George Washington - America"s first president

Særoppgave med utgangspunkt i George Washingtons liv og hans betydning i Amerikas historie.
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Growing up

George Washington was born on February 22, 1732. He was born into a Virginia planter family, where he learned the manners, morals, and body of knowledge requisite for an 18th century gentleman coming from Virginia.


His birthplace was Westmoreland County, and at this place he received very little formal education. But this information is only based on what we assume, even though historians have speculated that he attended a school in Fredericksburg, or that he might have been tutored by an indentured servant.


George was a good kid with much love for his family, still he moved out of the house as soon as he could, right after his 16th birthday. At the age of fifteen, Washington got a job as an assistant land surveyor. He liked the job very much, and in 1748, at the age of sixteen, he joined a surveying team which was sent to Shanandoah Valley. Their purpose there was to help survey the land holdings of Lord Fairfax.


George didn’t hesitate, and after only one year in the business, he had established a good reputation as a land surveyor. In 1749, he was so good that he was appointed the official land surveyor of Culpeper County.




George the farmer

George Washington’s father, was as mentioned earlier, a farmer. But he was not like the average farmer. He was very successful, and owned several farms until the day he died in 1743. In his will, he had stated that the Mount Vernon Estate and all of its farms should be given to George’s stepbrother Lawrence Washington. And since it was his father’s dying wish, that’s what happened.


Lawrence did a very good job when it came to these farms, but he wasn’t able to do his job for as long as he would’ve wanted to… Because after only nine years, Lawrence passed away too. His will stated that if his daughter, Sarah, died without having had any children, the whole Mount Vernon Estate would fall into the hands of his stepbrother, George.


Two years later, Sarah died. When this happened, George Washington inherited Mount Vernon Estate due to the fact that Sarah was childless at the time of her death.


George really loved the life out here, and when he was serving his country in the army, he often longed back to this place.


Military duties

On February 1st, 1753, George Washington began his military career. This happened when he was sworn into the Virginia militia. He started out as an adjutant for the colony’s southern parts, but after a while he was sent out to Fort Le Beouf. Fort Le Beouf was a place very close to Lake Erie. One of the first things he did was to send a letter to the French. In this letter he stated that it would be in everybody’s best interest if they would leave America alone… But the French wouldn’t listen. He had shown great judgmental power, and he impressed all of his co-workers. It didn’t take more than four months before he got promoted to lieutenant colonel, a very respectable position in the militia.


After defeating some French soldiers scouting in southern Pennsylvania, they promoted him once more. At this time, he was a colonel and in charge of all military troops in Virginia.


Washington’s next battle was not a very successful one… He led an attack at Fort Necessity in Pennsylvania, but he and his 400 men underestimated their enemies, and had to surrender to the French and Indians.



In October George resigned as colonel. He was fed up with war, and all the gruesome things that came with it. Now he felt it was time for him to settle down and travel back to Mount Vernon. But George was very important to the Virginian militia. Governor Dinwidde begged and pleaded for his return. Washington denied at first, but after heavy persuasion, he decided to regain control. And because of this, George Washington remained colonel for the rest of the war.


After the French and Indian War, Washington again stepped down. Now he did what he had wanted to do earlier, and retired to Mount Vernon as a planter and a legislator. After a little while, George met a very nice woman. They developed a solid relationship, which led to George marrying Martha Dandridge Custis on January 6th, 1759. She was a wealthy widow and mother of two children. The couple had no children together, but he raised those of his wife as his own. During 1759-74, he managed his plantations and sat in the Virginia House of Burgesses.


Work at the congress

By the 1770s, the relationship between Britain and the colonies became strained. George Washington represented Virginia at the First and Second Continental Congresses. When Patrick Henry was asked to name the greatest man in congress, he replied: “If you speak of solid information and sound judgment, Colonel Washington is unquestionably the greatest man on the floor.” In May of 1775, just after Concord and Lexington, Washington showed up to the Second Continental Congress wearing his colonel’s uniform. When he did this, it was not only to look acceptable and honorable, it was a symbolic reason. This act magnified his belief on taking military action against the British. On June 15th, the delegates unanimously elected him as commander and chief of the armed forces. Modestly, he accepted.


