College Papers

Our his work and will forever be remembered

Our nation’s first president, George Washington, has, without a doubt, shaped the United States’ government. As a founding father, he essentially created the government and its three branches: legislative, judicial, and executive. He was unprecedented in his work and will forever be remembered fondly for this. Noel Grove, a historian, wrote that Washington “invented traditions as he went along.” This applies to many things from shaping the office of the presidency to being sworn in using a King James Bible.  Everything about his life and career was original. His journey to the presidency was long and helped shape him as a leader.    In 1775 the British colonies in America had begun to fight for their freedom. Washington had just been ordered to lead the Continental Army in Boston. He fought in the war dutifully for over eight years. His experience as a lieutenant colonel in the French and Indian War helped him by providing basic knowledge of warfare. He learned as he served and was able to execute some of the most brilliant operations in the war. The continental army prevailed and the United States of America was born. In 1783, Washington resigned from the military to return to his peaceful home on Mount Vernon. At that point, he had so much power that he could have chosen to become king, but wisely and humbly, he backed out of the public eye. At his home, he watched as the union disintegrated, and he became increasingly frustrated. In 1787, he attended and presided over the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. This event was originally intended to improve the failing Articles of Confederation, but instead the event lasted four months as men from all over the United States wrote the nation’s constitution. These founding fathers then worked tirelessly for months in order to gain the majority vote in favor of ratifying the Constitution. Washington’s popularity and support of the document were critical to the Constitution becoming official. That same year, the first presidential election took place from December 10, 1788 to January 10, 1789. Washington won unanimously with 69 votes. With John Adams as his vice president, he was sworn in on April 30, 1789.As explained in the previous paragraph, Washington set a precedent for all American leaders to come. He expanded the powers of the presidency infinitely because he created the executive branch. During his term he followed the Constitution, which in fact, he played a part in writing. He consistently asked the Senate for advice when necessary. He also ensured that people were not treated differently based on status by only appointing those to office who deserved the job and would succeed at it. He did not choose based off of wealth or friendship with the candidate. His actions lead to the creation of the cabinet because of his tradition of meeting with all of his principal department heads at once. By serving only two terms he created a longstanding tradition still in place today. He modeled a system that allowed the president, not Congress, to appoint ambassadors to foreign locations. Washington was a very humble man and allowed himself to receive advice from others. This created trust and a longstanding tradition of the executive and legislative branch working as a team. Washington had a lot of weight on his shoulders to do the best thing for the country. He understood that he was a representative of the people and not his own belief. He tried to be as fair as possible in all that he did including working with Congress. He tried to never influence them on the fate of a bill and refrained from using his veto power unless a bill potentially contradicted the Constitution, and over the course of eight years, he vetoed only two bills. During the first session of Congress, one major topic was Hamilton’s financial plan. Washington agreed with the plan because he believed it would help the country, but he said nothing as to not bias Congress. Washington acted in the best interest of the American people and worked with Congress to achieve success by acting fairly and without bias. Two of Washington’s most major policy successes include the Jay Treaty and the creation of the first cabinet. The Jay Treaty, or the Treaty of London, was primarily negotiated by John Jay, the first Chief Justice of the United States, while working with George Washington. To the American people the treaty was unpopular and seemingly unnecessary because it lacked a major effect. In reality, it calmed tensions and prevented war with Britain until 1812. At that point America was more prepared to face the crisis. Washington created his cabinet because he believed foreign policy decisions should be reserved to the president, but he also valued the opinion of close advisors. With a cabinet he could gain insight without the assistance of the large body of Congress.Two of his major policy failures include the Whiskey Rebellion and his stand, or lack thereof, on slavery.  In 1791, Washington decided to start paying off Revolution War debts by imposing a seven cent tax on whiskey. This greatly upset the farmers impacted by the tax. They began to violently rebel and protested by tarring and feathering tax collectors and burning down their homes. Additionally, throughout all his time as president Washington never addressed the slavery issue in the United States. He was a slaveholder and actually helped to pass the Fugitive Slave Act in 1793 that prevented people from helping escaped slaves. No president or celebrity can avoid the constant attention surrounding them during their careers leading to both scandals and debates. During Washington’s Presidency, one major controversy surrounding him was his ownership of slaves. Similar to many founding fathers, Washington owned numerous slaves at his home in Mount Vernon. Contrary to some of his peers, like Thomas Jefferson, he received little criticism at that time. As a new nation, America faced few major national security issues after gaining independence. They still had intranational conflicts between parties and groups of people with differing opinions. He was a known opponent of political parties and taught that they only divided a nation rather than straightening it. Washington was aware that America would soon become part of the large web of international affairs faced by every country. In his farewell address, he instructed, “‘Tis our true policy to steer clear of permanent Alliances, with any portion of the foreign world.” He explicitly warned the country to act almost introvertedly to ward off conflict that could be caused by aiding or angering another nation.Washington has been regarded very highly since his presidency. One recent Public Policy Polling Survey stated that 89% of Americans regard Washington favorably. He left a legacy as America’s first president. To many he is the best leader the country has ever seen, predominantly because he had no standard to let down. Numerous examples have already been mentioned of how Washington started tradition simply by acting in a way he thought best. His humility and selflessness are the single best aspects of his legacy.