Washington, George

views updated May 17 2018

Washington, George (1732–99) American general and statesman, commander in chief of the Continental Army during the American Revolution (1775–83), and first president of the United States of America (1789–97). A wealthy Virginian, Washington fought with distinction in the last of the French and Indian Wars (1754–63). He served in both Continental Congresses (1774, 1775), the latter appointing him commander in chief. Washington retired after securing victory over the British, but was recalled to preside over the Constitutional Convention at Philadelphia in 1787. In 1789, he was elected (unopposed) as President of the new republic. Washington proved unable to heal the divisions between Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton that resulted in the creation of the Federalist Party and the Democratic-Republican Party. Re-elected in 1793, the Federalists dominated his second administration, and the Jeffersonians criticized what they regarded as his pro-British policy during the French Revolutionary Wars. Washington declined a third term as president, and retired to his family estate at Mount Vernon. See also Continental Congress


Washington, George

views updated May 23 2018

Washington, George (1732–99). First president of the USA. Washington's ancestors came from Northamptonshire and the first of the family to settle in Virginia was John, in 1657. George Washington was his great-grandson. He inherited the Mount Vernon estate in 1752 when his half-brother died. His first military experience was gained in the Virginia militia, he was with Braddock when he was killed in 1755, appointed commander of the Virginia forces at the age of 23, and elected to the state legislature. After attending the first and second continental congresses in 1774 and 1775, he was elected commander of the congress forces. His early years in command were necessarily defensive, largely concerned with gathering, training, and retaining some sort of army. His first victory of any importance was at Trenton in December 1776 and he held his army together through the terrible winter at Valley Forge in 1777–8. French support from 1778 onwards helped to turn the tide, though as late as 1780 Washington could write, ‘I have almost ceased to hope.’ At the end of hostilities, on 19 April 1783, he led the triumphal march into New York. When the Federal constitution was adopted, he was the obvious choice for the presidency, and was unanimously elected and re-elected in 1789 and 1793. He retired in 1797 to spend his last two years back in Mount Vernon. Tall, with natural authority and genuinely reluctant to serve, Washington was honest, patient, and shrewd.

J. A. Cannon

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