American history saw a lot of truly inspirational people who not only influenced the lives of American citizens but also changed the way we think about fundamental political values. George Washington is the perfect example of the person whose contribution to the history of America is hard to overestimate, as scholars note that “Washington was critical for “making” America” (Fagal 552). The purpose of this paper is to discuss the life of George Washington, his political views, and the way his work affected society.
George Washington was born to father, Augustine Washington and his second wife, Mary Washington, and was one of seven children from his father’s two marriages. When George was 11 years old, his father died, and he was brought up in Virginia by Lawrence Washington, his half-brother. As researchers note, unlike his elder brothers, George Washington did not receive any formal education (Little 9). However, he was a well-rounded person, being able to write by early adulthood while also studying mathematics, surveying, and map-making. Lawrence Washington encouraged George to join the British navy, but George’s mother did not allow him to do so. Instead, George Washington became a land surveyor, which was considered a respectable profession at that time.
Washington’s surveying career provided him with a useful experience as he developed wilderness survival skills, learned self-dependence, studied the frontier region, as well as he established a good reputation. Besides, he received considerable fees for surveying, which allowed him to buy land in the Shenandoah Valley. Moreover, his job as a survey man helped George in his pursuit of success in his military career, teaching him some vital skills a soldier needs on the battlefield. His role in the French and Indian War was significant, as he was a commander of the Virginia Regiment, raised to oppose the French in the Ohio Valley. Furthermore, Washington served to British General Edward Braddock, who led an expedition to dislodge the French from Fort Duquesne. Washington learned much from Braddock while also earning a military reputation for courage and efficient administrating.
On January 6, 1759, Washington married Martha Dandridge Custis, and the marriage made him one of the wealthiest men of Virginia, which significantly increased his social status (Little 45). Considering that he was also a prominent military hero, Washington had enough achievements to be elected to the Virginia provincial legislature. Washington soon was considered as a member of the political elite in Virginia, which allowed him to become one of the central figures of the American Revolution. He was one of the delegates of the Continental Congress, during which the delegates discussed the ways to respond to the British government’s enforcement power. Soon, Washington acknowledged that attempts to overcome controversies are pointless and offered the services of a military commander.
In 1775, George Washington was selected to be the first commander in chief of the Continental Army. From 1775 to 1778, Washington was in the middle of the action. He successfully directed his army during the Siege of Boston, but he failed his next battle as he lost the city of New York. However, he managed to take his revenge as he won decisive victories at Trenton and Princeton at the end of 1776. From 1778 to 1780, Washington was focused on more diplomatic activities. Washington somehow was able to complete the enormous task as the army had constant problems with training and supply. He increased the combat capability and the level of discipline among soldiers, which helped significantly in winning battles. The army was dismissed after peace in 1783, and Washington resigned as commander-in-chief.
The next chapter of Washington’s life began when he became the first President of the United States under the new federal Constitution (Weems 7). There was no doubt that George Washington would win that election as he gained substantial support after being a successful commander-in-chief during the American Revolutionary War. His election was unanimous after all 69 electors voted for Washington, and he was inaugurated in New York City in April 1789.
One of the main goals of Washington’s political course was to continue democratic changes in the country and foster respect for the Constitution among people. He visioned the country as a democratic one; therefore, he made political changes that are consistent with democratic values. Washington improved the functioning of the three branches of government, which are the executive, the legislature, and the judiciary. He also addressed the issue of amending the Constitution, supporting the ratification of the United States Bill of Rights. As for the international policy, George Washington wanted it “to be shaped by interest-driven, flexible neutrality—an approach not to be motivated by love or hatred for any other nation” (Estes 750). Such an attitude towards other nations further consolidates the fact that Washington was the man of true democratic values.
George Washington did everything he could to develop the civil consciousness of American people, as well as a sense of unity. By expressing respect for the Constitution, he promoted the development of democratic ideas among Americans. Another thing worth mentioning is that it was Washington who made November 26 to be the day of Thanksgiving, encouraging national unity. Washington’s vision was summarized in his final presidential letter, The Farewell Address. Washington emphasized that national identity was fundamental for safeguarding freedom and prosperity. He also motivated American people for the future progress of the country by stating that all his achievements during his presidency were due to Americans’ efforts to help the country develop.
George Washington made many contributions to American society. Among the most important ones, he provided firm leadership by his committed work at a crucial period of American history. He became the first President of the United States and also set a precedent, according to which there should be a maximum of two terms for one person. In this regard, Weems states, “Washington would never seek power as an end in itself, nor would he abuse power delegated to him” (10). Besides, George Washington was one of the authors of the Constitution of the United States, fostering respect to it after becoming a President. Another contribution that one should keep in mind is that he was the one to lead the American nation to the independency, while also cultivating democratic values.
All things considered, George Washington played a key role in the history of American society. During his life, he showed his devotion to the development of the country, and his work influenced American society in many different ways. Regarding this, he guided the country to independence, and afterward, as the first President, he was leading it during the hard times of instability, providing a solid base for future development. The most important thing to mention is that, with his democratic vision, Washington cultivated the right values among American people.
Estes, Todd. “Addressing America: George Washington’s Farewell and the Making of National Culture, Politics, and Diplomacy, 1796–1852.” Journal of American History, vol. 103, no. 3, 2016, pp. 750–751.
Fagal, Andrew JB. “George Washington and the Making of America.” Reviews in American History, vol. 44, no. 4, 2016, pp. 551-560.
Little, Shelby. George Washington. Pickle Partners Publishing, 2018.
Weems, Mason L. The Life of Washington. Routledge, 2015.