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George Washington

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George  Washington

1732-99, 1st president of the U.S., commander in chief of the Continental Army in the AMERICAN REVOLUTION, called the Father of his Country; b. Feb. 22, 1732 (Feb. 11, 1731, O.S.), Westmoreland co., Va., into a wealthy family. He became a surveyor as a young man and was one of the principals of the OHIO COMPANY, whose purpose was the exploitation of Western lands. An officer in the militia, he fought in the last of the FRENCH AND INDIAN WARS and was named (1755) commander in chief of the Virginia militia with the rank of colonel. He resigned in 1759, married, and turned his attention to his tation, MOUNT VERNON. He was a delegate (1774-75) to the CONTINENTAL CONGRESS, which named him commander of the Continental forces after the outbreak of hostilities with the British. He assumed command (July 3, 1775) in Cambridge, Mass., and succeeded in capturing Boston from the British (Mar. 17, 1776). Unable to defend New York City (see LONG ISLAND, BATTLE OF), he was forced to retreat successively to Westchester co., New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. He developed his military skill by trial and error as he went along. On Christmas night, 1776, with morale at its lowest ebb, he and his troops crossed the Delaware R. and defeated the British at Trenton and Princeton, N.J. Less successful in his attempts to defend Philadelphia at BRANDYWINE and Germantown he spent the winter of 1777-78 at VALLEY FORGE in great misery and deprivation. But he emerged with increased powers from Congress and a well-trained, totally loyal army. After the battle of MONMOUTH (June 28, 1778), his fortunes improved and subsequent victories preceded the surrender of Gen. Cornwallis on Oct. 19, 1781 (see YORKTOWN CAMPAIGN). Washington retired to Mount Vernon, but his dissatisfaction with the new government (see CONFEDERATION, ARTICLES OF) led him back into public life. He presided over the second FEDERAL CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION (1787), where his prestige and reputation were incalculable in the adoption of the CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES. He was chosen unanimously as the first president and took office on Apr. 30, 1789. His efforts to remain aloof from partisan politics were unsuccessful, and the influence of Alexander HAMILTON moved him increasingly toward conservatism. His second term, openly Federalist, was bitterly criticized by the Jeffersonians. Sickened by the partisan struggles, he refused a third term and retired for the last time to Mount Vernon in 1797. He died two years later, universally regarded as the one without whom the American Revolution and the new republic could not have succeeded. His wife, Martha Washington, 1731-l802, was born Martha Dandridge in New Kent co., Va. Her first husband, by whom she had two children, was Daniel Parke Custis, who died in 1757, leaving her one of the wealthiest women in Virginia. She and Washington had no children.


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