George Washington

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Gilbert Stuart : George Washington
George Washington's signature

George Washington [ ˈwɒʃɪŋtən ] (born February 22, 1732 on the Wakefield Manor (also called "Pope's Plantation") in Westmoreland County , Colony Virginia ; † December 14, 1799 on his Mount Vernon , Virginia manor ) was from 1789 to 1797 the first President of the United States of America .

As Commander in Chief of the Continental Army from 1775 to 1783, he was one of the founding fathers of the United States and chaired the Philadelphia Constitutional Convention in 1787. During his presidency, Washington made groundbreaking decisions that shape the development of the United States as a republican democracy to this day. Above all, he worked towards a central power capable of acting against the individual states and the Congress and consciously trained the newly created office by setting precedents .

Washington was posthumously awarded the highest rank of General of the Armies of the United States "for the past and the present" on October 11, 1976, on the occasion of the bicentenary of the United States .


Education and Youth

Sally Fairfax

Because of its origins, Washington was part of the economic and cultural elite of the slave-owning plantation owners of the state of Virginia. His father was Augustine Washington , who was of English descent (* 1693; † April 1743), his mother Mary Ball (* 1708; † 1789), whose ancestry is unknown. The father's first wife died in 1729. His paternal great-grandfather was John Washington from Essex, England .

George lost his father at the age of eleven and, as a half-orphan, was under the guardianship of his half-brother Lawrence, 14 years his senior . Augustine left 4,000 acres and 49 slaves to his widow and seven children.

Up to the age of 15, Washington attended school in Williamsburg , where he only had a simple education, but was increasingly concerned with mathematics in his own studies . Nonetheless, both his contemporaries and later critics stressed that Washington's education initially had a rudimentary character that hardly went beyond that of a primary school. The later President John Adams said: “It is certain that Washington was not a scholar, that he was too illiterate, too poorly read and too ignorant for his rank and name. This debate is over. ”In a two-story brick building called Belvoir in the immediate vicinity lived William Fairfax, a cultured, wealthy and influential nobleman who also owned large estates in the English homeland and had his household so luxuriously furnished that Mount Vernon looked rather old-fashioned and unassuming compared to it. The mahogany furniture in the dining room alone cost more than the entire Washington family furnishings. At the age of 16, George Washington met the landlord's daughter-in-law, Sally Fairfax (née Cary), who not only improved his general education, but also had more than just friendly feelings for the rest of his life. At that point he was "a humble, at times shy young man who was in awe of the neighborhood property called Belvoir."

George Washington map of a property on the Ohio River , 1754

In 1748 Washington accompanied Sally's husband, George William Fairfax, on a surveying expedition through the Fairfax family properties in the Shenandoah Valley . In the following three years he stayed in this border region of Virginia mainly as a geometer and carried out 190 measurements. It was precisely this activity that opened his eyes to the value of land, which he said he considered the most important thing in a man's life. In those years he also bought his first 585 hectare property on Bullskin Creek in Lower Shenandoah . In addition, he managed to acquire important basic skills in leadership and organization during this activity. Even later, Washington insisted on mapping the properties of interest to himself or those that were already in his possession .

When his half-brother Lawrence Washington married Fairfax's daughter Anne, George was part of the family. In 1751 he accompanied Lawrence, who had tuberculosis, on a vacation trip to Barbados . This was the only occasion on which George Washington ever left what would later become the United States of America. However, the climate there did not bring Lawrence the improvement he had hoped for, and George fell ill with smallpox . After the early death of his half-brother in June 1752, George took over the already extensive family property of Mount Vernon on the Potomac River with an area of ​​2,126 acres (860 hectares). In the same month he successfully applied for an adjutant general in the Virginia militia.

George was treated as a family member by the Fairfax family even after his brother's death. He befriended George William Fairfax, who lived in Belvoir with his young wife Sally. Sally was 19 years old at the time, "beautiful, educated and well-bred". One of Sally's offspring rated George's feelings for her as "love at first sight". For a long time it was more of a platonic love that was initially limited to George's informal education: ideological theories, plays and books were read in Belvoir under the direction of the elder Fairfax and Sallys. George was particularly interested in the literature of Roman philosophers . "The lessons in Belvoir gave George the insight that he saw the greatest human achievement in gaining the respect of his own compatriots through honorable acts."

The war with France and the "Indian Wars"

George Washington, by John Trumbull, 1780

First missions

Virginia Assistant Governor Robert Dinwiddie entrusted George Washington with a diplomatic mission in the fall of 1753. He was the French who west of loud Washington's records Allegheny Mountains from Lake Erie out of Fort Presque (near the present-day Erie, Pennsylvania beginning) and at the French Creek and Allegheny to the Ohio protrudable and from the south by the Mississippi Coming more Forts had built when the emissary delivered a letter. In it, on behalf of the British Crown, Dinwiddie and other representatives of Virginia asked them to give up their outposts in this disputed area between France and England. Dinwiddie held shares in the Ohio Company, which had set itself the goal of British colonization of this area.

According to his diary, Washington set out on October 31 and left Williamsburg for Fredericksburg . When he reached the Indian settlement of Logstown, he first met Tanaghrisson , the representative of the third political power in the Ohio Valley, the Iroquois . They exercised their rule over the tribes of the Ohiotal over Iroquois village chiefs, so-called "half-kings", whose authority was increasingly called into question from the 1730s. It became apparent that this conflict would escalate and the Shawnee and Delawaren would try to free themselves from Iroquois rule. For the Onondaga in particular , it was clear that the Mingo , for example, had no council fire, and therefore no designated speaker, who was referred to as "king" in the language of the time. That is why the Americans used the term "half-king". When the local half-king accepted gifts from the settlers, a council fire established itself, a recognized meeting place near Logstown (Ambridge, Pennsylvania, also Chiningué). In December 1753, Washington set out from Logstown and was accompanied to the French by Tanaghrisson, who had been half-king since 1748, and two other chiefs.

With the French, Washington and his companions were treated politely and courteously. In the reply to Dinwiddie, her negotiating partner, the commander of Fort Le Bœuf (near what is now Waterford, Pennsylvania) expressed his respect, but only as a diplomatic phrase and was not prepared to make any concessions. His report on this mission, written at Dinwiddie's urging and published in several newspapers, including in England and Scotland, under the title The Journal of Major Washington , first attracted public attention.

After the mission failed, Dinwiddie entrusted him, with the approval of the House of Representatives in Virginia, in the spring of 1754, with the command of a small militia force of 160 men who observe French outposts and scouting troops in the western territories and the strategically important point at the confluence of Allegheny and Monongahela , where today's Pittsburgh is. After crossing the Alleghenies , Washington learned that the Ohio Company had been driven out of the half-finished fort by the French and that 1,000 men in total had renamed it Fort Duquesne . Washington then gathered the Indian allies around them and had makeshift forts built, most recently Fort Necessity , in order to be able to better defend itself against a possible attack by the superior French forces. In May 1754, between Washington's militia and a French troop, the battle of Jumonville Glen broke out , from which the British emerged victorious. For a long time it was controversial whether the French commander Joseph de Jumonville fell in battle or was only killed after the surrender. The role of Jumonville, i.e. whether he was an emissary or a spy preparing an attack on the British, is still controversial today. Less than a month after the battle, Washington's militia were trapped in Fort Necessity by superior French forces . After his militia lost a hundred defensive men and the attacking French only five, panic broke out and Washington was forced to surrender . In the corresponding document, which Washington had to sign in order to receive free exit, the death of Joseph de Jumonville was described as a "murder" and thus the British side was blamed for this incident. Washington later claimed that due to the poor translation from the French original, he did not notice this when he signed, otherwise he would have omitted. On July 4, 1754, he and his militia left the lost fort. With these incidents the war began, which the Americans have since called the French and Indian War (1754–1763), a partial conflict of the Seven Years' War .

