Brandon Seerup Education Portfolio

 Political Science

Final Essay Paper (Influential Person of Today's Politics)

Brandon Seerup

Manuel Romero

U.S. Government and Politics

12/18/2011

The Father of Our Nation

            In grade school and beyond, every American learns that George Washington is the Father of the country. With the celebration of President's Day this week, I wanted to know exactly why Washington is given such an honored title of our history. What is it that makes him worthy of being called the Father of our country?

George Washington is revered as the Father of this country for many reasons. Virtually every American knows that he was the first President of the United States of America. Most also know that we commanded the Revolutionary Army. However, many Americans know few of the details about his days as the nation's Commander-in-Chief, both during the Revolutionary War and after. In order to explain why this is so important you must know what, in effect, his time and involvement has affected our very lives. There is no doubt that we would not be where we are, doing what we are doing, have the rights we have, if George Washington was not the man and leader he proved to be.  I set to show you this by explaining who he was, where he came from and what he did for our country.

George Washington was born into a fairly prosperous Virginia farming family in 1732. Although he only received an elementary school education, George showed a gift for mathematics. This ability for numbers along with his quiet confidence and ambition caught the attention of Lord Fairfax, who was head of one of the most powerful families in Virginia. While working for Lord Fairfax as a surveyor at the age of sixteen, Washington traveled deep into the American wilderness for weeks at a time. Shaping his débuted in the Armed Services, as it were.

At the time, England and France were enemies in America, fighting for control of the Ohio River Valley. Holding a commission in the British army, Washington led a poorly trained and equipped force of 150 men to build a fort on the banks of the Ohio River. On the way, he encountered and attacked a small French force, killing a French minister in the process. News of this incident got back to open fighting between the British and the French, and in one fateful engagement, the British were routed by the French. Although George was hailed as a hero in the colonies when word spread of his heroic valor and leadership against the French, the Royal government in England blamed the colonials for the defeat. Angry at the lack of respect and appreciation shown to him, Washington resigned from the army and returned to farming in Virginia.

By 1770, Washington had emerged an experienced leader as a justice of the peace in Fairfax County, a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses, and a respected lay leader in his church. He also was among the first prominent Americans to openly support resistance to England's new policies of taxation and strict regulation of the colonial economy (the Navigation Acts) beginning in the early 1770s.

Washington was elected, by the Virginia legislature, to both the First and the Second Continental Congress, which was held in 1774 and 1775. In 1775, after local militia units from Massachusetts had engaged British troops near Lexington and Concord, the Second Continental Congress appointed Washington commander of all the colonial forces. Showing the modesty that was central to his character, and would later serve the young Republic so well, Washington proclaimed, "I do not think myself equal to the command I am honored with."

After routing the British from Boston in the spring of 1776, Washington fought a series of humiliating battles in a losing effort to defend New York. Washington's determination, leadership and refusal to give up made the difference between victory and defeat on more than one occasion. Christmas Day that same year, he led his army through a ferocious blizzard, crossed the Delaware into New Jersey, and defeated the Hessian forces at Trenton. His daring attack on a Hessian fort at Trenton turned the tide in a War that had been clearly going the way of the British, not the Colonists. In May 1778, the French agreed to an alliance with the Americans, marking the turning point of the Revolution. Washington knew that one great victory by his army would collapse the British Parliament's support for its war against the colonies. In October 1781, Washington's troops, assisted by the French Navy, defeated Cornwallis at Yorktown. By the following spring the British government was ready to end hostilities.

Following the war, Washington quelled a potentially disastrous bid by some of his officers to declare him king. He then returned to Mount Vernon and the genteel life of a tobacco planter, only to be called out of retirement to preside at the Constitutional Convention in 1787.

Washington passed by opportunity after opportunity to assume and consolidate power. Arriving in the Capitol city before most of the members of the newly elected Congress, Washington chose to wait for the Congress to convene before committing any official acts as President. Instead of succumbing to popular sentiment that he be treated as something of a king, Washington downplayed his stature as President. He did so through dozens of actions, some purely symbolic, such as wearing a simple brown broadcloth suit to his Inauguration, and some very substantive. His great stature gave credibility to the call for a new government and insured his election as the first President of the United States. George Washington was aware that his conduct as President would set model for the future of the office so he carefully considered every step he took. He selected Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton to his cabinet. Almost immediately, these two men began to disagree over a wide array of issues, but Washington valued them for the balance they lent his cabinet. Literally the "Father of the Nation," Washington, almost single-handedly created a new government, shaping its institutions, offices, and political practices.

Perhaps the most lasting effects of Washington's influence on the United States of America are the product of his two terms in office as the nation's first President. Several scholars have suggested that the Constitution as we know it was only agreeable to the people of the new nation because it was widely assumed that Washington would be the first man to be its Chief Executive.

