The Electoral College elected Washington unanimously in 1789, and again in the 1792 election. John Adams was elected vice president. Washington took the oath of office as the first President under the Constitution for the United States of America on April 30, 1789, at Federal Hall. At first, he had not wanted the position. Washington proved himself to be an able administrator. An excellent delegator and judge of talent and character, he held regular cabinet meetings to debate issues before making a final decision.
In handling routine tasks, he was “systematic, orderly, energetic, solicitous of the opinion of others but decisive, intent upon general goals and the consistency of particular actions with them. ” In 1789, Washington became President of the United States and promptly established many of the customs and usages of the new government’s executive department. He sought to create a great nation capable of surviving in a world torn by war between Britain and France. His decisions set the path for future presidents and impacted our nation immensely.
Washington created the first established foreign policy of the United States, the policy of neutrality or non-involvement. Having just defeated the English and gaining our independence, the US faced the challenging task of creating a new nation. In an effort to guard ourselves from involvement in the wider conflicts of the Europeans and focus on domestic affairs, a course of neutrality was followed. Washington’s Proclamation of Neutrality of 1793 provided a basis for avoiding these conflicts. The action of non-involvement or neutrality meant that the United States would not take part in the affairs of other nations.
Surprisingly, most Americans were in agreement with this choice and decided that war was not in the new nation’s interest. The purpose of Washington’s caution against entanglements with foreign powers was to minimize the chance of war. James Madison, the father of the Constitution, expressed this understanding when he wrote: “Of all enemies to public liberty, war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few. Washington understood this, and took action based on his knowledge, as well as his strong belief that it would benefit America as a whole. Another decision made by George Washington was his decision to appoint Alexander Hamilton to secretary of treasury. Washington knew he was in need of strong and intelligent leaders to be a part of the cabinet. He decided that Hamilton was the best choice to control the treasury, since he knew that Alexander Hamilton understood public finance. Hamilton believed in a strong central government led by prosperous and educated elite of upper-class citizens.
Hamilton also believed that commerce and industry were the keys to a strong nation. Washington supported Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton’s plans to build a strong central government by funding the national debt, implementing an effective tax system, and creating a national bank. The main problem facing Hamilton was the huge national debt. He proposed that the government assume the entire debt of the federal government and the states. His plan was to retire the old depreciated obligations by borrowing new money at a lower interest rate.
Though it was a struggle to get every state to agree with his idea, Hamilton’s debt program ended up being a great success. By demonstrating Americans’ willingness to repay their debts, he made the United States attractive to foreign investors. European investment capital poured into the new nation in large amounts. Washington’s decision to appoint Alexander Hamilton to secretary of treasury was one of genius. The beneficial impact on America and its citizens was immense and almost unbelievable. A third decision made by President George Washington was that he willingly chose to serve only two terms in office.
It was in part because he felt that the office of President should be held by citizens who wished to serve their country, not by individuals who sought complete power, and from whom the new nation had struggled so long to gain its independence. The majority of Presidents who followed Washington made this same choice, based on the precedent he established, until the two-term limit for presidents was codified into a law by the 22nd amendment. By refusing to pursue a third term, Washington made it the enduring standard that no U. S. President should seek more than two.
Washington’s Farewell Address was a primer on republican virtue and a stern warning against involvement in foreign wars. The impact of Washington’s retirement as President on America was an upsetting one. Many Americans looked up to Washington, and depended on him to keep America going in the right direction. Although Washington’s choice to step down came as a surprise, the people and America in general was greatly impacted and benefited by Washington’s presidency. The significant decisions, actions, and precedents that Washington made have resounded through American history.
Washington took complete control of a political system that was a daring experiment. To create a working government for the first time, Washington was faced with many practical and impractical decisions. A nation had never before tried to base a government on the ideals of republican rule and individual rights. Washington did believe in the ideas of the people, but at the same time knew that for everything to come together there needed to be a strong government. Washington created exactly that for our nation, and set the example that is still being followed by our leaders today.