· Agrarianism refers to a way of life in which all members
of society are independent, land-owning farmers. In this vision
of society, held by many Republicans such as Thomas Jefferson
and industry are generally undesirable and often corrupt and immoral.
In the ideal agrarian society, large cities don't exist because
everyone lives in relative independence from the government and
from one another on the land. This ideal was directly opposed to
the vision of America held by people such as Alexander Hamilton,
who believed in trade and modern capitalism.
Articles of Confederation
· The Articles of Confederation were signed and made
law in 1777. They established the United States of America and provided
a national government during the Revolutionary
. After the war, the national government proved
to be too weak and unstable, so the states met in 1787 revise them.
This meeting became the Constitutional Convention.
Bunker Hill -
· Bunker Hill is in Chelsea, Massachusetts, across the
Charles River from Boston. It sits next to Breed's Hill, which
rebels occupied in 1775 after the Battles of Lexington and Concord.
(The Battle of Bunker Hill actually took place on Breed's Hill.)
· Factors were merchants, usually based in London, who
bought tobacco from the plantations in America. According to British law,
American planters could only sell to a limited number of factors
and often got little money for their crops. The planters also relied
on the factors for most of their goods–clothes, furniture, books,
etc. As a result, most planters were deeply in debt to their factors.
This system angered Washington and contributed to his support for
Federal Constitution -
· The Federal Constitution was created in Philadelphia
in the fall of 1787. After it was ratified by nine states it went
into effect as the basis for a new American government. It replaced
the Articles of Confederation and created a strong federal government
with executive, legislative, and judicial branches.
· Federalists were a group of people, led by Alexander
Hamilton, who believed that the federal government should be strong
and have wide ranging powers. This group greatly influenced Washington
and eventually formed a loosely organized political party which
was eventually opposed by the Republicans.
Forks of the Ohio -
· The confluence of the Monongahela and Allegheny Rivers, which
create the Ohio River, was called the Forks of the Ohio. It was
a highly strategic site in Washington's era and was where the French
built Fort Duquesne.
Fort Duquesne -
· The French built Fort Duquesne at the Forks of the
Ohio in 1754 to control the Ohio River Valley. Washington fought
in two campaigns to capture it: unsuccessfully in 1755 under General Edward
Braddock and successfully in 1758 under General John Forbes. The
British renamed it Fort Pitt, which later became the city of Pittsburgh.
Fort Necessity -
· Washington built Fort Necessity at Great Meadows, Pennsylvania,
in 1753. He was on a mission to warn the French to leave the Ohio
River Valley. After attacking the French, Washington retreated
to Fort Necessity and was defeated. The position of Fort Necessity
was difficult to defend; Washington erred in establishing a fort
there. Washington was forced to surrender and sign a "confession"
for the "assassination" of a French lieutenant. This incident sparked
the French and Indian War.
Hamilton's financial plan -
· During Washington's first term as president, his Secretary
of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, introduced a series of bills
to create an American financial system. The plan called for the federal
government to assume the Revolutionary War debts of the states.
This would tie the states more tightly to the federal government
and give creditors (the people who lent money) an incentive to
preserve the government. The plan also called for the establishment
of a national bank, which would further strengthen the government
and create strong national credit.
Hessian mercenaries -
· The British army employed mercenary troops from Hesse,
in Germany, to fight against the Americans in the Revolutionary War.
Though the Hessians were considered fierce figthers, Washington
surprised and defeated them at Trenton in 1776, when he famously
crossed the Delaware River at night.
House of Burgesses -
· The House of Burgesses was the colonial state legislature
of Virginia. It consisted mostly of wealthy planters who were the most
powerful men in their society. Washington joined the House of Burgesses
Jay's Treaty -
· With Jay's Treaty, signed in 1794, the United States
avoided going to war with Britain for a second time. In the treaty
the British agreed to remove its soldiers from the frontier while America
agreed to accept restrictions on its shipping trade. (The British
had agreed to leave the frontier in the Treaty of Paris but never
Mount Vernon -
· Mount Vernon was the name of George Washington's estate
on the Potomac River, roughly ten miles away from present-day Washington,
D.C. Throughout his life, Washington was devoted to managing and
improving his land. He experimented with different crops such as
wheat and hemp, using innovative crop rotation techniques. While
commander of the Continental army, and later while president, Washington
constantly worried about the state of his lands and home at Mount
Neutrality Proclamation -
· Washington issued the Neutrality Proclamation in 1793
after Britain and France went to war. He believed America was too weak
to get involved, though supporters of both France and Britain criticized
him for it.
Ohio River Valley -
· The Ohio River Valley lies along the Ohio River west
of the Allegheny Mountains. In Washington's time it was inhabited
by Indian nations hostile to settlers. Washington and others realized
that the Ohio Valley would provide valuable land for future settlement
and worked to eliminate the Indians. After the Revolutionary War,
British troops continued to occupy the valley despite having promised
to leave. This conflict nearly caused a second war between Britain
and the United States until Jay's Treaty settled the matter.