The battle

By July 3rd, 1775, he had taken command of the troops at Cambridge. In March of 1776, he received his first victory when the British evacuated Boston. He kept them surrounded for eight months. This evacuation proved the fact that he could beat the British in a major battle. Washington figured out that it would be likely that the British would strike New York next. Washington trusts his instinct and meets them there in force. Unfortunately, he suffered defeat due to lack of supplies, experienced officers, and disciplined troops. Washington’s army was now at a total of about 5,000 men. Many people feared that the war was lost. But Washington made them swallow their doubts, and took away their fear when he launched the attack on Hessian troops at Trenton the day after Christmas, 1776. This victory was followed by a win at Princeton, two weeks later. Washington’s next loss came in September of 1777. But this defeat was different than the one in New York. He knew the outcome of the fight before it even started, and was forced to fight a battle that he knew he would lose. The British navy took over Philadelphia at the battle of Brandywine Creek. The American cause was strengthened in October, when General Gates won at Saratoga in New York. Gates captured Burgoyne and 5,000 British troops. Washington and his men spent that winter at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania.


Good times!

In the spring of 1778, good news arrived. The French decided to send troops, money and a fleet. When the British received the news, they decided to consolidate their position to New York and New Jersey. Between 1778 and 1781 George kept the British army concealed to New York City. During this time he faced numerous disappointments by losing the battles of Brooklyn Heights, Kip’s Bay, Harlem Heights, and White Plains.


In the summer of 1781, Washington was finally rewarded. The French decided to send the main part of their military. They also made a substantial loan to help the Americans. When it became known that Cornwall is had invaded Virginia, Washington and Recomb took their combined armies to Virginiived, they met up Lafayette and troops from the French fleet that had sealed off the Chesapeake Bay. The greatest event of Washington’s military career came on October 19, 1781 when he defeated Cornwall is at Yorktown. Cornwall is surrendered his entire army of more than 7,000 men. The fighting was finally over, although it would still take two years to form a formal peace treaty.


America's first president

Now, Washington had reached his early fifties. After the war he resumed life as a planter, confident that his days of public service were over. But as years passed, Washington became worried… The inability of Congress to solve national problems because of lack of authority under the Articles of Confederation worried him. So, he became a delegate on the Virginia legislature to help mend the Constitution.


Several years followed before the states ratified the constitution. When the Electoral College met in New York City on February 4, 1789, Washington was unanimously elected the first President of the United States of America. They inaugurated him on April 30, 1789, at Federal Hall in New York City, then the capital of the United States. From the day of his inauguration, Washington began setting the traditions that were to be followed by each of his successors. In his inaugural address he appealed somewhat indirectly to Congress to amend the Constitution with a Bill of Rights.


The lack of the bill prevented ratification of the constitution by Rhode Island and North Carolina. The Bill of Rights was eventually added, and it was ratified by all states.


Washington faced four major problems by assuming the role of president. These were: organizing the new government and establishing his cabinet; pulling the nation out of serious financial problems; obtaining a better relationship with Great Britain; and negotiating treaties of friendship with the Indian tribes. Washington successfully achieved solutions to each of these problems during his administration.


Washington’s first concern was to establish and develop the executive departments. He saw the departments as a way he could govern and execute the laws. Washington created two rules at governing the seat of the department heads. The president holds the right to empower executive officers and the power to remove them if necessary. In constructing the new government, Washington and his advisors worked quickly for a great end result. Nearly five months passed before Congress approved the legislation needed to start the five executive departments. Washington chooses two liberals and two conservatives to form his cabinet. General Henry Knox led the war department. Alexander Hamilton was appointed Secretary of the Treasury. Thomas Jefferson was appointed Secretary of State. The office of postmaster general was led by Samuel Osgood. The cabinet was complete when Washington appointed Edmund Randolph as attorney general.



The date today is February 13th. On February 13, 1793, that’s two hundred and twelve years ago, Washington was again elected unanimously to a second term.


His second term was much different than his first, mainly because he felt betrayed when Hamilton and Jefferson resigned from his cabinet. The war in Europe over the new French republic and the Whiskey Rebellion were the toughest problems Washington faced during his second term.


The last year of his administration was relatively quiet and uneventful. On September 19, 1796, Washington decided to announce his final resignation. A lot of people made strong efforts to persuade him to a third term. But Washington believed no president should serve more than two terms in office. Washington once again set off to Mount Vernon to retire. But he did not get the peaceful retirement he planned for. In 1798, war threatened with France. President Adams asked him to accept the title of lieutenant general. Washington accepted, and helped raise the army by choosing the general and officers. Then, in 1798, the French crisis ended. Washington could finally relax to plantation life once again.



Things were going to get bad for George… In the year 1799, more specific, on December 16th, Washington woke up, not feeling very good. His throat was hurting, and it was obvious that this was serious. It didn’t take long to realize that he had a severe throat infection… He tried to fight it off, but though he fought all he could manage, it just wasn’t enough.


