Contrary to popular belief, George Washington was not the first president of the United States. He is the first historically accepted president, but not the absolute first. There were actually 14 presidents before George Washington, but they were all appointed before the current US constitution. The latter seven of which were appointed under the Articles of Confederation, and each for only a one year term. At the time, most people identified their state and local governments as having priority over the newly formed national government. It is most likely for this reason, that most people have never heard of most of these great men.

Here is a list of the first 14 presidents listed in order by the date they took office:

In addition to this list, I have also have a photocopy of an article from an old newspaper that started with John "Swede" Hanson as the "first" president since the Articles of Confederation did not begin until 1781.

The above information is based on my readings of online texts from historians, and is factual to the best of my knowledge. Comments/Corrections/Documentation welcome!

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.

DataTracer does indeed speak the truth, but I would like to clarify Washingtons' position in the scheme of the US Government structure.

Washington was the first President elected under the statutes of ratified The Constitution of the United States of America. As it was, those elected before Washington where not 'Presidents' in the same manner as he, nor did the United States of America exist under the ratified Constitution when the otheres were in power. Technically they were "presidents", but not "The President" of todays office.

...oh yes, and I simply cannot believe that no-one has mentioned the most important part of all about The Man:

George Washington had Wooden Teeth!

Washington was elected by the unanimous vote of the Electoral College. He was inaugurated on April 30th, 1789 at Federal Hall on the corner of Wall and Broad Streets, New York City. Before leaving Mount Vernon for the ceremonies, he had written a letter expressing doubts about both his suitability fro the position and the sucess of the Republic. But he did believe he possesd certain qualifications for the office, for he wrote, "Integrity and firmness are all I can promise."

Regardless of political affiliation, the Congress and the people had confidence in Washington. They had different ideas of what should be done, but there was no factiontrying to wreck the Reupblic. Those who had ooposed ratification of the Constitution were not working to establish the government. They hadn't changed their minds, even though they accepted the fact that the Constitution was the government. They were willing that changes to make it more to their liking be achieved by peaceful, legal procedures, not by trying to destroy by violence what had been establisehd by fair elections. This sort of political maturity was remarkable. How different from the experience of several new nations created since World War I!

Serving Chicago, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Charlottesville, Washington, D.C. or Newport News and intermediate points

Amtrak train number: 50

Predecessor railroad train numbers: Chesapeake and Ohio 1-21-41 and 2-22-42

The Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad traced its history to the founding of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Company in 1785 by George Washington. To honor its founder, the railroad's flagship train between the East and Midwest was named for him. The C&O's George Washington ran in several sections, originating in both Washington, D.C., and Newport News in the east and running to Louisville, or Cincinnati, where through cars went via New York Central trains to St. Louis as well as Chicago via Indianapolis. (The Chesapeake and Ohio had a route between Cincinnati and Hammond, Indiana via Muncie that was a freight-only line.)

By the time Amtrak's takeover of passenger train service on May 1, 1971, the through cars were gone, as was the section that ran to Louisville. Passengers for Chicago had to connect in Cincinnati to the James Whitcomb Riley through Indianapolis.

On July 12, 1971, the George Washington and the James Whitcomb Riley were combined into one train, with through cars available for service from Boston, carrying the George Washington name eastbound only. Within a couple of years, the George Washington name was dropped.

Condensed historical timetables:

   READ DOWN                             READ UP
(1956)  (1972)                       (1972)  (1956)
 3:15P   ----- Dp Newport News    Ar  2:25P  10:10A
 6:01P   -----   Washington           1:20P   8:10A
 8:30P   -----    Charlottesville    10:25A   5:40A
 9:25A   -----    Cincinnati         11:25P   5:45P
10:45A   -----    Indianapolis        8:45P   2:05P
 2:50P   ----- Ar Chicago         Dp  3:40P   9:50A

The Amtrak Train Names Project

Medical scholars still debate the exact level of negligence and culpability of the three separate doctors, who in the span of just twelve hours, drained the dying George Washington of five pints of blood. Washington was actually suffering from some form of a throat infection, the swelling of which was choking off his air supply, but each doctor believed that Washington needed to shed more blood. Although one younger doctor suggested performing a tracheotomy to ease Washington's breathing, such a new and unusual surgery was actually considered to be more barbaric than bloodletting. We'll never know if Washington's throat infection was enough to kill the man independent of his massive blood loss, but it is safe to say that at the very least, the doctors' reverence for phlebotomy kept them from treating the swelling and infection in a more direct manner

George Washington

Commander in Chief of the Continental Army (American Revolution) and first President (Federalist) of the United States of America

"I walk on untrodden ground. There is scarcely any part of my conduct which may not hereafter be drawn into precedent."

"Integrity and firmness are all I can promise."

