President George Washington: On the Way to the White House
About President George Washington, his skill as a general in the American Revolution, his call to the White House.
On the Way to the White House: Some military historians assert that Washington was a battlefield genius who deserves to rank with Napoleon and Alexander the Great; many others see him as a fumbling beginner who succeeded in the Revolution only through the utter incompetence of his British opponents. But whatever his skills as a battlefield commander, there can be little question of his overall effectiveness as a war leader. He worked with skill, determination, and unbelievable patience to organize and inspire the American Army, and despite numerous defeats he kept that Army in the field. A skilled propagandist, he helped swing public opinion to the patriot cause. Though he often talked of his wish to retire to Mount Vernon, he moved swiftly and subtly to squelch a conspiracy of senior officers that attempted to replace him as commander-in-chief. In 1781, at the time of the final American victory, Washington's personal prestige was so overwhelming that he was already widely hailed as "the father of his country."
After the war, his desire to spend his days quietly at Mount Vernon was probably sincere, but he was soon drawn back into public life despite his protests. As commander-in-chief, he had struggled for 8 long years to work with a quarreling and ineffective Continental Congress and had become deeply convinced of the need for a stronger national Government. In 1787, when a Constitutional Convention assembled to bring about that change, Washington's presence was needed to legitimize that gathering. On his arrival at Philadelphia, Washington was unanimously elected president of the convention, and his dignity and restraint in the chair kept the often stormy meetings from falling apart. When his colleagues at the Constitutional Convention created the office of President of the U.S., they did so with Washington specifically in mind.
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