10 Key Facts About George Washington

Washington Set Many Federal Precedents

George Washington was a key figure in the founding of America. As the first president, he served as president from April 30, 1789-March 3, 1797. Following are ten key facts that you should know about this fascinating man.

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Started Out as a Surveyor

George Washington on Horseback. Getty Images

Washington did not attend college. However, because he had an affinity for math, he started his career as a surveyor for Culpepper County, Virginia at the age of 17. He spent three years at this job before joining the British military.

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Saw Military Action in the French and Indian War

During the French and Indian War (1754-1763), Washington became aide-de-camp to General Edward Braddock. Braddock was killed during the war, and Washington was recognized for keeping calm and holding the unit together.

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Was Commander of the Continental Army

Washington was the Commander in Chief of the Continental Army during the American Revolution. While he had military experience as part of the British army, he had never led a large army in the field. He led a group of soldiers against a far superior army to victory resulting in independence. In addition he showed great foresight in inoculating his soldiers against smallpox. Although a president's military service is not a requirement for the job, Washington set a standard.  

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Was President of the Constitutional Convention

The Constitutional Convention met in 1787 to deal with the weaknesses that had become apparent in the Articles of Confederation. Washington was named president of the Convention and presided over the writing of the US Constitution.

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Was the Only Unanimously Elected President

George Washington has been the only president in the history of the American presidency to be unanimously elected to the office. In fact, he also received all the electoral votes when he ran for his second term in office. James Monroe was the only other president who came close, with only one electoral vote against him in 1820.

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Asserted Federal Authority During the Whiskey Rebellion

In 1794, Washington met his first real challenge to federal authority head on with the Whiskey Rebellion. This occurred when Pennsylvania farmers refused pay taxes on whiskey and other goods. Washington was able to stop to the conflict when he sent in federal troops to put down the rebellion and ensure compliance.

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Was a Proponent of Neutrality

President Washington was a huge proponent of neutrality in foreign affairs. In 1793, he declared through the Proclamation of Neutrality that the US would be impartial towards powers currently at war with each other. Further, when Washington retired in 1796, he presented a Farewell Address in which he warned against getting the United States involved in foreign entanglements. There were some who disagreed with Washington's stance, as they felt that America should owe loyalty to France for their aid during the Revolution. However, Washington's warning became part of the American foreign policy and political landscape.

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Set Many Presidential Precedents

Washington himself realized that he would be setting many precedents. In fact, he even stated that "I walk on untrodden ground. There is scarcely any part of my conduct which may not hereafter be drawn into precedent." Some of Washington's major precedents include the appointment of cabinet secretaries without approval from Congress and retirement from the presidency after only two terms in office. Only Franklin D. Roosevelt served more than two terms before the passage of the 22nd amendment to the Constitution.

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Fathered No Children Though Had Two Stepchildren

George Washington married Martha Dandridge Custis. She was a widow who had two children from her previous marriage. Washington raised these two, John Parke and Martha Parke, as his own. George and Martha never had children together.

Washington called Mount Vernon home from the age of 16 when he lived there with his brother Lawrence. He was later able to purchase the home from his brother's widow. He loved his home and spent as much time as possible there over the years before retiring to the land. At one time, one of the largest whiskey distilleries was located at Mount Vernon.