George Washington is remembered in history not only as the first President of the USA but also as a great leader and a very capable military commander. The current paper is intended to present an overview of the glorious life of George Washington, the first President of the United States of America, and “the father of the nation”. The paper will summarize the life of George Washington and try to analyze him as a leader, a President and a military commander and also try to reveal if there was any liability or flaw in the character of George Washington in any of the roles he played. He led the continental army to victory against the Kingdom of Great Britain in the American Revolutionary War between 1775 and 1783. His initial military experiences were not very satisfying though he improved his positions later on and ended up defeating the then greatest world power in the American Revolution as the commander of continental army. George Washington was elected the first President of the United States of America in 1789. He was proved to be an able administrator during his presidential tenure and took a number of decisions in both domestic and foreign affairs crucial for the wellbeing of the country. He preferred peace to war in his tenure. He was the proponent of many customs which later turned into laws, e.g., the policy of maximum two terms for a President which became law by the 22nd amendment of the constitution. One of his officers, Henry Lee gave word to the public opinion stating him to be “First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.” His military expeditions and the presidential capabilities truly established him as a leader against all adversities. He possessed the characteristics, which drove the nation towards unity and peace making him a legendary leader. In the light of his capabilities as a military commander, as a statesman and as a true leader it can be said that Washington was the best choice for the first president of the new nation.
George Washington was born to Augustine Washington and Mary Ball Washington on 22 February 1932in Virginia. He was educated at home and in his early life he worked as a surveyor. He was appointed as Major in Virginia militia in 1752 at the age of 20. His message of ultimatum from the British side to the French in 1753 after the assessment of military strength and intentions of the French led to the worldwide conflict of the two colonial powers of that time. His appointment as lieutenant colonel in 1754 made him lead the expeditions against the French troops. His initial military expeditions ended in disasters but he learnt lessons from his failure and was able to secure his position as colonel to command Virginia forces and later as brigadier general in the Forbes expedition to evacuate French forces from Fort Duquesne. After resigning from the military services he married Martha Washington and spent his life as a Virginia planter and politician until he took the leadership in Virginia to boycott the imported English goods to repeal Townshend Act. Washington was selected as a delegate to the First Continental Congress in 1774 and was appointed as Commander-in-chief to the Continental Army in 1775. George Washington led the victory of the Continental Army against the then world superpower of the Kingdom of Great Britain in the American Revolutionary War between 1775 and 1783.
George Washington was elected the president of the Constitutional Congress in 1787 and later the First President of the newly formed United States unanimously in 1789. He proved to be the most capable administrator of his time. He took several important decisions to shape the infant nation. As the First President he specified the Federal judiciary system, the national banking system, post offices, stock exchange and so on. He preferred peace to war in his foreign policy but did not sacrifice the strength of his government in suppressing rebellion as seen in 1794 demonstration of Federal troops. He served two successive presidential terms and retired starting the policy of maximum two terms for a President. After retirement he returned to farming. He served as the Lieutenant General and Commander-in-chief of all armies between 1798 and 1799. He died in December 1799 at the age of 67.
George Washington as the Military Commander:
George Washington was a capable military commander leading the victory in American Revolution. But in his military career he also showed some flaws and inabilities. Washington achieved unique success as the Commander-in-chief of the Continental Army in the American Revolutionary war between 1775 and 1783. He was much more than the Commander-in-chief for the army. He was such an indispensable person whose determination and strengthened the backbone of the Revolution and kept it from collapsing or merging into a civil conflict. The war surely encountered a number of hardships and unexpected privations during the span of eight years but under the leadership and military capabilities of Washington it resulted in success. His faith in the cause and his devotion to the ideals it embodied made him the symbol of America — the spirit of the Revolution.
He was surrounded by military environment since a very tender age. Under his brother’s influence and direction he was trained in fencing, also probably in the manual of arms. He assumed service and responsibility in the Virginia militia and participated in various battles against the French troops. But these earlier military expeditions he participated in mostly ended in disaster. He found serious flaws in the British military system of training. The Monongahela expedition led by British General Edward Braddock in 1755 deserves special mention in this respect. The expedition pointed out towards significant gaps in military training of British soldiers. The battle showed that the training of the British soldiers was not sufficient to deal with the situations found in unfamiliar environmental conditions. The expedition ended in disaster with the death of General Braddock and Washington was severely criticized by some later year historians for his role in the battle, though his attempt to save the remnants of his army received praise. Not only the flaws in the military training received and its application, Washington also had some characteristic problems, which hindered his success as a military leader in his initial attempts. As a young military commander he had limited experience in warfare. He did not have formal training and had to learn the art of warfare on job. His inexperience often transformed the application of his plans and strategies into failure despite of them being quite valuable in nature. His over aggressiveness and ambition to achieve victory in a hurry made him underestimate the opponent. He was rash and careless in making defensive arrangements, which placed his army in great risk many a times. His weaknesses as a tactician posed serious trouble for his troops in various battles of his initial years including the battle of Fort Necessity. Another serious problem in his character was his extremely short temper. He lost his cool at the smallest of temptations and took reckless decisions under the influence of his temper.
