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George Washington

1st President of the United States (1789-1797)

George Washington portrait
George Washington

The President of the United States serves as the head of the Executive Branch of our United States Government. Over forty men have been privileged to serve in this role.

The portrait of George Washington to the right was painted by Gilbert Stuart evidently at the request of a Mrs. William Bingham, in 1796. She offered it as a gift to William Petty, second Earl of Shelburne and first Marquis of Lansdowne. William Petty was a British supporter of the American revolutionary cause.

It depicts George Washington as he stands before the Congress in Philadelphia. Two books, American Revolution and Constitution & Laws of the United States, are found on the table along with a silver inkstand engraved with the Washington family coat of arms.

The life-size portrait measures about 96" by 60" and hangs in the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. It was a gift to the Smithsonian by the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation.

George Washington (1732-1799)
Birth date: February 22, 1732
Birth place: Pope's Creek, Westmoreland County, Virginia
Mother: Mary Ball Washington
Father: Augustine Washington
Education: Equivalent of an elementary school education
Profession: Planter, Soldier, Surveyor
Religion: Episcopalian
Marriage: January 6, 1759 to Martha Dandridge Custis (1731-1802)
Children: None, though his wife, Martha Custis, brought two with her from a previous marriage.
Political party: Federalist
Service: 1789-1797
Nickname(s): Father of His Country
Date of death: December 14, 1797
Place of death: Mount Vernon, Virginia
Resting place: Family Vault, Mount Vernon, Virginia
Source: The Whitehouse, www.whitehouse.gov, February 21, 2007
Source: Miller Center of Public Affairs, The University of Virginia, www.millercenter.virginia.edu, February 21, 2007
Source: The National Portrait Gallery, The Smithsonian Institution, www.npg.si.edu, February 21, 2007