During the campaign, Washington wrote in a letter to Sally Fairfax. "I can tell you assure, I heard whistling bullets, and believe me, it's something seductive in this noise" By indiscretion this statement became public, where he soon became a popular quote . Even the British King George II heard of this verbal derailment of the young man and said that Washington had probably not heard too many bullets if he could get such an emotion from this sound .

In the Seven Years War

Upon his return, Washington kept silent about the fact that after the skirmish he watched (or had to watch) how "his" Indians killed ten French people, including their commander Jumonville, and thus violated his moral duties as a commander. The ambitious Washington feared for his military reputation: In his version, he emerged victorious from his first battle under his command. His request to Dinwiddie not to believe the statements made by the French prisoners should also be understood in this context. When the French took over Fort Necessity, the French had confiscated Washington's diary, which contained the misleading account of the Glumonville Glen battle, and subsequently exposed it to the public as dishonorable in person. An epic poem from this period goes in the same direction, in which Washington, as the ideal villain, embodies the wickedness of the enemy.

In addition, the Iroquois Tanaghrisson appears as a decisive actor in the conflict, which had sided with the British and which wanted to induce the British to intervene militarily with the murder of the Frenchman Jumonville. On the other hand, the tribes of the Ohio Valley wanted to persuade France to intervene against the British and Iroquois. They broke with the Iroquois rule and sided with the French, Tanaghrisson died in 1754. The French auxiliary troops no longer consisted of the tribes traditionally allied with them, such as the Ottawa , but of the Shawnee, Delawaren and Mingo.

Apparently, George Washington's coping strategy was working. In the following year he accompanied the Braddock expedition of the British Army from the beginning of May . During this operation he only served as a captain, having previously been a colonel in the Virginia militia. However, the assurance that he would be appointed as a senior executive mitigated Washington's sensitive nature to rank issues. The clumsy convoy ten kilometers long, equipped for European conditions, had to move 160 kilometers through barely passable wilderness in order to carry out the planned siege of Fort Duquesne. This strategic mistake led, among other things, to the Battle of Monongahela on July 9, 1755 . A 950-man reconnaissance team from Duquesne, two-thirds of them Indians, managed to encircle the vanguard of Braddock. The Virginia soldiers got caught in a crossfire between the British and Indians and suffered heavy losses. Washington was shot three horses under him, which helped his aura. He also showed great prudence in organizing the retreat during the debacle after Braddock and all the other aides besides him had fallen. In the end, the expedition had lost 900 of 1,300 men. This catastrophe was instructive for Washington, as he recognized that such a large and consequently cumbersome armed force, which among other things carried cannons in its entourage, was decisively inferior to the Indian forest fighting tactics in the wilderness of the Ohio region. As long as the majority of the Indian tribes there remained allied with the French, Washington saw no chance of success in another expedition of this kind.

Washington then organized, as a colonel, the first regular regiment in Virginia, which at times should number over 1,000 men and took part in the war. The Virginia regiment was named the Blues after the color of the uniform designed by Washington . Washington was also officially given supreme command of all Virginia troops. He succeeded in defending the border of Virginia against the French troops, with the actual war taking place in the neighboring colonies to the north, i.e. in Canada, on the Great Lakes and in New England. The problem turned out to be that the Shawnee and Delaware in particular had taken advantage of the British defeat on the Monongahela to attack all the English settlements west of the Blue Ridge . Since his regiment could not force an advantage in the form of a decisive battle against the Indian forest fighting tactics, Washington demanded more Indian allies from Dinwiddie, since they were the only ones who could take on the Indians. He particularly supported the recruiting attempts of the Catawba and Cherokee from the two Carolinas. The Indians of the region remained mostly French-friendly, so that Washington remained in a defensive, forts-supported blockade position on the west side of the Blue Ridge in the next few years. For Washington, the question of the Indians was later mainly about the complete annihilation of their livelihoods: “The immediate goals are the complete destruction and devastation of their settlements. It will be particularly important to destroy their crops in the ground and to make the fields unworkable. ”This statement was in great contradiction to the idealizing attitude that the Virginian after his death as the epitome of the“ Great White Father ”by some Indian delegations was met.

Washington led the regiment, which consisted for the most part of newly immigrated recruits from England, Ireland and Scotland, with a strict hand and precise and detailed orders. He attached great importance to precision in drills and mobile combat tactics in forest combat. He soon became convinced that his regiment was superior to all other American and British troops in guerrilla warfare, also because of its regular experience in border fighting. It annoyed him very much that he and his regiment were not paid according to the tariffs of British professional soldiers. In the spring of 1756 he traveled to Boston in order to unsuccessfully demand from the acting commander for North America, the British colonial governor William Shirley , appropriate recognition for him and his regiment in the form of equal pay. His successor in the same year, John Cambell, Lord Loudon , he asked in several letters in due respect for a regular officer license. Again he was not heard, on the contrary, his regiment was briefly disbanded by Lord Loudon in order to reinforce the fighting in South Carolina by company.

Although Washington was convinced that no one knew better than he how to take the strategically important French Fort Duquesne (today Pittsburgh) and thus the Ohio area, and since Braddock had always considered British plans to be unsuitable, he offered his support in 1758 British General John Forbes prepared another expedition in this regard, the troop strength was twice as large as that of the Braddock expedition. On Washington's advice, Forbes recruited Cherokee as scouts, and the British soldiers wore the ranger uniforms of recruits from the Virginia militia instead of their traditional red coats. In addition, the soldiers were trained in forest combat tactics, which, among other things, consisted in an ambush with two flanks immediately advancing to the attacking forest line and attacking with the Indian scouts behind the enemy. Washington faced Forbes over the road to Fort Duquesne in a conflict that nearly razed to obedience. While he was in favor of the route through northern Virginia that had already been paved by Braddock, Forbes had engineers build a 50 km shorter route in the form of a road from Carlisle, Pennsylvania . Washington made in Virginia, among other things with its new governor, Francis Fauquier , mood against the Pennsylvania route and predicted the failure of the Forbes expedition. Despite his reservations about Forbes' decision, on November 12, 1758, he and his regiment encountered a reconnaissance patrol from Fort Duquesne. After a losing skirmish in which Washington broke a crossfire at the risk of his life, they reached Fort Duquesne victoriously and found it deserted and blazing as the French had given it up in the face of the approaching superiority. In December 1758 Washington left the regiment with the rank of colonel in order to then take a seat in the House of Representatives in Virginia and to marry on January 6, 1759.

Washington continued to be with Sally Fairfax even during the war. Washington later destroyed most of Sally's letters for fear of possible indiscretions. Only his letters from this correspondence, which were in Sally's estate , are almost completely preserved . The correspondence extends from the day on which he wrote to her shortly before the wedding with his future wife Martha to the last letter, 25 years after their last meeting.

There is only one postscript of Sally within a letter from her father-in-law:

“Dear Sir: After thanking Heaven for your healthy return, I must accuse you of great rudeness, as you robbed us of the pleasure of seeing you with us that evening. I assure you we curb our curiosity but the mere thought that our company might be uncomfortable keeps us from trying not to carry our legs to Mount Vernon tonight, but if you don't come to us very early tomorrow morning, we'll be in Mount Vernon. "

Apparently she was annoyed that Washington had not visited her immediately. When Sally's father-in-law died and her husband went to England to look after his possessions there, Washington didn't take his chance.

