This was an essay I wrote for a History assignment pertaining to political precedents made by George Washington
When George Washington became the first president of the United States, he had an example to set for those to follow. Not everything necessary for his ideal presidency was spelled out in the Constitutional Convention; so therefore, he needed to take some issues into his own hands. A few of these things would be respect and organization for the office, the creation of the Cabinet, and leaving the Senate to do what it chose to as much as possible.
Being the first to take such a high position, Washington needed to establish respect and integrity for presidents to come. Obviously, respect wasn’t something that could be written into the Constitution, so Washington took pride in earning it. It was also necessary to break away from the association of executive power with inept monarchs. He acted in the dignified manner that was so common of him, but with a few additions. He was seen riding a white horse with a leopard skin saddlecloth, or in a private coach with six cream-colored horses pulling it. His new home, a New York mansion, was guarded by several levees. Organization was also something important during Washington’s presidency. After the Constitutional Convention rectified the error of not having an executive power, it called for the president to share certain powers with the Senate. This relationship was not clearly defined, so it was up to Washington to do so.
The second necessary thing that was added while Washington was president was the early Cabinet. In the Constitution, no executive departments were created (except for the Treasury). One of the first acts of this period called for the establishment of the Treasury, State and War departments. Thomas Jefferson became Secretary of the State, Alexander Hamilton became Secretary of the Treasury, and Henry Knox became Secretary of War. In addition to these positions, the offices of attorney general and postmaster general were created. At first, these people were not regarded as a collective team. They were thought of merely as assistants to the president, and were trusted to have responsibility to direct matters within their own areas. They were also to make decisions while the president was temporarily absent.
The final major thing that Washington established was a lack of presidential interference in the legislative branch. He only made general suggestions for legislation to the Senate, and refrained from disclosing his views on topics being discussed by Congress at the time. Though he was issued the power to veto, he only used it twice during the course of his presidency. This was because he believed it was his job to administer laws, not to make them. Even though he established the authority and independence of executive action (as allowed in the Constitution), he didn’t take an active part in creating public policy by means of legislation.
In conclusion, when Washington took the office of president, he had his work cut out for him. Being the first in his position, it was his duty to establish things that the Constitution lacked, could not give, or that he felt were right. These, in his opinion, were respect and organization for the office of the president, a Cabinet of assistants working in their specific departments, and minimal interference in the creation of legislature.