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George Washington

first President of the United States

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.

George Washington
Gilbert Stuart Williamstown Portrait of George Washington.jpg
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 (1732-02-22)February 22, 1732
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)
Height 6 ft 2 in (188 cm)
Spouse(s) Martha Custis Washington
Religion Deism
Episcopalian

Contents

Early lifeEdit

Washington's 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 mother was unfit to care for him and his father died when he was 11 years old.

Before the Revolutionary WarEdit

Washington became a farmer like his father. His plantation was called Mount Vernon. He also worked as a surveyor, measuring land. Washington always aspired to be a soldier and was active in the colonial militia of Virginia. He was sent several times to the "forks of the Ohio River" now called Pittsburgh. His job was to get rid of the French who were trying to take control of the Ohio Country. He failed. Many of his men were killed, and the fight was one of the causes of the Seven Years War.

In 1759, Washington married a widow named Martha Custis. The marriage produced no children.

The RevolutionEdit

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. The Second Continental Congress chose him 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 back 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 army and 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.

After the warEdit

When the Revolutionary war ended, Washington was considered a national hero. He was offered a government position that would have been considered a dictatorship over the colonies, but in a surprising move, Washington refused, left the army, and returned to Mount Vernon. He wanted the colonies to have a strong government but did not wish to head that government, nor did he want the colonies to be run by a tyrant.

A few years later, Washington was called upon 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

PresidencyEdit

In 1789, Washington was elected president without any competition, making him the first President of the United States. While Washington did not belong to any political party, he agreed with certain 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, despite his popularity remaining high. His decision set a precedent that every president followed until Franklin D. Roosevelt 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

RetirementEdit

Washington went back home to Mount Vernon after his second term ended in 1797. He died on December 14, 1799, in Mount Vernon, at the age of 67, from pneumonia.

WealthEdit

From his marriage, George Washington owned a substantial amount of farm land, where he grew tobacco, wheat, and vegetables. Washington also owned more than 100 slaves, who were freed upon his death. He did not have much money in cash and had to borrow money while he was president. At his death, Washington's estate was worth over $500,000.[5]

Wooden teethEdit

It is a common misconception that George Washington had wooden teeth.[6] He did, however, try many different ways to replace his teeth, including having teeth carved from elk's teeth or ivory.[7][8] Ivory and bone both have hairline fractures in them, which normally can’t be seen, but started to darken due to Washington's love of wine. The darkened, thin fractures in the bone made the lines look like the grain in a piece of wood.[9] George Washington's teeth started falling out when he was about 22 years old, and he had only one tooth left by the time he became president.[7][8] It was difficult for him to talk and to eat. At one time, he had fake teeth with a special hole so 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 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] The cotton made his mouth puff out, as is seen on the picture on the dollar bill.[8]

ReferencesEdit

  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
  9. "Drilling Holes in George Washington’s Wooden Teeth Myth". http://allthingsliberty.com/2014/11/drilling-holes-in-george-washingtons-wooden-teeth-myth/. Retrieved 2015-03-09.

Books to readEdit

  • 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)
  • Washington's White House biography