Between the wars

Martha Dandrige Custis

So Washington decided to marry rationally or for money: After two clumsy and unsuccessful courtship proposals, he finally proposed marriage to Martha Dandridge Custis , a friendly, if unattractive, 26-year-old widow of the planter Daniel Parke Custis , who thanks to her inheritance is one of the richest Women of Virginia was. In US dollars , which did not exist at the time and whose value has fluctuated throughout history, the value of the inheritance was later estimated at around 100,000. Sally, of all people, was overseeing the renovation work that Washington had commissioned on Mount Vernon so that the house was ready for reception. Nonetheless, there were other meetings with Sally, and correspondence from Fort Cumberland also gives clear evidence that Washington was unsure of his cause:

"Dear Madame,

Please allow me to say that I do not see your attitude, which is now completely in contradiction to our previous relationship, as an honor, but rather that it reinforces my fear of inevitably being the future husband of Mrs Custis. - If - need not mention it - guess for yourself. Shouldn't my own honor and the well-being of the country be worth the fuss? It is true, I declare myself to be devoted to love. […] I feel the compelling power of your lovely beauty in my memory in a thousand tender passages, so that I wish I could erase it […]. You pushed me, [...], or rather I pushed myself to the honest confession of a simple truth - do not misunderstand my intention - it is obvious - do not doubt and do not reveal anything - the world has no right to that To know the object of my love - explains only for you, which is important - because I want to keep it a secret - I would like to know one thing above all things in this world, and only a certain person can explain this or guess my intention. But good-bye, until happier times, when I should experience them than ever. [...] "

- September 12, 1758

George Washington destroyed the reply, which came 13 days later. He was probably disappointed and said in another letter that both would misunderstand each other's intentions. Ultimately, Sally Fairfax even encouraged him to marry.

After the wedding on January 6, 1759, the newly wed couple moved to the Mount Vernon plantation, where Washington began the life of a wealthy plantation owner . There were no children from the marriage to Martha. However, George Washington adopted his wife's two children from his first marriage, John and Martha. Despite deep feelings for Sally, he made a happy home for his wife and stepchildren. "Washington had tremendous self-control, following its principle of 'seeking reason rather than passion' [...]", since he valued the tranquility of marriage more than the excitement.

During the 1750s, he would become one of the richest men in Virginia through inheritance, the aforementioned marriage, and land speculation.

In addition to the above-mentioned deputy activities, he was also a justice of the peace in Fredericksburg from 1752 , where his family had acquired the Ferry Farm in the immediate vicinity of the city since 1738 and his mother Mary was also supposed to spend the last years of her life.

Washington last saw Sally in 1773 when she and her husband left for England. It was not meant to be a goodbye forever, but both the Fairfax family's commitments and the political turmoil of the years that followed did not allow them to return. Fairfax entrusted the responsibility for Belvoir to George Washington of all people. According to the agreement, Washington had the facility auctioned before leaving for Philadelphia to attend the first ever Continental Congress. He bought characteristic items for 169 pounds: the upholstery and pillows from Sally's bedroom.

In 1774 he moved into the Continental Congress as a delegate to Virginia .

The War of Independence

Like many other Americans, Washington interpreted the looming conflict with the motherland in terms of conspiracy theory : He did not see differences of opinion, misunderstandings and divergences of interests as the cause, but, as he wrote in 1774, "a regular systematic plan [... of the British] to tame us, common slaves." close". On 14 June 1775, he was at the suggestion of John Adams from New England by Thomas Johnson , governor of Maryland , as a member of Congress from Virginia for the important function of the GOC ( General and Commander-in-chief of the Continental Army ) of the Continental Army nominated in the American Revolutionary War and then elected unanimously. When the President of the Continental Congress, John Hancock, officially offered this office to Washington the next morning , the latter rose from his seat and officially accepted the function.

Speaking on the occasion, after expressing his doubts that he would be able to perform his duties to everyone's satisfaction, he said:

“As payment, sir, I want to assure Congress that since no financial considerations could have moved me to take this difficult office at the expense of my domestic peace and happiness, I do not wish to benefit from it in any way. I will keep an exact statement of my expenses. These, I have no doubt, will be replaced for me, and that is all I ask. "

Without seeing his family in Virginia again, Washington left for Boston, where on July 3, 1775, he took command of the 16,000 militiamen who had besieged the British Army in the city since the battles of Lexington and Concord , the first battles of the Revolutionary War . In a letter he informed his wife Martha of his self-doubting concerns:

"You can believe me, my dear Patsy, [...] that I did not seek this assignment, but did everything in my power to avoid it; Not only because of the unwillingness to leave you and the family, but also because of the awareness that this is the task that is beyond my abilities and because I knew that in a month I would find more true happiness with you at home than out in the world I can even remotely hope, even if I stay seven times seven years. But since it is a kind of fate that this ministry got in my way, I hope that through me its fulfillment will be used for a good cause. [...] It was quite impossible to refuse the task without exposing myself to accusations that would dishonor me and hurt my friends. "

As commander in chief of the Continental Army, Washington was not the ingenious strategist who won battles according to carefully considered plans, but the meticulous organizer of the American armed forces. He was fully aware of his comparatively modest means. He therefore had to regularly address the downright stingy congress in detailed and well-documented reports about the personnel and financial increase in his army . He seemed to take care of every little detail in order to at least guarantee that the troops were equipped with clothing, food, fuel, accommodation and ammunition .

The crossing of the Delaware, by Emanuel Leutze , 1851 (formerly Kunsthalle Bremen )
Washington and the Marquis de La Fayette at Valley Forge, by John Ward Dunsmore

When selecting his commanders and staff officers, he placed particular emphasis on organizational skills, but did not shy away from asking men such as Major General and Inspector General Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben , Major General and Chief Military Engineer Richard Gridley , Brigadier General Horatio Gates or Major General and Deputy Washington Artemas Ward , and promoted those young officers like Henry Dearborn , Henry Lee, and Anthony Wayne whom he needed for short-term tactical operations. Always inferior in numbers, he only allowed the army to be brought into the field when open field battles were unavoidable or the conditions favorable for the American troops. In constant guerrilla-like raids against the British supply lines, his troops thus created the first conditions for their own success.

After Washington, who had set up his headquarters in Longfellow House in Cambridge , had successfully driven the British out of Boston on March 17, 1776 after a nine-month siege , he moved with a large part of the Continental Army to New York City and fortified the city, including among others the Morris-Jumel Mansion in what is now Washington Heights as its headquarters. On August 27, 1776 he lost the Battle of Long Island in what is now Prospect Park . After the British-Hessian army landed at Kips Bay , the Battle of Harlem Heights took place on September 16, 1776 , and resulted in the Americans' first victory in the War of Independence. Following their success in the Battle of White Plains and the Battle of Fort Washington , British forces gained control of Manhattan Island in October 1776. In order not to be trapped, Washington then withdrew to Valley Forge , Pennsylvania, where the Continental Army was able to recover.

On December 26, 1776, Washington had troops cross the Delaware River to attack British Hessian troops in Trenton , New Jersey . This successful attack rebuilt the morale of the independent colonialists. Before returning to their winter camp, Washington had a line of defense built at Trenton in anticipation of a British counterattack. Here the Second Battle of Trenton took place on January 2, 1777 , which Washington evaded during the night and with a surprising maneuver defeated the British troops in Princeton the next day . After the three lost battles, they withdrew from New Jersey to New York.