George Washington's presidency

  • April 30, 1789: George Washington inaugurated as first President of the United States in New York City, the nation's first capital. His Vice President is John Adams.
  • July 4, 1789: After consulting with President Washington, Representative James Madison led Congress to enact the nation's first protective tariff. The Tariff Act of 1789 levied taxes, from 5 to 15%, on imported goods to pay off war debts provide the new government with operating expenses.
  • March 26, 1790: Congress passes the nation's first naturalization law to establish the rules regarding U.S. citizenship.
  • May 29, 1790: Rhode Island finally ratifies the Constitution. It is the last of the original Articles of Confederation states to do so and official join the new Union.
  • May 31, 1790: President Washington signs the first copyright law.
  • July 16, 1790: President Washington signs the law establishing a permanent capital on the north bank of the Potomac River. This area is named the District of Columbia.
  • August 4, 1790: A law that directs the new federal government to assume the Revolutionary War debts of the individual states is signed by President Washington.
  • December 6, 1790: The government is moved from New York City to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where it will reside until facilities are completed in the District of Columbia (1800).
  • December 13, 1790: With President Washington's approval, Secretary of State Alexander Hamilton sends his Report on the National Bank calling for the creation of an official Bank of the United States.
  • February 25, 1791: A bill establishing a nation bank is signed by President Washington.
  • March 3, 1791: Congress approves the nation's first internal revenue law by creating fourteen revenue districts and imposing a tax on the sale of distilled spirits.
  • September 9, 1791: A team of commissioners name the area within the District of Columbia, Washington, to honor the first President.
  • November 4, 1791: The Washington administration's attempt to ease the way for settlement of the Ohio country is delivered a setback when Miami Indians attack and defeat General Arthur St. Clair's military force of 1,400 men. General St. Clair loses 900.
  • December 15, 1791: The states officially ratify the first 10 amendments to the Constitution, honoring Washington's call in his inaugeral address. The first 10 amendments are known as the Bill of Rights.
  • January 12, 1792: President Washington appoints Thomas Pinckney as the first United States minister to England. Washington instructs Pinckney to convey a spirit of "sincere friendship" and to work to extricate American commerce from British regulations.
  • October 13, 1792: The cornerstone of the President's mansion, in Washington, D.C., is laid.
  • December, 1792: George Washington is unanimously elected by the Electoral College for a second term as President of the United States. John Adams is also elected for a second term as Vice President.
  • April 22, 1793: President Washington issues a proclamation of neutrality regarding conflicts between Britain and France.
  • May 18, 1793: French envoy to the United States, Edmond Charles Genêt, is received by a cautious President Washington. The President's fears that Genêt has come to seek help for France in its conflicts with Britain, endangering U.S. neutrality, are born out.
  • Autumn, 1793: The British Government issues secret orders to the Royal Navy to confiscate any vessel trading with French possessions in the Caribbean. The Royal Navy captures 200 U.S. ships and the U.S. relationship with Great Britain deteriorates.
  • December 31, 1793: Thomas Jefferson resigns as Secretary of State. President Washington appoints Edmond Randolph to take Jefferson's place.
  • March, 1794: Responding to British aggression and supported by President Washington, the Congress authorizes the production of six U.S. warships and a sixty-day embargo on shipping.
  • April 16, 1794: As tensions mount between the United States and Britain, President Washington sends Supreme Court Chief Justice John Jay across the Atlantic Ocean to meet with the British government. Washington hopes that Jay can improve relations as well as address U.S. grievances.
  • July-November, 1794: Farmers in western Pennsylvania rise in defiance of strict enforcement of the excise tax on distilled spirits passed in 1791 (Whiskey Rebellion). Washington orders the farmers to cease and return home. When they don't back down, he sends 12,000 militia to Pennsylvania.
  • August 20, 1794: The Ohio country is opened up when General Anthony Wayne defeats a force of more than 1,000 Indians, allied with Britain, at the Battle of Fallen Timbers.
  • November 19, 1794: John Jay concludes a treaty of Commerce and Navigation with Britain. Known as the Jay Treaty, this agreement is attacked by many as a betrayal of American interests. Under the new treaty, the U.S. gained a "most favored nation" status but Britain continued to restrict U.S. commercial access to the West Indies. It left the other major issues, such as the Canada/Maine border, confiscation of American ships, and compensation for pre-revolutionary debts to be settled through arbitration.
  • January 31, 1795: Alexander Hamilton resigns as Secretary of the Treasury. Washington appoints Oliver Wolcott to replace Hamilton.
  • March 1, 1795: Treaty between the United States and Tripoli signed.
  • June 24, 1795: After bitter debate, the Jay Treaty is ratified by the Senate.
  • August 14, 1795: President Washington signs the Jay Treaty.
  • October 27, 1795: The Treaty of San Lorenzo with Spain is signed. This treaty gives the United States rights to ship goods through the port of New Orleans without having to pay duties to Spain.
  • November, 1795: The United States Government pays the Bey of Algiers nearly one million dollars for the protection of American shipping in the Mediterranean Sea and for the ransom of U.S. sailors.
  • March 7 1796: Treaty signed between the United States and the Bey of Algiers.
  • March/April 1796: Tennessee's memorial for statehood is approved by the United States Congress.
  • July 1796: Diplomatic conflicts erupt when France informs America's representative in Paris, that the Jay Treaty violates provisions of the 1778 Treaty of Amity and Commerce between the United States and France.
  • September 19, 1796: In an address, President Washington warns future American leaders to be wary of and minimize connections with foreign powers. This address becomes known as his Farewell Address.
  • November 4, 1796: The United States Government signs an agreement with Tripoli, agreeing to pay annual tribute to the Pasha of Tripoli in exchange for protection of shipping in the Mediterranean. This agreement is similar to that reached with the Bey of Algiers.
  • December, 1796: John Adams is elected the second President of the United States. Thomas Jefferson, with the second highest number of Electoral Collage votes, becomes Vice President.
  • January, 1797: Relations between the two nations deteriorate further as American envoy James Monroe's replacement, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, is rejected by France.
  • March 4, 1797: John Adams is inaugurated as the second President of the United States. George Washington retires Mount Vernon.