Youth and Early Career:

George Washington was born in 1731/32 (Julian/Gregorian Calendars), the eldest child of prosperous Virginian planters Augustine and Mary (Ball) Washington at Wakefield Farm in Westmoreland County. He spent his early years at his family’s estate on Pope’s Creek, and was educated in many subjects, such as classics and ‘rules of civility’, although his talents were in the area of mathematics and surveying. He was a superb horseman, and enjoyed sports and social occasions. When he was 11 years old, in 1743, his father (Augustine) died, and George went to live with Lawrence (his half-brother) at his Mount Vernon plantation at the age of 21, he would inherit his father's farm. Lawrence had married into the influential Virginian Fairfax family, and it was through this connection that George, aged 16, was able to join a surveying group hired to survey the Shenandoah Valley lands of Lord Fairfax. This appointment led to a successful career as a young surveyor, with George involved in the laying out of Belhaven (now Alexandria), then becoming the surveyor of Culpeper County. Between 1751 and 1752, George accompanied Lawrence to Barbados (West Indies) in an attempt to have Lawrence’s tuberculosis cured (and almost died of smallpox himself), but on their return, Lawrence died, resulting in George inheriting the Mount Vernon estate. By 1753, he was adjutant of a Virginian district, and held the rank of major.

Early Military Career:

The year 1753 saw the young Washington play an important role as a military messenger during the struggles preceding the French and Indian War. He delivered an ultimatum that called upon French forces in the Ohio River valley to withdraw, and also gained critical information about the French troops in the area. Having completed this mission, and gaining the rank of lieutenant colonel, Washington led a militia force to protect workers building a fort on the Ohio River. By the time he arrived at the scene, the French had already taken the fort (renamed Duquesne), and so he waited at Fort Necessity for reinforcements. The French forces attacked, and he surrendered, on May 27 1754, consequently leaving the area.

Washington resigned his commission following this defeat, but by May 1755, was an aide-de-camp to Edward Braddock, a British general. Setting out to recapture Fort Duquesne, the force was ambushed by a French/Native Indian alliance at Monongahela River, and the general was killed. Washington escaped death by a narrow margin, but was officially recognised for bravery under fire. It was under General Braddock, too, that Washington began to educate himself in military matters, by copying Braddock's orders into his letterbooks.

By August 1755, Washington was the colonel charged with leading the Virginia regiment in the defense of the western frontier of the colony. It was only in 1756 that war between France and Britain was officially declared, and Washington succeeded in keeping the 350 mile Virginian frontier safe.

Early Involvement in the American Revolution - Policies:

During the 1730s-40s, the price of tobacco rose considerably, and Washington, with his Mount Vernon plantation, became extremely wealthy. He married a young, rich widow, Martha Custis, in 1759, and their combined assets made Washington one of the wealthiest men in Virginia. He assumed parental care of Martha's children Martha 'Patsy' and John Parke 'Jacky'. He was elected to the House of Burgesses in 1758, where he served for 17 years, and was justice of the peace for Fairfax County.

Washington, along with his fellow planters, disliked the actions of the British crown and British Parliament in the 1760s-70s, and in July 1774 presided over a meeting at Alexandria which saw the adoption of the Fairfax Resolves (boycott of British imports), which was followed by a similar action on the part of the First Continental Congress. His administrative roles, along with his position against British colonial policies ensured his election to the First Continental Congress as the Virginian delegate (September/October 1774) and re-election the the Second in 1775.

American Revolution Campaigns:

In 1775, fighting broke out between Massachusetts and the British army, and the response of Congress was to name Washington as the commander of the newly created Continental army. He commanded the force against the British in Boston (mid-July), winning the city by March 1776. He then moved the army to New York, where he was eventually defeated in August by British general William Howe. Following this defeat, Washington removed his forces from Manhattan to establish a line of defense to the north. By December, the army had retreated to the safety of Pennsylvania, having crossed the Hudson and Delaware Rivers, and losing New Jersey. This retreat had its advantages, however, as Washington noticed the places where the British forces were overextended, and used this knowledge to his advantage when on Christmas night the army re-crossed the Delaware to capture Trenton, and early in the new year, Princeton. Morale of the Continental army was boosted with these victories, and 8000 new volunteers were recruited into the army.

In late August, Howe and his army landed at Chesapeake Bay, and advanced towards Philadelphia, beating the Continental army at Brandywine Creek. This defeat was followed by another at Germantown, and the Continental army wintered over at Valley Forge. These defeats were not viewed in a good light by Congress, and Washington fought to retain the position of commander of the troops.

By 1778, the French had entered the American Revolution on the side of the Continental army, and command of the British troops had changed to Sir Henry Clinton, who evacuated Philadelphia, and marched to New York. Washington attempted an attack of the marching troops at Monmouth (New Jersey), but this attack failed, and Washington blamed this failure on the insubordination of General Charles Lee, as there was much rivalry between the two leaders.

For the next two years, Washington and his troops camped around the British in New York City, covering Connecticut and New Jersey. In 1780, this position changed with the arrival of 6000 French troops at Rhode Island under the comte de Rochambeau, however Congress was running out of finance for the Continental army, and Washington knew that if he hadn't won by 1781, the cause would be lost. Although he wanted to attack New York, he heard that the French fleet was attacking at Chesapeake Bay, and wanted land support, and he agreed to take the troops south.