Washington continued to command an army to tie up British forces in the center of the country as the Revolution progressed, while General Gates and militia leader Benedict Arnold won the Battle of Saratoga in 1777, indirectly leading to French recognition of the United States. On September 11, 1777, Washington faced the Battle of Brandywine without success against the British undertaking to take Philadelphia, which they marched into unhindered shortly afterwards, while the Continental Congress had to flee to York (Pennsylvania) . Washington failed with the lost battle of Germantown on October 4, 1777 in an attempt to push back British troops from the capital of the Thirteen Colonies . In December 1777 the Continental Army reached the winter quarters in Valley Forge. The soldiers there suffered from the damp and cold weather conditions, inadequate winter clothing and poor supplies. Several thousand died of diseases such as typhoid, dysentery and pneumonia, or they froze to death. In February 1778 Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben took up service as Major General under Washington and immediately began to build up the army tactically and operationally, which had been reduced to 5,000 men due to losses.

The now drilled and better disciplined soldiers were able to prove themselves in the Battle of Monmouth when they attacked the rearguard of the British Army ordered back from Philadelphia to New York. The battle also ended in a tactical victory for the British, who were able to complete their withdrawal from Pennsylvania , because of Charles Lee's unauthorized withdrawal order , who was later convicted by a court-martial. Strategically, the battle had a balanced outcome, as the Continental Army remained in possession of the states south of New York. In the summer of 1779, Washington ordered the Sullivan Expedition to fight loyalists and some Iroquois tribes . He gave express orders to use the scorched earth tactic .

In 1780 France, which had recognized the independence of the Thirteen Colonies in February 1778 and has since been at war with the British Kingdom, dispatched 6,000 soldiers to Rhode Island under the command of Lieutenant General Jean-Baptiste-Donatien de Vimeur, comte de Rochambeau . In August 1781 they united with the Continental Army under the leadership of Washington. After a corresponding report by General Marquis de La Fayette , the British troops intended to evacuate Yorktown, the Continental Army, reinforced with French troops, moved to Yorktown. There it succeeded in coordination with the fleet commanded by Admiral François Joseph Paul de Grasse to include General Charles Cornwallis in the battle of Yorktown and to beat him decisively. This surrender by the British marked the very end of the British attempts to suppress the revolution.

Since British troops were still stationed in New York City, Savannah and Charleston at the time, Washington had to expect further fighting and remained vigilant. The lack of a decisive battle, the withdrawal of the French troops and long unpaid wages worsened the mood and even led to the danger of a mutiny, in the planning of which Major John Armstrong junior is said to have been involved. With an address on March 15, 1783 to his officers, in which he appealed to the congress of the American Confederation , which had existed since 1781 , Washington was able to solve the Newburgh crisis .

In the Treaty of Paris in September 1783, the Kingdom of England recognized the independence of the United States. Washington then dismissed the soldiers of the Continental Army and said goodbye to its officers on December 4, 1783 in Fraunces Tavern . On December 23, he resigned as commander of the Continental Army before the Continental Congress . Shortly before leaving as Commander in Chief, Washington called on the states to form a strong central government. How much he preferred to withdraw into private life can be seen from the fact that he described it in a letter as a "return to himself".

The Constitutional Convention

Alexander Hamilton : Note for a speech to the Constitutional Convention

After all, it would be another four years before the recognized leaders of the American Revolution approached the revision of the ineffective first constitution of the United States, the Confederation Article of 1777, or the adoption of a new constitution.

The constitutional convention met in Philadelphia from May to September 1787. George Washington attended for Virginia. He was unanimously elected President of the Assembly by the 54 delegates from the twelve participating states of the Confederation. Although he was always careful to "float" above party opinions, he expressly advocated strong executive power.

During the constitutional discussions and ratification debates, clear political party opinions emerged for the first time, which contained early features of a two-party system.

In the deliberations, the representatives of Virginia retained the initiative by immediately putting a draft constitution up for discussion that went far beyond simple additions to the articles of confederation. Instead of the committees favored there, there should be a federal government whose powers, similar to those of the federal states, were divided into legislative , executive and judicial branches . In addition, the legislature should consist of two chambers. The concerns of the New Jersey delegates were pushed aside by the majority. However, as expected, the interests of small and large states collided with the question of the distribution of seats in the future assembly of representatives. The former wanted to operate on the principle of “one state - one vote”, while the latter wanted to take the weight of the population into account. Since New York voted with the smaller states, a compromise was reached that a direct election of the House of Representatives would be possible according to the number of inhabitants and the major states approved the election of the senators by the state legislature.

In the so-called “Great Compromise” (July 16, 1787), the delegates made four fundamental decisions:

  1. One MP represents 40,000 residents (modified to 30,000 before the deliberations are concluded)
  2. each state has two senators (who could be elected by the state legislature until 1913)
  3. in the Senate, individuals, not state delegations, vote.
  4. only the House of Representatives can propose budget bills. The Senate can reject it or approve it, but not modify it.

Another important compromise was the slave issue. For the men who, from 1776 onwards, adhered to the principle of the like-for-like society were mostly slave owners: in 1787 George Mason owned 118, Thomas Jefferson 149 and George Washington even 390 slaves.

The representatives of the northern states rightly asked why slaves in the south should be considered property and counted as people when calculating the seats in parliament. After a bitterly fought debate during which southern states with secession threatened the North relented. Accordingly, five slaves should count as much as three free citizens when calculating the distribution of seats. In another very ambivalent decree, in which the word “slave” was avoided as much as possible, the constitution also regulated the import of slaves until 1808. The existing reality was thus “absorbed” in the directive described in the constitutional text:

“The mandates for members of parliament and the direct taxes are distributed to the individual states that are affiliated to this federation in proportion to their number of inhabitants; this is determined by adding three fifths of the total number of all other persons to the total number of free persons, including those in temporary employment, but excluding the non-taxed Indians. "

This "birth defect" of the American constitution secured the economic foundations and political claims of the southern states, but also laid one of the seeds for the later civil war . Notwithstanding this, Washington also benefited from this arrangement.

In the constitutional convention, the supporters of a weak and a strong executive collided in the construction of the office of president. The latter demanded that the president should be as independent as possible in order to realize the concept of the separation of powers and to be able to counterbalance the legislature. The development in the individual states, where an all-powerful legislature fueled the fears of the wealthy elites of the "democrats", was invoked as a chilling example.

Thus the electoral college was a compromise, as it was left to each state to elect it by general election or by the legislature. When the Constitutional Convention rejected the election of the president by the Senate and the House of Representatives, the development of a parliamentary system of government was abandoned and the presidential model was finally turned.

In comparison, the presidential office received stronger powers than the respective governors of the individual states: thanks to a suspensive veto, he is involved in the legislative process, the nomination of the judges of the Supreme Court gives him decisive influence on the judiciary, and as commander in chief of the army and navy, as a distributor endowed administrative posts as well as the "executor" of foreign and domestic policy, he has the political initiative in the relevant positions under control. The lifelong term of office (“during good behavior”) postulated at the time is strongly reminiscent of a monarch.

The election of the president and the swearing-in

Washington sworn in on the balcony of Federal Hall

Following the ratification of the Constitution by nine of the thirteen states the Electoral College, which gave election of the President had to make known the unanimous election of George Washington as president on February 4 1789th In addition to his political and military merits, the decisive factor in his choice was his attitude towards a balance between the emerging parties. Washington would remain the only president elected unanimously by the electoral college; In 1820 an elector prevented the repetition of this unanimous result for James Monroe by improperly electing John Quincy Adams . Washington's confirmation in 1792 only had three abstentions, but no votes against.

