George Washington (February 22, 1732– December 14, 1799) was the first President of the United States, (1789–1797), after leading the Continental Army to victory over the Kingdom of Great Britain in the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783).
Washington was chosen to be the commander-in-chief of the American revolutionary forces in 1775. The following year, he forced the British out of Boston, but was defeated when he lost New York City later that year. He revived the patriot cause, however, by crossing the Delaware River in New Jersey and defeating the surprised enemy units. As a result of his strategy, Revolutionary forces captured the two main British combat armies — Saratoga and Yorktown. Negotiating with Congress, the colonial states, and French allies, he held together a tenuous army and a fragile nation amid the threats of disintegration and failure. Following the end of the war in 1783, Washington retired to his plantation on Mount Vernon.
Alarmed in the late 1780s at the many weaknesses of the new nation under the Articles of Confederation, he presided over the Philadelphia Convention that drafted the United States Constitution in 1787. Washington became President of the United States in 1789 and established many of the customs and usages of the new government’s executive department. He sought to create a great nation capable of surviving in a world torn asunder by war between Britain and France. His Proclamation of Neutrality of 1793 provided a basis for avoiding any involvement in foreign conflicts. He supported plans to build a strong central government by funding the national debt, implementing an effective tax system, and creating a national bank. Washington avoided the temptation of war and began a decade of peace with Britain via the Jay Treaty in 1795; he used his prestige to get it ratified over intense opposition from the Jeffersonians. Although never officially joining the Federalist Party, he supported its programs and was its inspirational leader. Washington’s farewell address was a primer on republican virtue and a stern warning against involvement in foreign wars.
Washington is seen as a symbol of the United States and republicanism in practice. His devotion to civic virtue made him an exemplary figure among early American politicians. Washington died in 1799, and in his funeral oration, Henry Lee said that of all Americans, he was “first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.” Washington has been consistently ranked by scholars as one of the greatest U.S. Presidents.
George Washington is a founding father of the Presidents Day Society.