The movement of 7000 troops from New York State to Virginia in under five weeks was no mean feat, and in conjunction to this, Washington sent ahead word to the marquis de Lafayette (commander in Virginia) to hold the British at Yorktown. At the end of September, the two forces merged, and their superior numbers (along with the fact that the French fleet prevented British auxiliary troops arriving by sea) forced Lord Cornwallis and his troops to surrender. The Continental achievement was to be the most significant battle of the American Revolution, and within two years, British recognition of American independence and the ceasing of fighting had occurred. During the end of his command, Washington sent a letter to the states urging them to combine in creating a national government.

Early Political Life:

In 1783, Washington was finally able to return to Mount Vernon. By 1787, though, following an armed revolt in Massachusetts (the Shay's Rebellion), American citizens were wanting a stronger government. Washington responded to these calls by helping to bring about the Constitution Convention of the same year. Arriving as the Virginian delegate, Washington was elected (1788) as the president of the Convention. His mere presence at the Convention was important to the ratification of the Constitution, such was his status.

First Administration:

As the first President of the United States, George Washington had a large task set before him and he knew it, saying:
"I walk on untrodden ground. There is scarcely any part of my conduct which may not hereafter be drawn into precedent."

    Many significant steps in the evolution of the United States of America were made by Washington, including:
  • Creating a cabinet (not envisioned by the Constitution)
  • Being personally separated from Congress (not involved in factions, nor in developing courts)
  • Appointing respected and able figures (such as Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton) to important roles
  • Creating a funded national debt
  • Creating the Bank of the United States
  • Assuming state debts, and controlling taxes
  • Pursuing a policy of cooperation and trade with European countries
  • Choosing a capital on the Potomac River (to be built by 1800)
  • Assisting Congress in adopting a set of amendments (which would become known as the Bill of Rights)
  • During his first administration, Washington also had to deal with a revolt by a group of confederated Indian peoples, led by the Miami 'Little Turtle'.

Second Administration:

1793 saw George Washington be unanimously re-elected as President, with John Adams Vice-President (he would become the next President). During this second term, Washington's administration negotiated a tentative peace with the Indians.

The Jay Treaty, however, was a watershed in the political life of Washington. The controversial treaty was seen as ceding too much to Britain, by some parties. Although ratified by the Senate, the House of Representatives attempted to stop it, causing Washington to speak out against the actions of the House. This cost him his reputation being separate from Congress, and because he knew that he was shaping the moral role of the Presidency, he decided to retire. He prepared and published a farewell address in 1796, which stressed that the USA should avoid foreign alliances until it was firmly established. Another point of the farewell address was that Congress should avoid party enmity - Washington was disappointed by the development of political parties that had emerged in recent years.

Final Years:

In the final months of 1796, Washington attended to government matters in Washington (new federal city proposed in 1790), and left office in 1797, returning to Mount Vernon. His retirement was cut short the following year, as deteriorating international relation with the new French government (post-revolution) forced Washington to accept nominal command of the American armies. Luckily, the impending conflict was averted by the administration of John Adams.

In December 1799, having toured his Mount Vernon estate on horseback during harsh winter conditions, Washington developed a bad throat infection which choked off his air supply. In the span of twelve hours, three different doctors managed to drain Washington of five pints of blood (even though a young doctor suggested performing a tracheotomy, this suggestion was not accepted as the new form of surgery was seen as barbaric), and while it will never be known if the throat infection alone would have caused the death of this great man, the bloodletting certainly accelerated the process.

George Washington died, aged 67, on December 14 1799, and was mourned by the nation for months. In his will, he emancipated his slaves.

Additional Facts:

  1. Thomas Jefferson said of Washington: "{He was} in every sense of the word, a wise, a good and a great man."... Washington is famed for his integrity.
  2. General Lighthorse Harry Lee said: "{He was} first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.
  3. During the Revolution, Continental army soldiers who had not been paid asked Washington to lead them in a revolt, and to crown himself king!
  4. During his Presidency, his influence was so great that he could have given himself a position as a dictator.
  5. And just for fun: George Washington had wooden teeth! In 1795, he had ivory teeth made.

Bibliography:

  • The Library of Congress - www.loc.gov
  • The White House Online - www.whitehouse.gov
  • The Hutchinson Encyclopedia (Helicon - 1996)
  • Microsoft Encarta (Microsoft Corporation - 1995)
  • George Washington by Brian Williams (Cherrytree Books - 1988)
  • The Look-It-Up Book of Presidents by Wyatt Blassingame (Random House - 1990)
  • Presidents by James Barber (Dorling Kindersley - 2000)
  • Presidents and First Ladies of the United States by Doranne Jacobson (Todtri - 1995)
  • The Presidency edited by Michael Nelson (Salamander Books Ltd. - 1996)

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