Theoretically, the first term of office would have started on March 4, 1789. After the Senate passed the election on April 6th and passed it himself, Washington traveled eight days to New York , where the inauguration at Federal Hall was scheduled for April 30th.

Washington's diary note on the occasion of his departure perfectly illustrates his attitude towards his new position: "At ten o'clock I said goodbye to Mount Vernon, to private life and to domestic happiness, and with the most anxious and painful feelings I set off for New York."

On April 30, 1789, George Washington was sworn in as the first President of the United States of America in a solemn ceremony on the balcony of Federal Hall in New York, with the local press stressing that it was particularly proud to have the President at his inauguration I only wore clothes made in my homeland, which would still have stood up to any comparison with European fashion.

The administration

George Washington, Lansdowne portrait by Gilbert Stuart, 1796

In his deliberate manner, it was clear to Washington that with every step he was breaking new political ground. Any direction taken would set a precedent. Thus, his term of office was formative for both the style and the administration of all other presidents.

A first example of this was his inauguration speech on the day of his swearing-in on April 30, 1789, which had been deliberately planned in advance , which was not constitutionally provided for at all, but has since established itself as a "staging of the new beginning" for all subsequent presidents.

His election as president was initially a disappointment for his wife, Martha Washington, the first " first lady " who actually wanted to continue her quiet private life after the war. But she quickly accepted her role as hostess, opened her "parlor" and organized weekly dinner parties for a number of dignitaries who took their places at the president's table.

Washington held the first cabinet meeting of an American president on February 25, 1793. The President headed a government cabinet that sought domestic political balance, since the later large parties of the " Federalists " and the " Democratic Republicans " were represented in equal parts.

"Powerful balancing and imperturbability of perseverance were the indispensable dowry of George Washington, while the initiatives from the circle of the closest collaborators he chose came from the 'cabinet' of his state secretaries and soon erupted in dramatic contrasts."

He accompanied this policy through a course of internal security in the administrative and financial area, whereby his land acquisition policy clearly preferred and protected the economic elite. Given its origin, this was not surprising.

In foreign policy, the course of neutrality also contributed to the strengthening and recognition of the young American state. After the outbreak of the French Revolution of 1789, however, Washington was criticized for its passive stance during the Franco-British conflict. The provocative behavior of the French ambassador Edmond-Charles Genêt in 1793 led to an open conflict with him, the so-called "Citizen Genêt Affair". In this Washington enforced the neutrality of the USA against a strong pro-French current in the American public. Genêt American had as privateers recruited for attacks against British merchant ships and a volunteer army for an attack on the then Spain owned Florida situated.

However, Washington was confirmed in office in the presidential election of 1792 for a further four-year term.

In 1791 the federal government introduced a consumption tax on whiskey. This tax was very unpopular in the American border area, so in July 1794 in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania , a federal marshal was attacked by persons and the home of a regional tax official was burned down. On August 7, 1794, Washington set soldiers from several states on the move to suppress the unrest that would go down in history as the " Whiskey Rebellion " with around 13,000 men . Further problems arose for the president when he pushed through the adoption of the country's highly unpopular Jay Treaty , which avoided the threat of war with Britain. For the first time, he was then publicly attacked and criticized; There were numerous protests and, in some cases, violent attacks because it was widely believed that the treaty was being too accommodating to the British.

After the US Army was defeated in the Battle of the Wabash River against an alliance of Indian tribes under the leadership of Little Turtle in late 1791, Washington entrusted General Anthony Wayne with another military expedition to this region. Wayne defeated the Shawnee , Miami , Ottawa , Chippewa , Iroquois , Sauk and Fox alliance in the Battle of Fallen Timbers a little over three years later . Thereafter, these Indian peoples ceded much of their original settlement areas to the United States and moved west.

In the Mediterranean area, American ships were repeatedly hijacked by barbarian corsairs and the crews kidnapped for ransom demands. In the Peace and Friendship Treaty of Algiers , the United States committed itself to regular protection payments to the regent of Algiers . In Washington, this strengthened the decision to expand the United States Navy .

On September 19, 1796, Washington's farewell speech , later so-called by the Courier of New Hampshire, first appeared on the inside pages of the American Daily Advertiser , Philadelphia's highest-circulation newspaper , in which George Washington announced in simple and well-calculated words that he would no longer be available for another election:

"Friends and Fellow Citizens: The time for the election of a new citizen to exercise the executive power of the United States is not far off [...] So it seems appropriate to me, especially as it may lead to a clearer expression of public opinion, that I am now informing you of the decision I have made: that I refuse to be counted among those among whom the choice is to be made. "

He urged unity within the government, through which alone the freedom of the republic could be maintained, and at the same time foresaw that "the gun batteries of internal and external enemies would be extremely constant and extremely active, although often covertly and insidiously" would try to raise awareness to weaken the Americans. The Americanist Michael Butter sees this as a model for the conspiracy theories that dominated the discourse throughout American history until the 1960s. In the long run, the Farewell Address received "transcendental status, it ranked alongside the Declaration of Independence and the Gettysburg Address as a forward-looking formulation of the enduring principles of America". The public at the time immediately understood the scope of this announcement, as George Washington's voluntary resignation of the presidency after two terms in office created a precedent that was only to be broken by Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1940. The political and psychological implications also had another dimension: if the citizens of the United States had previously not been able to imagine their state without Washington since the Revolutionary War, in the wake of the letter they were now on their own.

In addition, the Farewell Address was instructive for the self-image of George Washington's foreign policy. Because here he also defended his previous policy against the warring European great powers. However, he did not advocate a concept of self-sufficient isolationism . The development of foreign trade was intended to strengthen the economy and thus the foreign policy weight of the United States. However, in order to be able to operate foreign trade effectively in all directions, neutrality was the top priority. In emergencies, "temporary alliances" are possible, but "permanent alliances" must be avoided at all costs, as Europe is pursuing "primary interests" that the Americans could not possibly share.

Only after political and economic consolidation are the United States in a position "in which we can adopt the attitude that causes the neutrality, to which we can resolve at any time, to be carefully respected, [...] in which we can make peace." or choose to go to war as our justice-led interests make it advisable ”.

In addition to his declining health, the increasingly harsh criticism against him in the press, such as B. by Thomas Paine , who praised Washington's imminent departure in an open letter and even prayed for his "imminent death" as a reason. In contrast to today, re-election would still have been possible, since the 22nd amendment to the constitution was not ratified until 1951. When creating the 22nd amendment, through which the president can only be re-elected once, some members of the congress also referred to the “tradition of Washington”, which voluntarily renounced another and thus third term.

In the following year, the incumbent President John Adams reassigned Washington, in view of the danger of an imminent war with France, as a deterrent against his former ally, the supreme command of the armed forces as lieutenant general , which he only exercised nominally.

In America, often referred to him as "Father of the Nation" (Father of the Nation , Father of his Country) , in order to use his "personal-integrative function" as the founding father of the "first new nation". The earliest translation of this name into German as the father of the country appeared as early as 1778 in a German-language almanac of the state of Pennsylvania .

Five states joined the Union under Washington: North Carolina , Rhode Island , Vermont , Kentucky and Tennessee .


Mount Vernon , G. Washington's residence
Washington as a farmer, lithograph by Régnier, around 1853

Washington was very tall for the time with at least 1.88 m. John Adams spread the joke that Washington was always chosen to be the leader by consultative bodies no matter what, because he was always the tallest man in the room.

George Washington himself would have liked to resign from the presidency, but felt it was his duty to his nation to fill this position. Unlike Thomas Jefferson , he was not a downright "man of the people" who sought to strive for popularity , but preferred an introvertedness that was obvious to him and the distance to the masses.

