George Washington and the Building of the Capital City

The decision to create a national capital city and the execution of the plan was an underappreciated legacy of George Washington. By Dr. Robert P. WatsonDistinguished Professor of American HistoryLynn University Against all odds, George Washington and a ragtag band of poorly trained blacksmiths and ill-equipped farmers managed to pull off a most unlikely victory[…]

George Washington Resisted the Siren Call of Absolute Power

Refusing to lead a military coup against the Continental Congress in 1783 put the new nation on track to have civilian leadership under law. Most of us know that George Washington refused a third term as president of the United States. He set a precedent followed by all other presidents except for FDR and it[…]

George Washington in 1786 on the Abolition of Slavery

Of the nine presidents who were slaveholders, only George Washington freed all his own slaves upon his death. Before the Revolution, Washington, like most white Americans, took slavery for granted. At the time of the Revolution, one-fifth of the colonies’ population lived in bondage. Although most slaves were in the South, slavery was a legal[…]

The First Inauguration of George Washington

The executive branch of the United States government officially began operations established by the 1787 Constitution. Introduction The first inauguration of George Washington as the first President of the United States was held on Thursday, April 30, 1789 on the balcony of Federal Hall in New York City, New York. The inauguration was held nearly[…]

The Role of George Washington in Defining Executive Power

His role as chief executive of a new republic demanded a range of skills and talents with few precedents in history. Who Was George Washington? George Washington (1732–1799) was born and grew up in rural Virginia, at a time when it was a royal colony with British traditions of government by aristocracy and an economy[…]

Jefferson and Hamilton, Political Rivals in Washington’s Cabinet

Washington had to deal with the personal nature of the differences between two of his cabinet members – Jefferson and Hamilton. Originally published as “Jefferson and Hamilton, Political Rivals in Washington’s Cabinet”, by Dr. Joanne Freeman, at George Washington’s Mount Vernon, republished for educational, non-commercial purposes. Differences of opinion didn’t concern President Washington. They could[…]

The Presidential Cabinet: An Invention of America’s First President

How George Washington shaped the group of advisors as an institution to meet his own needs. The President’s cabinet, the heads of the executive branch departments, is one of the most constant and durable parts of the United States government. From George Washington to Donald Trump, the chief executive has used the institution to collect[…]

The Whiskey Rebellion of 1794 as a Test of Federal Power and Jurisdiction

The Whiskey Rebellion was the first test of federal authority in the United States. It all started with a tax. What came to be known as the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794, or the Western Insurrection, took place over a period of time beginning in 1791 by most accounts. While some would say the roots go[…]

George Washington and Executive Power

His actions in office set a precedent for a strong executive branch and a strong central government. Introduction This looks at the legacy of George Washington, perhaps the most influential leader in the creation of the American nation. Through his achievements as commander-in-chief during the Revolution, in support of the drafting and ratification of the[…]

American Cincinnatus: The Presidency of George Washington

As the first president of the United States, George Washington set several important precedents for the federal government. Introduction Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus was a Roman patrician, statesman, and military leader of the early Roman Republic who became a legendary figure of Roman virtue—particularly civic virtue—by the time of the Empire. Our first president has often[…]

How to Be Presidential: Lessons from George Washington

George Washington was not born a leader, but he carefully made himself into one. On June 22, 2012, for $9,826,500, the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association purchased George Washington’s personal bound copy of the Constitution with the Bill of Rights and Acts of Congress. The volume dated from 1789, Washington’s first year in office as president[…]

George Washington’s Perilous Christmas Night Crossing of the Delaware

Washington’s crossing of the Delaware on Christmas night 1776 led to victory, but terrible weather led to more casualties than the battle. Introduction For most people today, Christmas is a time of food, family and festivities, when attention turns from work and woes to fellowship and celebration. Yet it has not always been so. In[…]

How Vain, Stubborn, Thin-Skinned George Washington Grew Up

Through the trauma of war, and by learning from his mistakes, the first president gained empathy and gravitas. At 21 years of age, George Washington was a very different man than the one we know and hold sacred, different from the stately commander, the selfless first president, the unblemished father of our country staring off[…]

George Washington’s Deep Self-Doubt

The first president was indispensable to our early republic, precisely because he didn’t see himself as indispensable. By Dr. Robert L. MiddlekauffHotchkis Professor Emeritus of American HistoryUniversity of California, Berkeley Revolutions tend to get hijacked, going from being about the people to being about the triumphant revolutionary leaders. And so the French Revolution begat Napoleon,[…]

Immigration and National Security in George Washington’s Day

Presuming that immigration was a boon to national security, U.S. borders remained mostly open for the first century of the nation’s existence. By Livia Gershon To many Americans today, immigration looks like a safety risk. Some debates over the issue pit idealistic, humanitarian support for more open borders against devotion to national security. But back when[…]

Setting Precedent: The First Senate and President Washington Struggle to Define “Advice and Consent”

Our Constitution and the governmental structure that it created have weathered crises, adapted to change, and stood the test of time. Lecture by Dr. Charlene BickfordResearch Project DirectorGeorge Washington University Introduction My life’s work has been focused upon just two years of congressional history. My colleagues at the First Federal Congress Project and I have[…]

“Columbia’s Noblest Sons”: Washington and Lincoln in Popular Prints

The admiration of these two former presidents has risen to the level of a posthumous apotheosis in artistic representation. By Harold Holzer Historian, Lincoln Scholar “I venture to claim for Abraham Lincoln the place next to George Washington.” So wrote George S. Boutwell, the Civil War congressman from Massachusetts who went on to serve under[…]

Deifying the First President in ‘The Apotheosis of Washington’

The Apotheosis of Washington by Constantino Brumidi, 1865 / United States Capitol rotunda, Wikimedia Commons The Apotheosis of Washington depicts George Washington sitting amongst the heavens in an exalted manner, or in literal terms, ascending and becoming a god (apotheosis). Curated/Reviewed by Matthew A. McIntoshPublic HistorianBrewminate Introduction The Apotheosis of Washington is the fresco painted by Greek-Italian artist Constantino Brumidi in 1865 and visible[…]