Pinckney's Treaty -
· This treaty, offically known as the Treaty of San Lorenzo,
was negotiated by Thomas Pinckney with Spain. Signed in 1795, it opened
the Mississippi River to American goods. This made settlement of
the Ohio River Valley and much of the Midwest possible. It was
considered Washington's greatest foreign policy victory.
· Republicans believed that the federal government should
be weak and that states should have most political power. They were
originally known as "Anti- Federalists" but eventually chose the
name "Republicans" to indicate their belief in republican principles:
that political power should be put as directly as possible into
the hands of the people. Though they shared some beliefs with the
modern day Republican Party, they are not historically related. Thomas Jefferson
James Madison were the most prominent Republicans.
Shenandoah Valley -
· The Shenandoah Valley lies over the Blue Ridge (in
the Allegheny Mountains) from George Washington's home in northern Virginia.
Washington owned thousands of acres of land in the valley and hoped
to make it safe for American settlers. (This involved kicking
out the French and the Indians.)
· Surveying refers to the act of measuring and mapping
land, either to build something or to establish the boundaries
of a piece of property. In colonial times surveying was dangerous
work that required both skill and honesty (a dishonest surveyor
could get rich from bribes offered by land speculators). Washington became
a surveyor at an unusually young age.
Treaty of Paris -
· The Treaty of Paris, signed in September of 1783, ended
the Revolutionary War. In it the British recognized American independence
and promised to remove its troops from the western frontier.
Articles of Confederation -
· The Articles of Confederation were adopted in 1777
during the Revolutionary War. They established the United States
of America but gave little power to the federal government. They were
replaced by the Federal Constitution.
Virginia militia -
· The Virginia militia was a small army under the command
of the governor of Virginia. Like most militias, it was not as
well organized or supplied as the regular British army. Washington commanded
the Virginia regiment as a younger man but failed to receive a
commission in the regular British Army. The British Army treated
the militias as inferior; this discrimination helped convince Washington
to support independence.
of Germantown and Brandywine Creek -
Washington fought two important battles against General William
Howe and the British army at Brandywine Creek and Germantown (both
in Pennsylvania) in 1777. Though Washington narrowly lost both
battles, his army performed well against the British.
Battles of Lexington and Concord
On April 19, 1775, militias clashed with British troops
in Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts. This unlikely battle sparked
Battle of Trenton -
The Battle of Trenton was fought on December 25–26, 1776.
In it, Washington secretly crossed the Delaware River at night
with his army. They surprised and captured an army of Hessian mercenaries,
winning an important victory for the revolutionaries.
Battle of Yorktown
At the battle of Yorktown, on October 17, 1781, the Americans defeated
the British. This battle, led by Washington against the British
General Cornwallis, involved both American and French troops as
well as the French Navy. While Washington's army attacked Cornwallis's
army in Yorktown, Virginia, the French Navy blocked British ships
from Chesapeake Bay. The army had no hope of escaping and was forced
to surrender. This effectively ended the Revolutionary
Constitutional Convention -
In September of 1787, delegates from every state except
Rhode Island met in Philadelphia to revise and strengthen the Articles
of Confederation. The delegates from Virginia, which included Washington,
presented a radical plan to completely remake the national government
into a much stronger entity. The delegates debated in secret for
several weeks and eventually agreed on a document that would become
the Federal Constitution.
Farewell Address -
Washington resigned the presidency in 1796 after two
terms, which set a precedent that would remain in place even to
the twentieth century. He published a final speech on September
19 in a Philadelphia newspaper. In it, he warned against political parties,
believing they were bad for the republic. He also advised against
becoming involved in the affairs of other nations, which contributed
to America's long-standing policy of isolationism.
Revolutionary War -
The American colonies fought the Revolutionary War against Britain
from 1775 to 1783 to become an independent nation. Washington commanded
the American army.
Shays's Rebellion -
In August 1786, farmers in western Massachusetts led
by Daniel Shays revolted against the local authorities. They were
deeply in debt and believed the new American government was mistreating
them. The government had difficulty stopping the rebellion because
it was so weak. This caused many people to believe the government
should be stronger, and it set the stage for the Constitutional
In 1794, settlers in western Pennsylvania revolted
against paying a tax on whiskey. They felt the tax was unfair and
that they were ignored and oppressed by the government. They believed
to be fulfilling the democratic promise of the Revolutionary
, but Washington regarded them as rabble. He crushed
the revolt quickly but afterwards attempted to address their complaints.