At the end of his life he wrote a last significant letter to his great love Sally Fairfax in 1798:

"My dear Madame,

Almost 25 years have passed since I saw myself as a down-to-earth inhabitant of this place or since I found myself in the position of indulging in intimate contact with my friends through letters or in other ways. So many significant events happened during this time. […] None of these events, not even all together, have been able to erase from my mind the memory of these happy moments, the happiest moments of my life, which I enjoyed in your company. "

He offered her to spend her old age in his neighborhood, but Sally, who had spent many years in England, declined. She died in 1811 at the age of 81.


George Washington inherited land and ten slaves from his father. During his life, their number grew to 390. In a will, Washington decreed that all of his slaves were to be released after his death, and set up a fund to secure them economically - this was a prerequisite for their release under the law of the state of Virginia. However, this did not apply to Oney Judge , his best-known slave, who escaped in 1796 and was interviewed twice by abolitionist newspapers in the 1840s : legally, she did not belong to him, but to his wife Martha and therefore could not be released by him. Many released slaves took the surname Washington . It is currently worn by over 160,000 people in the United States, 90% of them African American . Therefore, this surname is considered the "blackest name" ever.

health status

George Washington's constitutional health during his tenure and above all during his retreat into private life is on the one hand a prime example of the health situation of the ruling elite at the end of the 18th century, and on the other the preferred subject of investigation by American medical historians : Washington had suffered from malaria since he was 17 . James Craik was General Physician (forerunner of the Surgeon General ) of the United States Army and George Washington's personal physician and close friend. Diphtheria , tuberculosis and smallpox were added later in his life . Serious pneumonia debilitated him during his presidency .


George Washington statue in front of Federal Hall in Manhattan

In 1752 Washington was initiated as a Freemason in the “Fredericksburg Lodge No. 1 ”in Virginia. At a convention of the lodges of Virginia Washington was proposed as grand master of an independent grand lodge, but this refused. In Morristown, New Jersey, delegates from field lodges met on February 7, 1780 and proposed several grand lodges to found a "Grand Lodge of America" ​​encompassing all states, and elected Washington as the "Grand Master of Freemasons throughout the United States". Minutes of the election were sent to the various grand lodges. But when Massachusetts did not come to a final decision, the project was dropped.

In 1788 he became the “ Master of the Chair ” of the Masonic Lodge “Alexandria No. 39 “(Virginia) and remained in office after he became President of the United States.

Because the planned Bible for the inauguration in 1789 had not arrived, the Lodge Bible of the “St. John's Lodge No. 1 ”of New York State, and Washington took the presidential oath on it, as many American presidents (Freemasons or not) have since done. Exceptions were, for example, John F. Kennedy, who insisted on his Catholic family Bible, and George W. Bush, whose inauguration took place in the rain outdoors, which is why it was decided not to expose the Bible to the wet.

The Grand Chancellor of the Grand Lodge of New York and State Chancellor Robert R. Livingston took the oath to introduce Washington .

The foundation stone of the Capitol in Washington, DC was laid on September 18, 1793 according to the Masonic rite. The masonic apron of the Grand Lodge of Maryland was ceremoniously presented to him by the Marquis de La Fayette .

In November 1798, just 13 months before his death, he wrote to the Maryland Grand Lodge: “As far as I am familiar with the doctrines and principles of Freemasonry, I understand them to be charitable and to be practiced only for the benefit of mankind. For this reason I cannot withdraw my consent. "


Family tomb of the remains of George Washington (right) and Martha Washington

In late 1799, Washington contracted a laryngitis . Today it is believed that acute phlegmonous laryngitis was the cause. To make matters worse, there was a heavy loss of blood through multiple bloodletting , with which about half of the blood volume was withdrawn and together with strong laxatives also led to dehydration . A hypovolemic shock developed, which is almost always fatal with a blood loss of 50% without therapy. In addition, there were attacks of suffocation due to the laryngitis-related stenosis of the airways with asphyxia , whereby a tracheotomy ( incision of the windpipe) was even considered. The treatments that corresponded to the state of knowledge at the time, but only made the condition worse, were carried out by his doctors James Craik, Gustavus Brown and Elisha Dick.

Washington instructed its personal secretary, Colonel Tobias Lear, not to move his body to the crypt until two days after his death, as he feared he would be buried alive , apparently dead . He spoke his last words, "Tis well" ("It is good"), shortly after he was promised to carry out this last instruction. He died on December 14, 1799 between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. on his Mount Vernon estate in Virginia without spiritual assistance. He was buried in the family vault four days later.

In 1831 the new family crypt was completed and the remains of Washington, his wife Martha and other family members were buried there. The tomb is open to the public as part of a visit to what is now the Mount Vernon Museum.


In his will, Washington ordered the release of all 124 slaves directly belonging to him as well as the care and care of the old and infirm among them and the instruction and training of all young people up to the age of 25. The other, almost 200 slaves living in Mount Vernon remained unaffected, as they were part of the Custis property as so-called widows property, which had to be passed on to Martha's descendants. Furthermore, he determined the distribution of his inheritance in equal parts to 23 heirs in order to prevent the emergence of a dynasty because he wanted to survive in the memory of the people as the founding father of a nation and not a prominent American family.


Map of Mount Vernons, mapped by Washington itself

In a commemorative speech before Congress , his friend General Henry Lee found the following words of praise for Washington: “ First in war, first in peace and first in the hearts of his countrymen […] second to none in the humble and endearing scenes of private life. "(German:" The first in war, the first in peace and the first in the heart of his countrymen. ")

Next to this very abbreviated, albeit memorable, formula are the words of Thomas Jefferson , who was more concerned with the appreciation of the statesman: “His integrity was the purest, his legal conception the most unconditional I have ever seen. No motives of interest or consanguinity, friendship or hatred were able to influence his decision. Indeed, in every sense of the word, he was a wise, a good and a great man. "

Since the deliberations of Arthur M. Schlesinger in 1948 , it has been customary for American historians to discuss at regular intervals which US presidents would have governed their country best or which would have fulfilled their office most justly for the good of the country. In addition to Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt , George Washington was always in the "top group" of those presidents who were praised by most historians.

Honors and "afterlife"

Washington, DC , around 1860
The four US Presidents (from left to right): George Washington, Thomas Jefferson , Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln on Mount Rushmore
Equestrian statue of George Washington in Boston

Washington, DC

The capital Washington, DC was named after George Washington during his lifetime .

For a short period of time, New York was the seat of government. In 1790 the government moved again to Philadelphia . It was already agreed during the constitutional convention that the question of the capital city seat would create additional potential for conflict between the individual states. For example, the neat but small Alexandria was rejected as too rural, while New York as a port metropolis and contact point for most immigrants was considered too politically insecure, although official business had also taken place in both cities.

If the congress had met in eight different cities on the east coast since its existence, it now decided that the new federal capital should be "as close as possible to the center of prosperity, the population and the territory" and with "access to the Atlantic and the western areas "must be equipped. Therefore, in a Solomonic solution, a congressional law (Residence Act) of 1790 founded the District of Columbia as an art form outside of the US states on previously fallow swamp and marshland on the left bank of the Potomac River . The city was built there from 1791 according to plans by the French architect and town planner Pierre Charles L'Enfant , whom George Washington had personally commissioned. As a temporary solution, it was decided to make Philadelphia the capital for ten years in 1791. The marshland in particular shaped the image of the capital well into the 19th century, which could only be described as "functioning" from 1800 onwards.

