George Washington was the first president of the United States, one of the founding fathers of the US and the commander-in-chief of the Continental Army during the American revolutionary war, where the thirteen colonies revolted against the rule of Great Britain. George Washington has left a long-lasting impact on the US that is still felt to this day.
American Revolutionary War
In 1775, Great Britain had established thirteen colonies in the east coast of North America, all in the geographic region of the US today. In 1763 the British defeated the French and successfully drove them out of North America but left them in crippling debt.
They decided to let the colonies bear the brunt and significantly increased taxes. The colonies were outraged by this and in 1775 rebelled against Great Britain, with their main grievance being that they were being taxed without representation.
Washington, who had prior experience in the army, was appointed as the commander-of-chief of the rebel forces called the Continental Army. He suffered a number of heavy losses and close calls during the war, however eventually came out victorious and in many fights showed great courage.
What is most fascinating however is that, after winning the war and having the nation fawning over him, he could have easily seized political power but instead relinquished his power to congress. Upon hearing of Washington’s intention to surrender his power, King George III of Britain proclaimed that ‘‘if he does that, he will be the greatest man in the world’’. This action showed that Washington was a man of principle and did not let power sway him from his values.
George Washington was unanimously elected as president in 1789 and again in 1792. To this day he is the only president to receive the totality of electoral votes. An important domestic issue that faced Washington was the whiskey rebellion in 1791, where many distillers refused to pay the whiskey tax; the first tax levied by the national government on a domestic product.
Washington, after having consulted his advisors, was told that the best course of action would be to repel the rebellion. This was in accordance to what the United States had sought independence for; the right to be taxed with representation and Washington, being a man who always upheld his values, gathered a militia to confront the rebels.
A few months after the military expedition began, Washington traveled to see the progress and, according to historian Joseph Ellis, his would be "the first and only time a sitting American president led troops in the field".
The rebellion collapsed as the rebel leaders fled and those that were captured stood trial, where they were charged and convicted for high treason and sentenced to death. Washington however pardoned the men, in an act of mercy.
After eight years of presidency and having served two terms, Washington again did something astonishing and unheard of from someone in his power of authority; he refused to run for a third term and set the precedent for presidents to serve only two terms. It showed his great character and his unwavering strength in his beliefs.
Washington’s legacy was cemented by this act and his actions made him the great man he is, he did not betray his values and the republic he fought for even when he could seize enormous wealth and power.