Despite all these problems in his character or training as a soldier he developed himself to become one of the greatest military commanders of all time in America. He was the one whose command brought about the victory of the Continental Army in the American Revolutionary war against the British super power. The characteristic trait of a leader, which deserved most praise for this transformation, is the will power which Washington possessed a lot. Instead of becoming weak or timid following his repeated defeat and disaster in the battles he kept on learning from all his past experiences and mistakes and used them in perfect balance in his later war expeditions. His experiences of the French and Indian War gave him additional knowledge of border warfare, invaluable experience in training, disciplining, and controlling his men far from their base of supplies, meeting every emergency and through resourcefulness and initiative creating out of every emergency opportunity to turn to the advantage of his forces. Following his praiseworthy action of saving many soldiers of British and Virginian forces in the battle of Monongahela he was promoted to become the commander of all Virginia forces. He was the inevitable choice by the Second Continental Congress to lead the Continental Army in the American Revolutionary war keeping in mind his military experience in early years and most importantly his political stature achieved between 1758 and 1775. His appointment helped to receive the support of the Middle and Southern colonies for the revolution, which until then was mostly New England-based. Though he was appointed as the Commander-in-chief partly due to his political stature, the responsibility entrusted up on him by the country made him anxious as well as gave rise to a host of impressive strengths in him which were hidden inside and nurtured by him since his early military days. His leadership qualities of motivating and inspiring his forces made his job much easier to control the ill-supplied troops to fight not only for their commander but for the success of their own dream of an independent nation. His creation of trained, disciplined and professional military forces was his greatest achievement in history and it served as the key behind his success in the Revolutionary war. His foresightedness and previous knowledge of British military training bestowed him with success in several episodes in the war including the encounter in New York in 1776. The Continental forces almost lost the battle here due to his tactical failure but it was he who saved him with the help of his knowledge and experience. Despite of the lack of proper support from the Congress or the French troops, the ambition and determination of George Washington kept the morale of his troop strong in the long term of the war. He had the capability to manage the entire warfare single handedly as the commander, chief engineer, chief of intelligence, soldier, judge, statesman, quartermaster, commissary head and even sanitary head. He was considered stern, cold, and remote, commanding the respect of the rank and file and the public by the forcefulness of his personality and his high character but he surely had the sympathetic character, which helped him secure the trust of his army. His determination never accepted defeat and enabled him continue the resistance year after year, keeping the revolution alive during its darkest days. Thus despite his flaws and failures in his military career, there is no denying of the fact he brought about the victory in the Revolutionary war and without his presence the existence of the United States might have been in serious doubt.
President George Washington: The Administrator:
Following the victory in the American Revolutionary War, Washington retired from military services and returned to Mount Vernon but was persuaded to attend the Constitutional Convention in 1787 and was unanimously elected to be the president of the Convention that wrote the constitution of the country. After the Convention and ratification of the new Constitution by thirteen states he was elected to be the First president of the newly formed nation once again unanimously. He remained the only President in the history of the United States to receive 100% electoral votes.
As the President he showed great administrative capabilities. He was an excellent delegator and judge of talent and character. He held regular cabinet meetings to debate issues before making a final decision. In handling routine tasks, he was found to be systematic, orderly, energetic, solicitous of the opinion of others but decisive, intent upon general goals and the consistency of particular actions with them. He was thoroughly careful about his public image and set high moral for himself and his officers. He consciously guarded his personal flaws of short temper and addiction to drinking from interfering in his work and public persona, though his close friends saw him occasionally erupt into hot temper and reckless behavior.
After assuming Presidency Washington had to deal with various issues related to the foundation of the infant country, which he almost created with his own hands through his great contribution in the Revolutionary War. While considering the domestic issues he first concentrated on the establishment of the judiciary system, which was actually inexistent at that time. Through the Judiciary Act of 1789 he specified the number of Federal courts and judges and their specific responsibilities and power. As a true administrator Washington felt the need of establishment of law and order in the newly formed country to assure its safety and unity. He understood that a proper judiciary system was the immediate requirement of the country to set disciplines and regulations which can bind together the countrymen of the recently independent country.