The new foundation was placed more in the south, i.e. south of the Mason-Dixon Line , in order to obtain votes from the southern states necessary for other compromises . In terms of military strategy, however, the situation was too exposed, as the bombing and occupation by the British in 1814 as well as the rapid advance of the south on the city in the early phase of the Civil War . During his presidency, George Washington chose West Point , New York , which he had already founded as a fort , as the headquarters of the United States Army Military Academy . This selection was confirmed by a decision by Thomas Jefferson in 1802.

Washington state

The Washington Territory , which was formed from the northern part of the Oregon Territory in 1853 , has been named in his honor. After minor changes, it was officially incorporated into the Union as the 42nd federal state in 1889. The Washington State is the only state that was named after a former president. Cities, on the other hand, are more often named after ex-presidents.

George Washington University

The George Washington University in Washington, DC is also named after him, which was in line with his original intentions to use parts from various funds and his legacy to found such an institution in the capital.

Streets, squares and bridges

A large number of streets, squares and bridges were named after Washington, especially in the USA. Well-known examples are the George Washington Bridge and Washington Bridge in New York City .


The first monument in honor of Washington was erected in Washington Monument State Park in the US state of Maryland in 1827 .

, Designed by Robert Mills , the so-called was 1848-1885 Washington Monument , a white marble - Obelisk , built. This is located exactly on the straight line connecting the Capitol State Building and the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC and was at the time of its completion the tallest building in the world with a height of 169 m. With the construction of the Eiffel Tower , this monument lost its record in 1889.

At the Mount Rushmore National Memorial , Washington’s 18.3 m high portrait head was carved into the rock along with three other of his successors in the United States Presidency.

Other honors

Portrait on a quarter dollar coin (1941)

Part of the plantation on which Washington was born was declared a memorial with the rank of National Monument in 1930 as the George Washington Birthplace National Monument and a typical building of the time was erected on the site of the main house, which had burned down in 1779 and housed a museum of the colonial times is.

The portrait of the “Father of the Nation” has been found on the 1 dollar bill (after a painting by Gilbert Stuart ) and the quarter coin as well as on various US Postage stamps since 1935 .

The United States Navy has a tradition in which various warships are named after famous personalities in American history and, in the case of the first President, has already implemented this on several ships of different classes (see USS George Washington ). Among other things, the world's first nuclear powered rocket submarine , the SSBN-589 , the type ship of the George Washington class of the same name , and a Nimitz class aircraft carrier with the identification CVN-73 were named after him.

On October 11, 1976, the United States Congress posthumously named him General of the Armies in Public Law 94-479 , a title previously bestowed only on John J. Pershing . Parliament put the promotion into effect retrospectively to July 4, 1976, the 200th anniversary of the independence of the United States . In the justification it was pointed out that nobody should get a higher rank than Washington.

In the historical ranking of the highest officers in the United States , he is therefore listed first, followed by John Pershing and Admiral of the Navy George Dewey .

The Teraina atoll was called Washington Island before it was annexed by the British Empire, and Washington Land was also named after it. He is also considered to be the namesake of the Washington Strait , a strait in the Antarctic. The asteroid (886) Washingtonia was discovered in 1917 and named after it.

The plant genus Washingtonia H. Wendl. from the palm family (Arecaceae) and as a synonym the giant sequoia Washingtonia california C.Winslow from the cypress family (Cupressaceae) are named after him.



  • George Washington: A Bibliography. Ed. V. Eldo Alexander, William P. Allen, 2 vols. London 1990.


  • The Writings of George Washington. Ed. V. John C. Fitzpatrick, 39 Vols. Washington 1931-1944.
  • 110 rules of decency and mutual respect in society and in conversation . From the English by Lutz-W. Wolff. With a foreword by Moritz Freiherr Knigge. dtv Verlagsgesellschaft , Munich 2018, ISBN 978-3-423-28989-4 (Original title: Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior In Company and Conversation )


  • Richard Brookhiser: Founding Father: Rediscovering George Washington. New York 1996, ISBN 0-684-83142-2 .
  • Ron Chernow : Washington: A Life. Penguin, New York 2010.
  • Marcus Cunliffe: George Washington - Man and Monument. Rev. ed. New York 1982, ISBN 0-451-62644-3 .
  • Joseph J. Ellis : His Excellency George Washington. Alfred A. Knopf, New York 2004 (German His Excellency George Washington. CH Beck, Munich 2005, ISBN 3-406-53509-7 ).
  • John Ferling: The First of Men. A Life of George Washington. Knoxville, Tennessee 1988, ISBN 0-87049-628-X .
  • James Th. Flexner: George Washington. Boston Mass. 1984, ISBN 0-452-25542-2 .
  • Douglas Southall Freeman : George Washington, a Biography. 7 vols. New York 1948–1972.
  • Franz Herre : George Washington. President at the cradle of a world power. Munich 1999, ISBN 3-421-05188-7 .
  • Edward G. Lengel: Inventing George Washington: America's Founder, in Myth & Memory. HarperCollins, New York 2011.

