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George Washington: American Hero


Part 3: A Long List of Firsts

Here is a list of Washington's firsts:

  • Chief Justice: John Jay
  • Secretary of the Treasury: Alexander Hamilton
  • Secretary of State: Thomas Jefferson
  • Secretary of War: Henry Knox, Washington's chief of artillery during the Revolutionary War
  • Attorney General: Edmund Randolph, Constitutional Convention member and longtime friend
  • Cabinet Meeting: The term was coined by James Madison to describe the meeting together of Washington's federal advisers. Before 1793, the group submitted separate, written opinions to Washington on important matters of the day.
  • Bill Signed: Congress had passed a tax on imports; Washington signed it without comment.
  • Veto: Congress had passed a bill to increase House members from 67 to 120. Washington thought the bill unfairly gave power to large-population states.
  • National Bank: At Hamilton's urging, Washington signed the bill incorporating the First Bank of the United States.
  • Use of Federal Power to Enforce Federal Laws in the States: In 1794, farmers in four counties in western Pennsylvania refused to pay federal taxes on the whiskey they made. They procured guns and attacked federal officials. Washington sent 15,000 troops to quell the Whiskey Rebellion, and the farmers paid their taxes.
  • Treaty: The Jay Treaty, by which the British agreed to give up frontier forts and the U.S. agreed to restricted trade in the West Indies.
  • Cabinet Scandal: In 1795, Edmund Randolph, then Secretary of State, was accused of spying for France. He protested innocence and resigned. Evidence was scarce, so he was not prosecuted.
  • National Census: In 1790, 17 marshals and 200 assistants counted 3,929,914 people living in the United States. It took them 18 months.
  • Farewell Address (which he did not speak but merely allowed to be published): Among other things, Washington warned of the damaging potential of both political parties and foreign alliances

After he retired, George Washington enjoyed his quiet life away from government, returning occasionally to the District of Columbia, site of the new national capital, to oversee some part of development. He also accepted one last military position--Commander in Chief again in 1798, when war with France was feared. His last letter, urging the establishment of a national military academy, was to Alexander Hamilton.

First page > Humble Beginnings > Page 1, 2, 3

Graphics courtesy of ArtToday


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