Monday, August 9, 2010

George Washington

Here’s my first big series. I’m going to give an overview of our presidents, listing their main achievements, what they messed up on, and I give them my personal grade. Be sure to check back every couple days for a few more presidents. Hopefully you learn something you never knew about our nation’s past leaders.

Political Party: None

Term: 1789-1797

Nickname: Father of Our Country

Short Bio: Washington had been enjoying his retirement from national service, when he was asked to preside over the Constitutional Convention. He agreed, and that set him on track to become the President. The framers of the Constitution had made a strong government with Washington in mind actually, and he was the only choice anyone had ever had for the first President of the United States. To this day he is the only president to win unanimously. John Adams was chosen as his Vice-President. Washington realized early on that he was going to be setting many precedents for the presidents. Since Washington lacked much in the way of education, he had James Madison write his inaugural address. Washington was offered $25,000 a year for being president, but like when he was leading the Continental Army, he declined, saying that he would like his work expenses covered only since he was rich already. Congress eventually got him to take the money, since they didn't want this to be something that was perceived as precedents, which would take any poorer man out of the Presidential race.

Washington started the tradition of meeting regularly with his cabinent members, which has been done by every president since. An instance of precedents that was very harmful to America was Washington's unwillingness to visit Congress in person. He had terrible experiences when he did go and try and speak to everyone, so he never did it again. This set a trend for further presidents and caused a larger rift between the Legislative and Executive Branch. Washington helped build the new nation, while dealing with domestic issues including the creation of political parties. Washington was against the creation of political parties and was disdained to find that his secretary of state Thomas Jefferson and secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton had created the Democratic-Republicans and the Federalist, respectively. His cabinet became an all out war against Hamilton and Jefferson. Washington himself leaned more towards the Federalists side, which angered Jefferson, who felt the President relied too much on the advice of Hamilton. This large rift between all of this cabinet members ultimately led to it's demise, as Jefferson, Madison, Hamilton and many more would leave and have their seats filled with inadequate men. Hamilton was the last to go, but served with Washington during the Whiskey Rebellion. The rebellion was a controversial issue for the new nation, mostly on how to deal with it. After the rebellious were told that they would be put down with force if they didn't go back home, they still stayed, and Washington decided that this was a dangerous situation that needed to be put down. Washington and Hamilton led the standing army, though Hamilton led the men, and Washington hung out in back giving orders. This marks the only time in history that a Commander in Chief took part in any part of the military while president. Washington took a lot of heat for this from the Democratic-Republicans, as they felt that this was the government abusing its power.

Washington, though greatly loved in America, was not without detractors. Many Democratic-Republicans thought he was too much like a king, as did a few members of the press at the time, some who routinely wrote of how Washington was trying to be King of America for life. Washington heard these attacks, and though he had a tough exterior, he was internally tortured by them. Washington decided that he had enough and just wanted to go back to Mount Vernon. He knew he could of been reelected till he was too old to serve, but instead wanted to live out the rest of his days in peace. He had to get away from all the politics. Thus, Washington set the precedent of only serving two terms. This would go on until FDR, who was elected to four, though he was criticized for it, as his detractors found it to be a slight against Washington. Though it wasn't expected, Washington had a farewell address prepared, this time by Hamilton. This was the last piece of precedence that Washington set, as all presidents afterward would give one. Though during his two terms his cabinet and many others were torn between the two new parties, Washington endorsed and for the most part had a united America. He had claimed neutrality in the fight between Britain and France and was determined to instead build his nation up. He showed that he was able to tackle tough domestic issues like a rebellion, and able to keep a bunch of colonies together.

Grade: A: For his role in creating our nation and keeping the new nation afloat in the early years.

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