of the United States (1789–1797), the commander in chief of the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War,[4] and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States.

Early life[change | change source]

His mother was Mary Ball and his father was Augustine Washington. They owned a plantation with slaves in Virginia. George studied at local schools in Fredericksburg, and was also homeschooled for part of his life. George's father died when he was 11. After the death of Augustine Washington, his brother Lawrence took him in, seeing his mother was not fit to. There is a well known story about honesty, that Washington cut down his father's cherry tree. Although it is a very good example of what Washington was like, the story is not real.

Before the Revolutionary War[change | change source]

Washington became a farmer like his father. His large plantation was called Mount Vernon. He also worked as a surveyor, someone who measures land. Washington always wanted to be a soldier. He was active in the French and Indian War. His first military actions were a defeat at the hands of the French and their Indian allies at Fort Necessity in 1754, and again of the Braddock Expedition the next year. By the age of 23, he was a colonel in charge of all the soldiers in Virginia. They fought the Indians. In 1759, Washington married a widow named Martha Custis. They did not have any children.

The Revolution[change | change source]

See also: American Revolutionary War
Bust of Washington that Lafayette thought his best likeness

Washington was a delegate to the First Continental Congress, which was created by the Thirteen Colonies to respond to various laws passed by the British government. Washington was chosen by the Second Continental Congress to be the commanding general of the Continental Army. Washington led the army from 1775 until the end of the war in 1783. After losing the big Battle of Long Island, and being chased across New Jersey Washington led his troops across the Delaware River on Christmas Day, 1776, in a surprise attack on Hessian mercenaries at the small Battle of Princeton and Trenton, New Jersey. The British had more troops and more supplies than Washington. However, Washington kept his troops together and won these small battles.

Overall, Washington did not win many battles, but he never let the British destroy his army. With the help of the French navy, Washington made a British army surrender at Yorktown, Virginia in 1781, in the final major battle of the war. The war officially ended with the Treaty of Paris in 1783. George Washington used to say, after he acknowledged that defeat was to come upon his troops, his mythical phrase "Let us drink the stick!", in order to command his men to retreat as quickly as possible, to prevent a certain death.

After the war[change | change source]

When the Revolutionary war ended, Washington was a national hero. He was offered what would basically be a dictatorship over the colonies. In a move that surprised everyone, however, Washington said no, quit the army and went home to Mount Vernon. He wanted the colonies to have a strong government, but was tired of leading. He also did not want the U.S. to be run by a tyrant.

A few years later, Washington was called over to host the discussions for the new government. He was voted president of the Constitutional Convention in 1785. Washington wanted the states to ratify the Constitution of the United States and they did, largely thanks to the Federalist Papers, which were written by Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison.

Lansdowne portrait of President George Washington

Presidency[change | change source]

In 1789, Washington was elected president without any competition. Washington was the first President of the United States. Washington helped the government get started. While Washington did not belong to any political party and stayed neutral, he agreed with Federalist policies such as the country having a standing army and a national bank. He was re-elected to a second term. After his second term, Washington decided not to run for reelection even though he was popular enough to probably win in a landslide. His decision set a precedent that every president followed until Franklin D. Roosevelt broke it in 1940.

In Washington's farewell address, he warned the country not to divide into political parties and to not get involved in wars outside of the United States. Washington's non-intervention foreign policy was supported by most Americans for over one hundred years. His advice concerning political parties was completely ignored, as parties were already forming at the time of his speech.

George Washington overseeing slaves during harvest time on his plantation

Retirement[change | change source]

Washington went back home to Mount Vernon after his second term ended in 1797. He was very happy to be home. He died on December 14, 1799, in Mount Vernon at the age of 67. Washington, D.C. and the state of Washington are named after him. Many schools are named after him. His face is on the one dollar bill and the quarter coin.

Wealth[change | change source]

From his 20s, George Washington owned a lot of farm land. He grew tobacco and wheat and vegetables. Washington also owned more than 100 slaves. He made them free when he died. However, he did not have much money in cash. He had to borrow money while he was president. At his death, Washington's estate was worth over $500,000.[5]

Wooden teeth?[change | change source]

Many people think George Washington had wooden teeth, but this is not true.[6] He tried many different ways to replace his teeth, though: for instance, he tried having teeth carved from elk's teeth or ivory.[7][8] George Washington's teeth started falling out when he was about 22, and he had only one tooth left by the time he became president.[7][8] It was hard to talk and hard to eat. At one time, he had fake teeth with a special hole so that the one tooth he still had could poke through;[7][8] he tried to keep them smelling clean by soaking them in wine, but instead they just became mushy and black.[7][8] In 1796, a dentist had to pull out George Washington's last tooth, and he kept his tooth in a gold locket attached to his watch chain.[7] When the time came for the president to have his portrait painted, cotton was pushed under his lips to make him look as if he had teeth.[7][8] But the cotton made his mouth puff out too far, as is seen on the picture on the dollar bill.[8]

References[change | change source]

  1. Engber, Daniel (2006).What's Benjamin Franklin's Birthday?. (Both Franklin's and Washington's confusing birth dates are clearly explained.) Retrieved on June 17, 2009.
  2. The birth and death of George Washington are given using the Gregorian calendar. However, he was born when Britain and her colonies still used the Julian calendar, so contemporary records record his birth as February 11, 1731. The provisions of the Calendar (New Style) Act 1750, implemented in 1752, altered the official British dating method to the Gregorian calendar with the start of the year on January 1.
  3. "Image of page from family Bible". Papers of George Washington. http://gwpapers.virginia.edu/project/faq/bible.html. Retrieved 2008-01-26.
  4. Under the Articles of Confederation Congress called its presiding officer "President of the United States in Congress Assembled". He had no executive powers, but the similarity of titles has confused people into thinking there were other presidents before Washington. Merrill Jensen, The Articles of Confederation (1959), 178–9
  5. Richard Shenkman; Kurt Reiger (1980). One Night Stands with American History. Morrow. pp. 39. ISBN 06880375735 .
  6. Associated Press. "George Washington's false teeth not wooden." January 27, 2005. Retrieved from http://www.nbcnews.com/id/6875436/#.USNzu1ptUow
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 Felton, Bruce. One of a Kind. New York: William Morrow and Co., 1992
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 8.5 Gray, Ralph, ed. Small Inventions That Make a Big Difference. Washington, D.C.: The National Geographic Society, 1984

Books to read[change | change source]

  • Pamela Hill Nettleton and Jeff Yesh. George Washington: Farmer, Soldier, President (2003) for grades 1-5
  • Laurence Santrey. George Washington, Young Leader (1982) * T. M. Usel. George Washington (Read & Discover Photo-Illustrated Biographies) (1996)
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