A lawyer from Braintree, Massachusetts, Adams emerged
as an important leader in the Revolutionary War. He was elected
as Washington's Vice President, though the two men did not get
along. Adams thought Washington was unintelligent and envied his
power. Washington mostly ignored Adams, which contributed to the
relative unimportance of the Vice President today. Adams succeeded
Washington as second president of the United States.
Arnold was a talented general in the Continental Army
who helped General Horatio Gates defeat the British at Saratoga
in 1777. He later defected to the British side, which deeply hurt
General Edward Braddock
led a British force against the French, who were camped at Fort
Duquesne, in 1755. Though a war hero in Britain, he knew little about
how to fight a war in the wild conditions of the American frontier
against an army composed mainly of Indians. His force was defeated,
and Braddock was killed; Washington led the British retreat.
Dinwiddie was the
colonial governor of Virginia during Washington's youth. Dinwiddie
was a part owner of a company set up to buy land in the Ohio River
Valley, and, when the French threatened to seize the valley, Dinwiddie
appointed Washington the commander of a force to eject the French.
This mission catapulted Washington to fame at home and notoriety abroad.
Fairfax, Baron of Cameron, owned over five million acres of northern
Virginia. His cousin, William Fairfax, was a mentor and friend
of Washington. The Fairfaxes helped Washington secure a commission
in the Virginia militia, which began his military career.
his youth, Washington fell in love with Sally, who was a member
of the powerful Fairfax family. The two may have had an affair
before Washington's marriage, but it cannot be proven. They corresponded
their entire lives.
Gates was a talented general who fought underneath
Washington. He defeated the British at Saratoga in the first important
American victory. Later, Gates's name was circulated by several
members of Congress as a replacement for Washington, whom they wished
to fire. The plan never materialized.
Genêt was France's ambassador the United States from
1793–1794. He tried to win American support for the revolutionary
government in France, which was fighting a war with Britain. When
Washington refused to support France, Genêt appealed directly to
the American people, asking them essentially to disobey their own
government. He stirred significant American support with the secret
help of Jefferson but was ultimately forced to give up when France
recalled him. (Washington had requested the recall but allowed Genêt
to stay in the U.S. as a private citizen, knowing the man would
almost certainly be put to death by the French government.)
Born an illegitimate child in the West Indies, Hamilton
rose from poverty to power as Washington's chief military aide
during the Revolutionary War and later as his Secretary of the
Treasury. As the latter, he designed many basic components of America's financial
system, including the Bank of the United States (which later became
the Federal Reserve Bank). His vision of a modern, capitalist society
based on trade, manufacturing, and concentrated wealth became the
guiding idea of the Federalists. It clashed with the agrarianism
of Jefferson's Republicans.
Howe was the admiral
of the powerful British navy during the Revolutionary War.
William Howe was the
supreme commander of the British forces in North America during
the Revolution. He sympathized with the Americans' complaints against
Britain and was not eager to kill people he believed were his fellow
subjects. He fought several major battles against Washington and
was later replaced by Lord Cornwallis.
Jay was a leading Federalist and author, with James Madison,
of the Federalist Papers,
which argued in favor
of adopting the Federal Constitution. He later negotiated Jay's
Treaty with Britain, which caused Washington severe difficulty
in his second term as president.
Washington's Secretary of State. Jefferson was a well-educated
planter from Virginia. He wrote the Declaration of Independence
and supported Washington in the Revolution. As Secretary of State
he came to oppose the policies of Alexander Hamilton. He became
the leader of the Congressional faction that would become the Republicans.
He became president in 1800.
Knox was one of Washington's closest friends and most
trusted advisors. He served under Washington in the Revolution
and later as his Secretary of War.
Madison was a friend and fellow planter of Washington
. In the 1780s he supported a strong federal
government but later came to oppose Alexander Hamilton's Federalist
A French aristocrat.
De Rochembeau led the French troops who arrived in 1780 to assist
Pinckney was the governor of South Carolina during
the 1790s, when he also served as an emissary to Spain. There he
negotiated Pinckney's Treaty, which opened the Mississippi River
to American goods.
Augustine was George's father. He was a mediocre
businessman who died in 1743, leaving George only a small inheritance.
His death ruined George's hopes of going to England to be educated.
Lawrence was George's half-brother, fourteen years
older. When Augustine Washington died, Lawrence became George's
principal mentor. Lawrence also introduced Washington to the Fairfax family,
who helped launch George's career.
Martha Dandrige Custis
married Washington in 1759, after her first husband, Daniel Parke
Custis died. She brought two children into the marriage with her,
along with a substantial inheritance. George and Martha remained
happily, if not passionately, married until George's death.
Mary Ball Washington
Mary (Ball) Washington was George's mother. She was
orphaned at an early age and married later in life than most women.
Devoutly religious, she sought to control Washington for most of
his life. Their relationship was always rocky. She lived until
the age of eighty-one, dying in 1789.