1 1. George Washington Born: February 22, 1732 Died: December 14, 1799 Time in Office: First President of the United States, April 30, 1789, to March 4, 1797 Election Results: 1789 Election: 69 (100%) Electoral College votes 1792 Election: 132 (100%) Electoral College votes Spouse: Martha Dandridge Curtis (m. 1759) As the first president of the United States, George Washington has always stood apart as the individual who, perhaps more than any other president, defined and ­ shaped the office. ­ After serving as the commander of the Continental forces dur- ing the Revolutionary War, Washington was the head of the U.S. executive branch from April 1789 through March 1797. Washington won unan­i­mous victories in both of his presidential elections. In January 1789, the nation’s first presidential contest ­after ratification of the Constitution, Washington won with 69 electoral votes he tallied 132 in 1792. One of the most impor­tant and acclaimed decisions of his ­ career was to choose not to run for a third term, thereby establishing the pre­ ce­dent of a peaceful transfer of power from one president to the next. Washington married ­widow Martha Dandridge Curtis in 1759, and while Washington never had any ­ children of his own, Martha had two ­children from her previous marriage, both of whom died before Washington became president. Martha died three years ­ after her husband, in 1802. It may seem curious to find an essay about George Washington in a volume about criticism and hatred of presidents. Washington was beloved during and ­ after his tenure in public life and remains one of the most venerated public figures in American history, consistently ranking among the top four presidents in virtually all ranking lists. As Joseph Ellis, author of the biography His Excellency: George Washington, wrote: “It seemed to me that Benjamin Franklin was wiser than Wash- ington Alexander Hamilton was more brilliant John Adams was better read Thomas Jefferson was more intellectually sophisticated James Madison was more po­liti­cally astute. Yet each and all of ­ these prominent figures acknowledged that Washington was their unquestioned superior. Within the gallery of ­greats so often mythologized and capitalized as Founding ­Fathers, Washington was recognized as primus inter pares, the Foundingest ­Father of them all.” In the polarized politics of the 21st ­century, many citizens nostalgically view Washington’s administration as a time of unity in politics—­ a time when real states- men all worked together for the good of the country. In truth, though, ­ there was a
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