Web links

Commons : George Washington  - Collection of Images, Videos and Audio Files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ In England and in British colonies the Julian calendar was in effect until autumn 1752 . In addition, the turn of the year before 1752 was on March 25th. From 1752 the Gregorian calendar was used. According to the calendar then and now, George Washington's date of birth is February 11, 1731 jul. / February 22,  1732 greg.
  2. Public Law 94-479 . Wikisource.
  3. Joseph J. Ellis : His Excellency George Washington . CH Beck, Munich 2005, ISBN 3-406-53509-7 , p. 21 (English: His Excellency George Washington . Translated by Martin Pfeiffer).
  4. Quoted from Shelley Ross: Presidents and Affairs. Scandals and Corruption in American Politics. A chronicle of the downside of power . Bonn Aktuell, Munich 1989, ISBN 3-87959-377-9 , pp. 12 (English: Fall from grace . Translated by Dagmar Roth).
  5. Shelley Ross: Presidents and Affairs. Scandals and Corruption in American Politics. A chronicle of the downside of power. Bonn Aktuell, Munich 1989, ISBN 3-87959-377-9 , p. 15.
  6. Joseph J. Ellis: His Excellency George Washington. Pp. 23, 24.
  7. ^ A b Joseph J. Ellis: His Excellency George Washington. P. 25.
  8. Shelley Ross: Presidents and Affairs. Scandals and Corruption in American Politics. A chronicle of the downside of power. Bonn Aktuell, Munich 1989, ISBN 3-87959-377-9 , p. 17.
  9. Donald Jackson, Dorothy Twohig (Ed.): The Diaries of George Washington. ( Memento of May 6, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) Vol. I. 1748–1765. University Press of Virginia, Charlottesville 1976, p. 123.
  10. Donald Jackson, Dorothy Twohig (Ed.): The Diaries of George Washington. ( Memento of May 6, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) Vol. I. 1748–1765. University Press of Virginia, Charlottesville 1976. pp. 128, 129.
  11. Joseph J. Ellis: His Excellency George Washington. P. 17.
  12. Joseph J. Ellis: His Excellency George Washington. Pp. 15, 16.
  13. Joseph J. Ellis: His Excellency George Washington. P. 26.
  14. Joseph J. Ellis: His Excellency George Washington. Pp. 30, 31.
  15. George Washington: Writings. New York 1997, p. 48.
  16. Joseph J. Ellis: His Excellency George Washington. P. 28.
  17. Jump up ↑ Fred Anderson : Crucible of War: The Seven Years' War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754-1766. Vintage Books, New York 2001, ISBN 0-375-70636-4 , p. 59.
  18. Joseph J. Ellis: His Excellency George Washington. Pp. 31, 32.
  19. This assessment also roughly shares: Frank L. Brecher: Losing a Continent: France's North American Policy, 1753–1763. P. 54.
  20. Jump up ↑ Fred Anderson: Crucible of War: The Seven Years' War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754-1766. Vintage Books, New York 2001, ISBN 0-375-70636-4 , pp. 64-65.
  21. ^ A b The Battle of the Monongahela. In: World Digital Library . 1755, accessed August 3, 2013 .
  22. Joseph J. Ellis: His Excellency George Washington. Pp. 34, 35.
  23. Joseph J. Ellis: His Excellency George Washington. Pp. 36, 37.
  24. Joseph J. Ellis: His Excellency George Washington. P. 38.
  25. Joseph J. Ellis: His Excellency George Washington. P. 39.
  26. Joseph J. Ellis: His Excellency George Washington. P. 41.
  27. Joseph J. Ellis: His Excellency George Washington. P. 40.
  28. Quoted from: Franz Treller , Georg J. Feurig-Sorgenfrei, Joerg Sommermeyer: Nikunthas, King of Miami. An adventure tale from North America. Orlando Syrg, Berlin 2010, p. 223 f. See robbery of a continent. 180 years ago: Indian Resettlement Act signed. In: WDR deadline. May 28, 2010.
  29. Joseph J. Ellis: His Excellency George Washington. P. 42.
  30. Joseph J. Ellis: His Excellency George Washington. P. 46.
  31. Joseph J. Ellis: His Excellency George Washington. P. 48.
  32. Joseph J. Ellis: His Excellency George Washington. P. 50.
  33. Joseph J. Ellis: His Excellency George Washington. P. 51.
  34. ^ All quotations on the correspondence from: John Corbin: The Unknown Washington. New York 1930; and Shelley Ross: Presidents and Affairs. Scandals and Corruption in American Politics. A chronicle of the downside of power. Munich 1989, Bonn Aktuell, ISBN 3-87959-377-9 , 280 pp.
  35. John Corbin: The Unknown Washington. New York 1930.
  36. On the reception history of this letter, which, published in 1877 by the New York Herald , irritated the image of Washington in public: John Richard Alden: George Washington: a biography. Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge 1996, pp. 73 ff.
  37. See William Meade Stith Rasmussen, Robert S. Tilton: George Washington - the man behind the myths. University of Virginia Press, Charlottesville et al. a. 1999, p. 79.
  38. See also on the sober arrangement of both families: Joseph J. Ellis: His Excellency George Washington. CH Beck, Munich 2005, p. 61.
  39. ^ William Meade Stith Rasmussen, Robert S. Tilton: George Washington - the man behind the myths. University of Virginia Press, Charlottesville et al. a. 1999, p. 26.
  40. ^ "A regular, systematic plan [...] to make us tame and abject slaves", quoted from Michael Butter : Plots, designs, and schemes. American conspiracy theories from the Puritans to the present . Walter de Gruyter, Berlin / Boston 2014 ISBN 978-3-11-030759-7 , p. 32 (accessed via De Gruyter Online).
  41. Joseph J. Ellis: His Excellency George Washington. P. 96.
  42. Quoted from: The American Revolution in eyewitness accounts. Ed. U. translated by Willi Paul Adams and Angela Meurer Adams. dtv, Munich 1976, ISBN 3-423-01054-1 , p. 146.
  43. US Constitution, Article I, Section 2, Paragraph 3, amended by Amendments XIV and XVI, which belonged to the "liquidation estate" of the Civil War.
  44. Michael de la Bédoyère : George Washington. Weimar 1950, p. 260.
  45. James Th. Flexner: George Washington and the New Nation (1783–1793). Boston 1970, p. 162 ff.
  46. ^ Klaus Stüwe : The staging of the new beginning: Inaugural speeches by heads of government in the USA, Great Britain, France and Germany. Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, Wiesbaden 2004, pp. 90–92.
  47. ^ Fritz Wagner : The North American War of Independence and the Beginnings of the United States of America. In: Historia Mundi. A handbook of world history in ten volumes. Founded by Fritz Kern . Volume 9: Enlightenment and Revolution. Francke Verlag, Bern / Munich 1960, p. 298.
  48. See John Ferling: The Ascent of George Washington: The Hidden Political Genius of an American Icon. Bloomsbury Press, New York 2010, p. 317 f.
  49. See: William Hogeland: The Whiskey Rebellion: George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and the Frontier Rebels Who Challenged America's Newfound Sovereignty. Simon & Schuster, New York 2010.
  50. Stephen Knott: George Washington: Domestic Affairs. In:, University of Virginia , accessed February 15, 2016.
  51. Stephen Knott: George Washington: Foreign Affairs. In:, University of Virginia , accessed February 15, 2016.
  52. Actually one should call it "Washington's suicide note" because it was never given as a speech by him. See Victor H. Paltsis (Ed.): Washington's Farewell Address. New York 1935, p. 308 f.
  53. Victor H. Paltsis (Ed.): Washington's Farewell Address. New York 1935, p. 2 f. Quoted here from Ellis, 3rd ed. 2003, p. 168. Complete text on
  54. "But it is easy to foresee, that from different causes and from different quarters, much pains will be taken, many artifices employed, to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth; as this is the point in your political fortress against which the batteries of internal and external enemies will be most constantly and actively directed (though often covertly and insidiously) " . Washington's Farewell Address 1796 in the Avalon Project at Yale University, accessed May 11, 2018; Michael Butter: Plots, designs, and schemes. American conspiracy theories from the Puritans to the present . Walter de Gruyter, Berlin / Boston 2014 ISBN 978-3-11-030759-7 , pp. 60 ff. (Accessed via De Gruyter Online).
  55. Ellis, 3rd ed. 2003, p. 169.
  56. Quoted from Willi Paul Adams : Revolution and Foundation of the Nation, 1763–1815 . In: Willi Paul Adams (ed.): The United States of America (= Fischer Weltgeschichte . Volume 30). Fischer Taschenbuch, Frankfurt am Main 1977, pp. 22–70, here p. 64.
  57. Joseph J. Ellis: They Made America: The Founding Generation from John Adams to George Washington. Beck, Munich 2005, p. 174.
  58. ^ Franz Nuscheler , Klaus Ziemer : The election of parliaments and other state organs. Volume 2, de Gruyter, Berlin 1978, p. 120.
  59. See Simon Lipset: The First New Nation: The United States in Historical and Comperative Perspective. New York 1963.
  60. Joseph J. Ellis: His Excellency George Washington. P. 92.
  61. See Joseph J. Ellis: His Excellency George Washington. P. 53.
  62. Hartmut Wasser: Between master's right and human right. Thomas Jefferson and the "American Dilemma". In: the same (ed.): Thomas Jefferson. Historical significance and political topicality. For the 250th birthday of the "sage of Monticello". Schöningh, Paderborn 1995, p. 186.
  63. Jesse Washington: Washington: The 'blackest name' in America . In: , February 20, 2011, accessed October 21, 2017.
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  65. Joseph J. Ellis: His Excellency George Washington. P. 331.
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  73. Joseph J. Ellis: His Excellency George Washington. P. 327.
  74. Quoted from: Joseph Nathan Kane: Facts about The Presidents. A Compilation of Biographical and Historical Information. 4th edition. New York 1981, p. 16.
  75. Quoted from: America. Great Crisis in Our History. Told by its Makers. Vol. IV. Chicago 1925, p. 263.
  76. See on this: DiClerico, Uslauer: Few are chosen. Problems in Presidential Selections. 1984, p. 186 ff.
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