By all accounts, Washington sought only to serve his country all the days of his adult life. In fact, one of the major complaints about Washington was that he allowed himself to become so consumed by his public responsibilities that there was little room left for a private, personal side of the man. But Washington's commitment to the interests of the country, as he saw them, is unquestioned. The best summation of this point of view is something he himself stated:

“Though I prize as I ought the good opinion of my fellow citizens, yet, if I know myself, I would not seek or retain popularity at the expense of one social duty or moral virtue. While doing what my conscience informed me was right, as it respected my God, my country, and myself, I could despise all the party clamor and unjust censure, which must be expected from some, whose personal enmity might by occasioned by their hostility to the government . . . and certain I am, whensoever I shall be convinced the good of my country requires my reputation to be put at risk, regard for my own fame will not come in competition with an object of so much magnitude.”

           

Washington was unanimously supported by the electoral college for a second term in 1792. Throughout both his terms, Washington struggled to prevent the emergence of political parties, viewing them as factions harmful to the public good. Nevertheless, in his first term, the ideological division between Jefferson and Hamilton deepened, forming the outlines of the nation's first party system. This system was composed of Federalists, who supported expansive federal power and Alexander Hamilton, and the Democratic-Republicans, followers of Thomas Jefferson's philosophy of states' rights and limited federal power. Washington generally backed Hamilton on key issues, such as the funding of the national debt, the assumption of state debts, and the establishment of a national bank.

 

Throughout his two terms, Washington insisted on his power to act independent of Congress in foreign conflicts, especially when war broke out between France and England in 1793 and he issued a Declaration of Neutrality on his own authority. He also acted decisively in putting down a rebellion by farmers in western Pennsylvania who protested a federal whiskey tax (the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794). After he left office, exhausted and discouraged over the rise of political factions, Washington returned to Mount Vernon, where he died almost three years later.

 

Historians agree that no one other than George Washington could have held the disparate colonies and, later, the struggling young Republic together. To the Revolution's last day, Washington's troops were ragged, starving, and their pay was months in arrears. In guiding this force during year after year of humiliating defeat to final victory, more than once paying his men out of his own pocket to keep them from going home, Washington earned the unlimited confidence of those early citizens of the United States. Perhaps most importantly, Washington's balanced and devoted service as President persuaded the American people that their prosperity and best hope for the future lay in a union under a strong but cautious central authority. His refusal to accept a proffered crown and his willingness to relinquish the office after two terms established the precedents for limits on the power of the presidency. Washington's profound achievements built the foundations of a powerful national government that has survived for more than two centuries.


Throughout this information provided I have explained who George Washington was and a few of his many accomplishments.  If George Washington was not such a prominent figure in American History we would have a much different existence today.  Let me point out a few of these extremely pivotal events, for further explanation.

If Washington was not a part of the British Armed forces and led a group of men to build a fort on the Ohio they would not have run into the French force where the French minister just happened to be. This battle proved to give Washington the first big boost of reputation for the colonies and provided him route for political experience in Virginia.

Washington's experience as a justice of the peace, in Virginia put him in position to actively support the resistance to England’s new policies in 1770's.

When George was elected for both CC's he proved to be a pivotal force as many believed that the CC had no momentum and would not succeed without him.

During the Revolution, when he refused to give up after a series of humiliating battles in New York, he proved to change the winds direction toward victory by defeating the Hessian forces at Trenton. This victory was one of the most substantial moments of American history which would not have happened, had George Washington not been the man he was and been there to keep pushing.  This victory also gave interest for the French to consider alliance with the colonists.

After becoming elected President, instead of succumbing to popular sentiment that he be treated as something of a king, Washington downplayed his stature as President. He did so through dozens of actions, some purely symbolic, such as wearing a simple brown broadcloth suit to his Inauguration, and some very substantive. His great stature gave credibility to the call for a new government and insured his election as the first President of the United States. George Washington was aware that his conduct as President would set model for the future of the office so he carefully considered every step he took. One being his step down from the office showing that U.S.A. will never be a monarchy and the first nation ever to have a limited timeline "Ruler".

George washington selected Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton to his cabinet. This choice proved to be a turning point of our government as it was the start of the political parties as we know them, Hamilton with the federalist and Jefferson with the Democrat-Republicans.

In summation, without the leader that was George Washington, we would not have soo many things that are taken for granted today.  We would not have the government we have in large. We would not have the Politics we do.  We would not have the freedom and rights that we have.  As a big picture, we would not have the opportunities we have today to choose what we want to do or not to do.  We would not have the choice to vote for our next president.  We would not be able to have political views or vote for/against laws.  It was because of George Washington that our lives are lives have the chance to be soo great.

 

 

 

Works Cited

American Government and Politics Online. n.d. 02 November 2011 <ThisNation.com>.

Cited, Not. All About The White House. n.d. 13 October 2011 <www.whitehouse.gov>.

Ferling, John E. Geroge Washington's America: the hidden political Genius of an American Icon. 2009.

Jay A. Parry, Andrew M. Allison. The Real George Washington. 1991.

University Of Virginia. n.d. 05 November 2011 <MillerCenter.edu>.

 

 

 

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