While we are contending for our own liberty, we should be very cautious not to violate the rights of conscience in others, ever considering that God alone is the judge of the hearts of men, and to him only in this case they are answerable.
GEORGE WASHINGTON, letter to Benedict Arnold, Sep. 14, 1775
Only once more was the General called from his beloved plantation to serve the country. As war with France appeared imminent in 1798, President Adams appointed Washington as commander-in-chief of a new army, but the crisis passed before it was organized and raised. He had only a short time left to enjoy life at Mount Vernon, and Washington died with the eighteenth century. His end came suddenly on 14 December 1799 and the outpouring of grief over his death was widespread and sincere. By providing in his will for the freedom of his own slaves after Martha's death, the master of Mount Vernon added one final private statement to his long and valuable public career. The nation would have to wrestle with the challenge of slavery, as well as all its other great challenges of the new century, without his guiding hand.
Under Washington's guidance a federal court system was established by the Judiciary Act of Sept. 24, 1789. The Constitution provided for its basic features. Because the president is the chief enforcer of federal laws, it is his duty to prosecute cases before the federal courts. In this work his agent is the attorney general. To guard against domination of judges, even by the president, the Constitution endowed them with tenure during good behavior.
The Judiciary Act of 1789 was so well designed that its most essential features have survived. It provided for 13 judicial districts, each with a district court of federal judges. The districts were grouped into three circuits in which circuit courts were to hear appeals from district courts. The act also created a supreme court consisting of a chief justice and five associate justices to serve as the final arbiter in judicial matters, excepting cases of impeachment. Washington's selection of John Jay as the first chief justice was probably the best choice possible for the work of establishing the federal judiciary on a sound and enduring basis.
The scholarship on George Washington argues predominantly that he shunned political thought. Three conflicting generalizations emerge from a review of the Washington literature: (1) he did not engage in political thought; (2) although he taught political principles, they were entirely modern republicanism; (3) his principles were entirely ancient republicanism.
During his first term in office, Washington joined the states together and helped establish the federal government. He did not interfere with the policy-making powers that he felt the Constitution gave Congress. He believed that foreign policy was a main concern for the young nation.
Following the war, Washington quelled a potentially disastrous bid by some of his officers to declare him king. He then returned to Mount Vernon and the genteel life of a tobacco planter, only to be called out of retirement to preside at the Constitutional Convention in 1787. His great stature gave credibility to the call for a new government and insured his election as the first President of the United States. Keenly aware that his conduct as President would set precedents for the future of the office, he carefully weighed every step he took. He appointed Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton to his cabinet. Almost immediately, these two men began to quarrel over a wide array of issues, but Washington valued them for the balance they lent his cabinet. Literally the "Father of the Nation," Washington almost single-handedly created a new government—shaping its institutions, offices, and political practices.
Little in Washington’s early life gave a hint of the great achievements to come. Born into the plantation elite of Virginia, he received a limited education. When he was eleven, Washington’s father died, and his half-brother Lawrence took him under his wing...Experts hold widely differing views of Washington’s abilities as a general. Most would agree, though, that he performed a vital service merely by keeping a fighting force in the field through the difficult early years of the war. His greatest strokes as a commander were the surprise attacks on the garrisons at Trenton (December 26, 1776) and Princeton (January 3, 1777). These victories restored patriot morale in one of the war’s darkest periods.
George Washington was chosen to be the leader of the American army against the French because he knew the woods so well. In Europe, this was called "The Seven Years War," but the Americans called it "The French and Indian War." The English won the war. After Washington left the army, he got married to Martha Danridge Custis in 1759.
Everything was good for a little while until the English wanted the Americans to pay for the war with France. The Americans refused.
George Washington was by instinct and conscience a humanitarian. A limitless tenderness characterized him in his contacts with his officers and men, with the slaves on his plantation, and the beasts of burden that were his property. The United States George Washington Bicentennial Commission, which is now rushing to completion its comprehensive plans for the globegirdling observance in 1932 of the two hundredth birthday anniversary of the republics first President, has repeatedly called attention to the hero's astonishing manysidedness.
Born February 22, 1732, in Westmoreland County, Va., George Washington was the first son of his father Augustine's second marriage; his mother was the former Mary Ball of Epping Forest. When George was about three, his family moved to Little Hunting Creek on the Potomac, then to Ferry Farm opposite Fredericksburg on the Rappahannock River in King George County.
Washington’s father died in 1743, and young George grew restive under his mother's management. He proposed at one point to follow the sea, but instead divided his adolescence among the households of relatives, finding a home and a model in his half-brother Lawrence at Mount Vernon.