President George Washington: His Presidency Pros and Cons
About the presidency of George Washington, the first president of the United States of America, some of the pros and cons.
His 7 Years, 308 days as President
With his enormous prestige as a leader and his considerable political skill, Washington managed to keep 13 quarreling States together for 8 difficult years. During most of his 2 terms, he managed to work successfully with representatives of every political faction. Placing himself deliberately above party and sectional divisions, he focused the aspirations of all citizens on the office of the President. In his key role as the setter of precedent, he managed to strike the perfect balance: He was neither a dictator, nor a cipher, but the strong republican leader that the times--and constitutional balance--demanded.
Washington was unduly obsessed with presidential prerogatives and the dignity of his office; his insistence on bowing rather than shaking hands with his visitors is only one example of his pompous, aristocratic approach to the office.
Although he carefully weighed advice from all his advisers, Washington wisely followed Alexander Hamilton's economic policies, thereby establishing the U.S. Government as a going concern. Under Washington, financial chaos gave way to a thriving, national economy that ultimately benefited all citizens and strengthened the nation as a whole.
The Hamiltonian policies favored by Washington emphasized special benefits for the rich and well-born, while ordinary farmers and artisans were left to fend for themselves. While Washington made a great show of impartiality at his frequently bitter Cabinet meetings, he almost always sided with the devious Hamilton, a special favorite adopted by Washington as a sort of foster son.
When the farmers of western Pennsylvania took up arms to protest the Federal excise tax in the Whiskey Rebellion, Washington moved effectively to establish the authority of the new Government. His swift and decisive action prevented the uprising from growing to dangerous proportions. His eventual amnesty for all leaders of the rebellion prevented the incident from leaving lasting scars.
Washington's handling of the Whiskey Rebellion was a gross overreaction. His mobilization of an elaborate army of 15,000 men to subdue a mere handful of frontier rioters was an unnecessary show of force that reflects the basically authoritarian side of Washington's nature. The image of Washington and Hamilton, marching personally at the head of this huge army in their glorious effort to quell the hapless Whiskey Boys is ludicrous, to say the least.
Washington's policy of neutrality in the conflict that was emerging between England and revolutionary France was exactly what was called for under the circumstances. While hotheads demanded American moves in favor of France and against the hated mother country, Washington successfully avoided a war that would probably have meant the end of the independent republic. In negotiating a treaty with England, Washington won some significant concessions that helped protect Americans on the frontier from attack by the Indians and the British.
"Jay's Treaty," Washington's opponents asserted, was little more than a thinly disguised sellout to Great Britain. Not only did Washington fail to lend support to the new republican forces in France, but gradually allowed U.S. policy to drift in a pro-British direction. In his horror at the people's revolution in France, he showed his lack of sympathy for true revolutionary principles and his conservative, oligarchical preferences.
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