Presidential Series - The First President
By DS Gands
Nov 7, 2003
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“If in the opinion of the People, the distribution or modification of the Constitutional powers be in any particular wrong, let it be corrected by an amendment in the way which the Constitution designates. But let there be no change by usurpation; for though this, in one instance, may be the instrument of good, it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed.” - President GEORGE WASHINGTON, farewell address, September 19, 1796.—The Writings of George Washington, ed. John C. Fitzpatrick, vol. 35, p. 229 (1940).

He believed that shaking hands was beneath a president, and he bowed when greeting visitors.  Some of his fetishes extended to his horses, and he ordered stable hands to brush their teeth each morning.  He wore dentures made of hippopotamus tusk or ivory, and only had one tooth of his own when he was inaugurated.   It has been written that he refused $25K per year in salary to serve his country.  He has a national capitol, a state, thirty-one counties and seventeen communities named after him. Washington was the only Founding Fathers to free his slaves.

He lost his father at age 11 and nearly joined the British navy at 15, but it was reported to his mother that he would receive no favor there, and his life took on new direction.  His math skills had led him into the field of surveying, and he was a chief surveyor for Culpeper County, Virginia, at a very young age.  He was ambushed in the French and Indian War, catching bullets through his coat and hat but escaping without injury.   He held together, by sheer determination and instinct, a destitute army through the long and terrible winter at Valley Forge in 1777-78.   He resisted all plans and invitations to make him king, and an army plot to take over the government.   His presence and support made the Constitutional Convention credible and helped win ratification of the Constitution.  He sacrificed his desire for a quiet retirement to serve as the first President and, in so doing, set a valuable precedent of constitutional governance.

It is reported that the Washington plantations grew hemp and promoted it's growth for its industrial value as a textile and for soil stabilization. He was a meticulous scientist about farming, and developed a process and procedure akin to industrial farming, which was not well accepted or understood in that time.  He owned thousands of acres in Virginia and Ohio, and was considered a man of true prominence and wealth.  The basics of that lifelong profession was that he is credited with introducing the mule to America.


He was the first Mason to serve as president.  Washington's 2nd inaugural address was the shortest ever delivered at only 135 words, but, he was a quiet, and often distant man.  He did not become close to anyone, but slowly would grow to respect and trust in a relationship.  He did not care for what he called ‘babble’, but when provoked, it is said, the temper of his youth emerged and he could swear a blue streak.  Thomas Jefferson once said that he was a man of inflexible discipline. When the soldiers of the Pennsylvania and New Jersey staged a mutiny in efforts to improve conditions due to lack of rations and pay several months in arrears, Washington put down the revolt by encouraging the forces to work with Congress to resolve the differences and executed the leaders of the revolt.  The soldiers received five years back pay.


 He is the only president to be elected unanimously by the electoral college and never lived in the White House.  He is known as ‘the father of his country’ as early as 1779, in Francis Bailey's Lancaster Almanac[1].  There is little available regarding any political campaign of the day, but his landslide was his second term, which began in 1792.  Toward the end of his presidency, there were attempts to come against him, but Washington did not counter them.  The rhetoric proved to be untrue and mere attempts at personal attacks, and Washington left office in 1797.

George Washington was born on February 22, 1732, in Westmoreland County, Virginia, to Augustine and Mary Ball Washington, and died on December 14, 1799, at Mount Vernon, Virginia, his home.  He married Martha Dandridge Custis (1732-1802), on January 6, 1759, who survived him, and adopted two children, John "Jack" Parke Custis and Martha "Patsy" Custis.  He was Episcopalian and had no formal education, but was a successful farmer, soldier, statesman and the ultimate politician.

He had no political affiliation with a party when he became the first President of the United States, but was a Federalist by the second term.  He was a Member of Virginia House of Burgesses, 1759-74, Member of Continental Congress, 1774-75, and Chairman of the Constitutional Convention, 1787-88.  On April 30, 1789, he was elected president, inaugurated in New York City, and served until March 3, 1797, two terms, with Vice President John Adams.


Thanksgiving Proclamation, which was handwritten by President Washington’s secretary, William Jackson, as he required and was lost for over 100 years.  In 1921, Dr. J. C. Fitzpatrick, who was then the assistant chief of the manuscripts division of the Library of Congress, discovered the proclamation at an auction sale being held at an art gallery in New York.  He purchased it for $300, and submitted it to the Library of Congress, where it remains.  It is interesting to read as it tells a great deal about the man and his beliefs.


It reads:  Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me "to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:


"Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted' for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.


 "And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have show kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.


"Given under my hand, at the city of New York, the 3d day of October, A.D. 1789.”


The most notable accomplishments during his presidency include:

The Judiciary Act specified the number of Federal courts and judges, 1789.

Establishment of Supreme Court with John Jay as the Chief Justice, 1790.

Established the Federal Capitol in swamplands on the Potomac, 1791.

The national banking system was established by the Bank Act, 1791, and that same year the Bill of Rights took effect.  In 1792, the Post Office was established as a separate entity, and New York Stock Exchange was organized, and the Coinage Act was enacted and coins were minted by the government.

In 1795, the Jay Treaty was ratified, British troops were required to withdraw from the U.S., and Pinckney's Treaty with Spain opened navigation on the Mississippi River.

That same year, Washington posed for Stuart's portrait, a man it has been said, Washington did not get along with, which is now on the one dollar bill.

His devotion to detail, his personal expectation of himself and all others, his tireless efforts and vast experience came together at a time when a nation was to be born.  Upon inspection of all his writings and those of others regarding him during his lifetime, George Washington the man is as George Washington the myth.  At six feet three inches, he towered above most others as an imposing figure, and brought to this nation the documentation and implementation of her very founding and rule.  For the years of formation of this nation, he was the primary leader of all and in effect, was a de facto president for years before election to the office.


The framework established in that time is the very basis of America, as we know it.  Had it not been for George Washington, it is possible that we would be a very different nation, today.


George Washington is a national treasure and the original influence of the liberties, freedoms, laws and systems that are the United States of America.  According to a Newsweek report in recent years, 14 percent of all American preschoolers thought that George Washington was still sitting in the Oval Office.

Copyright 2003 by DS Gands, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED -  D.S. Gands is a freelance writer living in North Texas.  The opinions of this article do not necessarily reflect the perspectives of this publication.  If you would like to see this or other articles by D.S. Gands appear in your favorite publication, ask the editor to contact  regarding available reprint or syndication rights.

[1] Quoted in John C. Fitzpatrick, George Washington Himself (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1933), p. 409.