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American Revolution - Highlights - UNANIMOUS PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION

UNANIMOUS PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION (Illustration) American History Biographies Famous Historical Events Government Social Studies Revolutionary Wars American Revolution

Charles Peale Polk (1767–1822) created this portrait of George Washington, at Princeton, circa 1790.  Washington was selected as America’s President. We learn, from the National Archives, that he won both of his presidential elections (in 1789 and 1792) virtually unanimously:  “For all intents and purposes, Washington was unopposed for election as President. Under the system then in place, votes for Vice President were not differentiated from votes for President.”

 

George Washington was as reluctant to accept the job of President as he was reluctant to become Commander-in-Chief. He had kept his vow to resign at the end of the war and meant to keep his vow never to seek political office.

But when the country he had fought so hard to create was virtually falling apart - because Articles of Confederation  uniting the States were weak - Washington relented.

He took office in New York City on April 30, 1789 - the only unanimously elected President in the history of the country. (Technically, he wasn't the first. That little-known honor belongs to Samuel Huntington who was President of the Continental Congress when the country first took the name "United States.")

The original of Washington's Inaugural Address, which he also signed, is preserved at the US National Archives. His copy of the Constitution includes an important handwritten addition (to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States") which he made to the oath of office. (That phrase had been proposed by James Madison and George Mason.)

Repeating the oath when he was sworn in, Washington added something else at the end:

So help me God.

Every president thereafter has followed his lead.

Many "firsts" happened while Washington was head of the military and then head of the country. From rebellious colonials who refused to tolerate English Bishops in their new land to idealistic politicians who risked their lives by severing ties to the Crown, America was the place where people risked much for what they believed.

During the year Washington took command of the Army (1775), another branch of the military - the Marines - was first formed at the old Tun Tavern in Philadelphia, the largest city in the colonies. Proposing the first seal of the new country, Thomas Jefferson did not prevail, although we can still view his designs today.

While historians may never resolve whether Betsy Ross actually created the new country's flag, two original Revolutionary War flags still survive. Follow this link to the tattered flagcarried at the Battle of Stoney Point.

As Commander-in-Chief, General Washington experienced the highs and lows of all his men. From the surrender of Burgoyne and the Redcoats at Saratoga to the fall of Charleston, Washington's strategy and fortitude kept the troops on track. (This link takes you to his copy of General Benjamin Lincoln's letter to Sir Henry Clinton expressing willingness to surrender Charleston - the lowest point of the war.)

The Revolutionary War is a story of how the will to be free can triumph against impossible odds. Many patriots were responsible for transforming America from British-owned colonies into "the land of the free and the home of the brave." Many of the "firsts" which occurred within a short time frame are still part of American life today.

The colonists were not always unanimous, but most agreed on one fundamental objective: Striving to be free was worth the highest price they could pay. And many were called upon to pay it.

 

NOTE: AwesomeStories gratefully acknowledges Edward J. Krasnoborski who created the wonderful U.S. Military Academy annotated maps linked throughout this story. Mr. Krasnoborski's career, as a cartographer at the Academy, spanned sixty years.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5089stories and lessons created

Original Release: Oct 07, 2013

Updated Last Revision: Mar 12, 2016


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