Washington,George

Washington, George (1732-1799) Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army, First President of the United States: Washington was a planter with only marginal status in the Virginia planter aristocracy. Nevertheless, he volunteered for military service in the Seven Years' War, distinguishing himself in such activities as the Braddock campaign of 1755. He even earned the notice of King George II. Later, Washington became commander of the colony's frontier defenses, a position which prepared him for his role in the Revolutionary War. After 1758, he was the manager of a large plantation, and served as a member of the provincial legislature. As a member of the Continental Congress, he advocated strong resistance against Britain. The Continental Congress appointed him Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army, and his troops bore the brunt of Britain's anti-revolutionary efforts at Boston, New York, and later in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Washington's troops lost battles at Long Island, Brandywine, and Germantown, but they fought well and inflicted heavy casualties on their opponents. By the summer of 1778, after a winter spent in Valley Forge, his army had improved in size and ability, reflected in their strength against the British at Monmouth, New Jersey. The war became a stalemate in the North, so Washington and his troops camped near the British forces in New York, moving to Virginia when the French offered their assistance. Washington's troops besieged the main British Army near the Yorktown peninsula, and the French forces, led by Admiral Fran├žois de Grasse, cut of the British troops' escape route. Lord Cornwallis surrendered on October 19, 1781, and Washington held the army together until he resigned in 1783, following the peace treaty. Washington supported a strong American union, and presided over the Constitutional Convention in 1787, accepting the presidency two years later. He served two terms as president, working to make federalism a successful reality and to keep the new United States out of European wars. Washington was persistent, learning patience after a youth of hot-headedness. He deferred to Congress in all matters, and respected the authority of the state and local governments. He set many lasting precedents for civil-military relations and for the presidency in the United States. After his presidency, Washington retired to his estate, Mount Vernon.

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