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 Washington.
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.
Thomas 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.
In 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 and Thomas Jefferson. In the 1780s he supported a strong federal government but later came to oppose Alexander Hamilton's Federalist policies.
A French aristocrat. De Rochembeau led the French troops who arrived in 1780 to assist the Americans.
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 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.