"I can truly say I had rather be at Mount Vernon with a friend or two about me, than to be attended at the Seat of Government by the Officers of State and the Representatives of every Power in Europe." (George Washington, letter to David Stuart, June 15, 1790)
Every American is taught a pristine narrative of the life and legacy of George Washington and can easily recite the highlights of the "father of our country". The remarkable Virginian led an under-resourced ragtag army to ultimate victory in the American Revolution before becoming the nation's first president, setting it on its path toward superpower status. He may not have actually chopped down a cherry tree or tossed a silver dollar across the Potomac, but his contemporaries considered his character above reproach. When Washington voluntary resigned as commander of the armies, he stunned the world. Everyone in the colonies and the world realized that Washington, at the head of the last army standing in the colonies, could have made himself king of the new United States on the spot, and it would have been a move supported by his rank-and-file soldiers. Instead Washington became the first Westerner to demobilize his army voluntarily, ensuring civilian control of the new nation. King George III called Washington "the greatest character of the age" for making that decision. As president from 1788-1796, Washington set every precedent for the executive branch of the new government, from forming a cabinet to limiting himself to two terms. He even set precedents with his farewell address, which helped guide the policies of subsequent presidents.
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