Source: Miller Center of Public Affairs, The University of Virginia, www.millercenter.virginia.edu, February 21, 2007

George Washington's cabinet
Vice President: John Adams (1789-1797)
Secretary of State: Thomas Jefferson (1789 - 1793) Edmund Randolph (1794 - 1795) Timothy Pickering (1796 - 1797)
Secretary of War: Henry Knox (1789 - 1794) Timothy Pickering (1795 - 1796) James McHenry (1796 - 1797)
Postmaster General: Samuel Osgood (1789 - 1791) Timothy Pickering (1791 - 1795) Joseph Habersham (1795 - 1797)
Secretary of the Treasury: Alexander Hamilton (1789 - 1795) Oliver Wolcott Jr. (1795 - 1797)
Attorney General: Edmund Randolph (1789 - 1794) William Bradford (1794 - 1795) Charles Lee (1795 - 1797)
Source: Miller Center of Public Affairs, The University of Virginia, www.millercenter.virginia.edu, February 21, 2007

George Washington Presidential $1 Coin — First President, 1789-1797

George Washington Presidential Coin
U.S. Mint image

Following the ratification of the Constitution of the United States, the Electoral College unanimously elected George Washington to serve as the United States’ first President.

On June 1, 1789, President George Washington signed the country’s first Act of Congress, concerning the administration of oaths. In 1791, President Washington presided over the Nation’s first recorded Cabinet meeting, which included Alexander Hamilton as the United States’ first Secretary of the Treasury and Thomas Jefferson as the first Secretary of State.

Washington also laid the groundwork for the United States’ earliest foreign policy stance when he issued his Declaration of Neutrality in 1793, a direct response to the emerging conflict between England and France.

Coinage Legislation under President George Washington

Coinage Act of April 2, 1792: Commonly referred to as the Mint Act, this Act establishes the United States Mint at Philadelphia, the Nation’s capital at the time. The Mint Act called for the production of the following coins, and specified their weight in gold, silver or copper: half-cent, cent, half-dime, dime, quarter-dollar, half-dollar, dollar, quarter-eagle ($2.50), half-eagle ($5.00), and eagle ($10).

Act of May 8, 1792: This Act authorizes the Director to purchase up to 150 tons of copper for the coining of cents and half-cents.

Act of January 14, 1793: This Act establishes the metal content of cents and half-cents.

Act of February 9, 1793: This Act establishes foreign exchange rates, and ends the acceptance of foreign coinage (with the exception of the Spanish milled dollar) as legal tender in the United States.

Act of March 3, 1794: This Act provides an accounting method of receiving metals for the purpose of producing coins from the metals received.

Act of March 3, 1795: This Act establishes the positions of melter and refiner of the United States Mint and grants the President the authority to reduce the amount of copper used in both the cent and half-cent.

United States Mint Directors appointed by President Washington

  • 1792: David Rittenhouse — First Director of the United States Mint.
  • 1795: Henry William de Saussure — Second Director.
  • 1795: Elias Boudinot — Third Director.

Martha Washington First Spouse $10 Gold Coin - First Lady (1789–1797)

Martha Washington First Lady Coin
U.S. Mint image
Martha Washington First Lady Coin (reverse)
U.S. Mint image

Born Martha Dandridge on June 2, 1731, the future First Lady of the United States married Daniel Parke Custis when she was 18 years old, and was a mother of two surviving children when her first husband died in 1757. She married George Washington two years later, and for much of the next 40 years, Martha Washington fulfilled her role of a military and political wife with ease and grace.

She and husband George retired from public life at the end of his second term as President, and lived out their lives at Mount Vernon, not far from the capital city that would soon bear their name.

Reverse Design

The reverse design of the Martha Washington coin depicts the future First Lady sewing a button onto her husband’s uniform jacket. During the Revolutionary War, her concern for the colonial soldiers earned her their lasting respect and admiration. She is known to have organized sick wards and persuaded the society ladies of Morristown to roll bandages from their fine napkins and tablecloths, as well as to repair uniforms and knit shirts for the poorly equipped Continental soldiers. Her presence in the encampments of the Continental Army was an example to other officer's wives and a significant factor in lifting the morale of her husband's tired, cold and hungry troops.

Source: The United States Mint, www.usmint.gov, February 21, 2007

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