Chapter XIV. The First President
Washington was now fifty-two years old.
The country was still in an unsettled condition. True, it
was free from
English control. But there was no strong government to hold
Each state was a little country of itself, making its own
having its own selfish aims without much regard for its sister
People did not think of the United States as one great undivided
And so matters were in bad enough shape, and they grew worse
as the months went by.
Wise men saw that unless something should be done to bring
closer union of the states, they would soon be in no better
than when ruled by the English king.
And so a great convention was held in Philadelphia to determine
could be done to save the country from ruin. George Washington
chosen to preside over this convention - and no man's words
weight than his.
He said, "Let us raise a standard
to which the wise and honest can
repair. The event is in the hand of God."
That convention did a great and wonderful work - for it framed
Constitution by which our country has ever since been governed.
And soon afterwards, in accordance with that Constitution,
the people of
the country were called upon to elect a President. Who should
Who could it be but Washington?
When the electoral votes were counted, every vote was for
Washington of Virginia.
And so, on the 16th of April, 1789, the great man again bade
Mount Vernon and to private life, and set out for New York.
For the city
of Washington had not yet been built, and New York was the
of our country.
There were no railroads at that time, and so the journey was
made in a
coach. All along the road the people gathered to see their
hero-president and show him their love.
On the 30th of April he was inaugurated at the old Federal
Hall in New
"Long live George Washington, President of the United
the people. Then the cannon roared, the bells rang, and the
government of the United States--the government which we have
to-day--began its existence.
Washington was fifty-seven years old at the time of his inauguration.
Perhaps no man was ever called to the doing of more difficult
The entire government must be built up from the beginning,
and all its
machinery put into order.
But so well did he meet the expectations of the people, that
first term was near its close he was again elected President,
every electoral vote.
In your histories you will learn of the many difficult tasks
performed during those years of the nation's infancy. There
troubles with England, troubles with the Indians, jealousies
disagreements among the lawmakers of the country. But amidst
trials Washington stood steadfast, wise, cool--conscious that
right, and strong enough to prevail.
Before the end of his second term, people began to talk about
him for the third time. They could not think of any other man
the highest office in the country. They feared that no other
be safely entrusted with the great responsibilities which he
But Washington declared that he would not accept office again.
government was now on a firm footing. There were others who
its affairs wisely and well.
And so, in September, 1796, he published his Farewell Address.
full of wise and wholesome advice.
"Beware of attacks upon the
Constitution. Beware of those who think more
of their party than of their country. Promote education. Observe
justice. Treat with good faith all nations. Adhere to the right.
united--be united. Love your country." These were some
of the things
that he said.
John Adams, who had been Vice-President eight years, was chosen
the new President, and Washington again retired to Mount Vernon.