Who: George Washington
What: 1st President of the United States (1789-1797), commander-in-chief of the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War, and Founding Father of the United States
Where: Born Westmoreland County, Virginia; died Mount Vernon, Virginia.
Why: First and only President to be elected unanimously (twice), first and only sitting President to command a standing field army during the Whiskey Rebellion
When: Born February 22, 1732; died December 14, 1799 (age 67)
“Liberty, when it begins to take root, is a plant of rapid growth” – George Washington
Born into a wealthy family in Virginia, George Washington had always wanted to be a soldier. Appointed a major in the provincial militia in 1753, he fought in the French and Indian War, yearning for but not receiving a commission in the British Army. He married Martha Custis in 1759. He was a delegate to the First Continental Congress. After the Battles of Lexington and Concord and the breakout of the American Revolutionary War, Washington attended the Second Continental Congress in military uniform, and was appointed commander-in-chief of the newly created Continental Army. He did not win many of his battles, but did not let the British destroy his army either, and eventually forced the British surrender at Yorktown with the help of the French navy.
Unanimously elected President by the Electoral College, Washington was acutely aware that everything he did set a precedent, and took great pains to avoid any notion of monarchy. He chose the title ‘Mr President’, established the cabinet form of government, a standing army and a national bank. His farewell address warned against foreign intervention, a policy that would stand for a century, and political division. He declined a third term, setting another precedent for the unwritten rule of a two-term limit, and died two years after his retirement at his home in Mount Vernon of an infection. Washington is immortalised as the ‘father of his country’, with his birthday a federal holiday and many monuments and memorials dedicated to him all over the United States.
Facts about George Washington
He was the first Freemason President, first Virginian and added ‘So help me God’ to the Oath of Office.
His teeth were not, as so often quoted, made of wood. While he only had one natural tooth by the time he became President, his dentures were made of real human teeth, hippopotamus and elephant ivory, which became stained, particularly by his penchant for wine.
He grew large quantities of cannabis at his plantation in Mount Vernon
His marriage to Martha Washington was childless, though Martha had two children from a previous marriage
He never did chop down a cherry tree, but apparently the story fit his character
He built his plantation, Mount Vernon, himself
He owned a dog named Sweet Lips
Acutely aware of the tyranny that he had helped free the colonies from, he was a very reluctant president
He inherited his first slaves aged just 11
In 2012, he was named Britain’s greatest ever foe, ahead of Napoleon, Erwin Rommel, Mustafa Atatürk and Michael Collins