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THE FIRST PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES

THE FIRST PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES

George Washington after Gilbert Stuart's Lansdowne portrait ca 1800

 A circa 1800 copy of a Gilbert Stuart portrait of George Washington is on exhibit at the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown.  The original was commissioned as a present to the Marquis of Lansdowne, who as British prime minister helped negotiate peace with America at the end of the Revolution.  This copy, executed soon after the original Lansdowne portrait, is in the collection of the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation.

As an ambitious and earnest young man, George Washington approached all of his endeavors with the energy, thoroughness and determination he was to exhibit throughout his life.  Washington worked very hard to mold himself into a model Virginia gentleman, and as a young man he developed a keen sense of honor and duty.  Although he was not one of the leading spokesmen who advocated American independence during the crisis years of the 1760s, it is clear that by 1775 he had developed his own vision of republican liberty.

The decision of the Continental Congress to name Washington as commander-in-chief of the army was largely based on political considerations and to ensure intercolonial unity.  Nevertheless, Washington turned out to be an exceptional leader of men, with a well-defined vision of what the American army should become.

Washington may not have been a brilliant strategist, but he understood the importance of mobility and timely offensive action.  He was a bold, tenacious commander but was careful not to risk the total destruction of his army.  Washington learned from his mistakes, and he won the respect and loyalty of his men.

Washington looked forward to retirement as a farmer when peace arrived, but his sense of duty and unwavering vision of a free, strong, self-sufficient America led him to leave Mount Vernon and once again provide leadership for his country.  His moderating influence as head of the Constitutional Convention, his efforts to ensure the Constitution’s ratification by the states, and his willingness to serve as the first president of the new federal government were all critical to  the preservation and success of the American republic.


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