By ten p.m. the same day, he was too tired and ill to even try to do something. That’s when he died…


Four days later, he was buried in the family grave-vault at Mount Vernon.


Washington Monument

Of all the Presidents of the United States, George Washington is the most celebrated. Efforts to commemorate his legacy began during his lifetime and continue to this day. Down through the years they have taken on many forms. His leadership and service to the republic have been distinguished through the naming of the federal capital, universities, streets, counties, and a state. In addition to these honors, he had been remembered in works of art, monumental buildings, and historic preservation, involving Americans of all walks of life. But none have captured the imagination of the people world-wide like the Washington Monument.


By 1783 the fame of George Washington, Commanding General and first President of the United States, was assured in the pantheon of statesmen of the world. The Continental Congress recognized Washington's services and his unique role in the founding of the new Republic and, following numerous public and private suggestions to honor him, proposed in 1783 that an equestrian statue be erected "at the place where the residence of Congress shall be established." At the time the future of the infant Nation was as fraught with uncertainty as the location of its permanent seat.


Even since the Washington Monument opened in 1889, it has been a challenge to persons seeking publicity in one form or another. Some have been of a casual type; others, more drastic. There have been suicides who jumped from the windows, prominent baseball stars who caught baseballs dropped from the top of the monument, a woman who dropped to her death in the shaft, and recluses who have hidden all night in the closed monument.


The magician Blackstone wanted to do his famous disappearing act at the top of the monument with his trained horse. He was prevented from doing so by one of the guards.


Five suicides have taken place at the Washington Monument. Two occurred by persons jumping out of the windows on November 20 and 22, 1926, before protective bars were installed across their faces; and three by persons who jumped down the elevator shaft before safety screen was installed across the top. These latter occurred on February 23, 1915, March 9, 1923, and on August 7, 1949. On October 15, 1923, a woman attempting to save her three-year old child who had slipped on the steps plunged through the guard rail to her death at the 270-foot level of the shaft. The child was found bruised and crying at the 400-foot level.


In addition, Washington Masonic National Memorial and the state Washington D.C. is an honor to the father of America.


Father of his country

Alone among the Founders of the United States, George Washington earned the title "Father of his Country" in recognition of his leadership in the cause of American independence. Appointed commander of the Continental Army in 1775, he molded a fighting force that won independence from Great Britain. In 1787 as President of the Constitutional Convention, he helped guide the deliberations to form a government that has lasted now more than 200 years. Two years later he was unanimously elected first President of the United States. Washington defined the Presidency and helped develop the relationships among the three branches of government. He established precedents that successfully launched the new government on its course. Washington remained ever mindful of the ramifications of his decisions and actions, for he was a consummate statesman.






My choice

There are several reasons to why I chose George Washington as my subject in this period. First of all, I wanted to specialize in something that “meant something”, something historical and revolutionizing. And as I knew George Washington was the founder of modern times’ most powerful empire, America, I decided this would be a subject with the qualities I was looking for.


Another reason, is because I knew it’d be easy to find facts about him… That’s always a good thing. Other than that, I’ve heard about the Washington Monument and the state Washington D.C., which just boosted my interest even more.


I don’t think there’s anything else to say about my choice actually…  But I sure am looking forward to “digging in” into the ocean of information regarding American history!



Project evaluation

As usual, the chances of this being a successful period were big, because of the wonderful working method which finally results in a booklet.


I really enjoyed working with this, and I feel I’ve managed to assemble somewhat a pretty good product. Finding information about my subject was not hard at all, mainly because I chose to write about probably the most respected and important man person in American history. He was significant to the founding and the independence of USA.


I feel I’ve learned a lot about what I have worked with. If I were to give a description of the result to this project, it’d have to be this:

The project has made me look deeper into, and understand more regarding American history, while having great fun at the same time. As long as we do booklets, I’m not sure which subjects wouldn’t be fun. I feel I’ve done a good job in combining the person I’ve written about with somewhat a historical event, which I suppose was what I was supposed to do.


The conclusion: Once again a successful period.




Description        -      Beskrivelse

Constitution       -      Grunnlov

Obvious              -      Åpenbart

Resignation       -      Oppsigelse

Retirement         -      Pensjonering

Evacuation         -      Evakuering

Manners             -      Manerer

Judge                 -      Dommer

Independence    -      Uavhengihet

Founder              -      Grunnlegger




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