The President was then concerned with the executive offices of the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Treasury, the Secretary of War, the Postmaster General and the Attorney General who together with the President and the Vice President would run the United States Cabinet. Washington appointed the Secretaries and assigned specific functions to each of them in his cabinet. Thus with a well structured cabinet system he started to run his government. He faced a lot of challenges in his initial years as the President of the United States. The rebellion and war declared by the Indians in Northwest Territories was one of the major problems in the newly formed country. Washington forcefully suppressed the Indians seriously destroying their villages and farmlands forcing them to surrender their lands to the United States. Through the Treaty of Greenville the Indians accepted the United States as their ruling power rather than Great Britain. In this way he secured the stability of his country. As the administrator he was able to apply force in proper time as he sensed the war to go out of hand at the time. He understood that there was no other way to control the Indians who might pose severe threat to the country’s development. The Whisky Rebellion was another important event during the tenure of George Washington which required the Federal Government to use armed forces for the first time. Unlike the Northwest Indian Wars, the Whisky Rebellion did not threat the existence of the country but posed a serious threat to the government. Washington felt the need to demonstrate the strength of the government in this regard to convince the countrymen that the new independent government was capable of protecting itself as well as the country. This was required to build the confidence of the public.
The United States faced severe financial problems since the ratification of the constitution owing to prolonged warfare. The topic of revenue earning concerned the President the most. The formation of the national bank was a debating topic between the cabinet secretaries. Washington followed a more federalist approach in the debate and the first bank of the United States was formed in 1791 followed by United States Mint and Revenue Marine. This initiation of debate in the cabinet laid the foundation of political parties in the United States. Washington was not a member of any political party and did not expect one to form in the country but the increasing disagreement among the cabinet secretaries ultimately resulted in the formation of the Democratic-Republican Party and the Federalist Party. During his tenure Washington tried to present himself as a model republican leader and maintained a balance in his behavior but his second term evidently showed his fascination towards Federalist Party with the advent of French Revolution. His declaration of neutrality during the conflict the French and the British made his views clear. He did not support France from the fear of losing the country to the French and opposed the Republican feeling of gratefulness to the French. His views also earned him harsh criticism during his last years as President.
Washington exercised peace in his foreign policy and avoided any sort of entanglement with foreign forces. As a great administrator he could feel the instability and weakness of the newly formed country and found it to be more important to concentrate on domestic problems than foreign ones especially at a point when the United States was still recovering from the financial problems due to its prolonged warfare. He also set peace with the Great Britain through the Jay Treaty, which raised a nationwide controversy laying the foundation of nationalization of electoral politics. Washington’s foreign policy established peace with many countries and strengthened the United States but French remained to be the threat to the country as a result of Washington’s policies with them.
His retirement was also the beginning of a policy through which it has become customary in the United States to hold no more than two terms as a President. The policy has become law by the 22nd amendment of the Constitution.
George Washington as the Leader:
George Washington, the founding father and the First President of the United States can also be termed as a legendary leader. He possessed several characteristic qualities, which brought victory in the Revolutionary War through the formation of a disciplined and united army. He had this capability to bind and motivate his forces together with smallest of gestures. His talent, integrity and characteristic prudence helped him serve as the moral foundation for the infant nation’s struggle against the world’s superpower. As the President of a newly formed state he led the country from the front with his characteristic strength and foresightedness. But he was not completely flawless. Like any other human beings he also was not a born leader. He had to acquire many of his qualities through his life long experience and perseverance. Test problem in his character was his temper. He was extremely short tempered and exercised many reckless behaviors under the influence of his temper. Though he learnt to keep it cool with age still he could not banish anger from his character completely. He was not a good communicator both in writing and speaking though his overwhelming personality covered this flaw to quite some extent. Another very important flaw was there in Washington as a leader in his inability to do away with the slavery system. Though he himself was not in support of it but he could not stop the system either. His drinking habit was also not a good sign for a great leader. But despite having all these flaws in his character his personality and moral strength made him learn from his mistakes and change him significantly. Washington was a visionary leader with an eye for all the details. His secretaries never overwhelmed him. He listened to them carefully but always took his own decision. His tactics and strategies often proved to be fruitful in the battlefield as evident from the battle at Monmouth, New Jersey in 1778. His administrative functioning also exemplified his visionary quality. To summarize it can be said that despite of the few characteristic flaws, his ability to overcome them as well as his sense of responsibility, patriotism, selflessness, patience and determination helped him develop as a leader. His religious tolerance, intelligence, respect for people and most importantly his multi-polar personality made him the true leader. He had the ability to lead with strength without being harsh or cruel. These qualities combined with his military and political capabilities made him the most obvious choice as the First President of the United States as of all the newly formed country required a true leader who can shape its future. The country needed someone who could set example for his people and make them secured and motivated towards the welfare of the budding nation and George Washington absolutely fitted the role with his contribution in the independence of the nation and his capabilities of nurturing the same.
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