George Washington Biography

End of the War, King Washington, and the Constitutional Convention

George Washington's victory at Yorktown in October of 1781 put an end to the major fighting in the Revolutionary War. However, the war wasn't officially over and Washington was still in charge of the Continental Army. The port of New York City was still home to a major British army and no treaty had been signed.

Washington marched his army to Newburgh, New York where he could keep an eye on the British headquarters in New York City. Although the British had promised to cease hostilities, Washington didn't trust them and wanted to keep his army ready for battle. In the end, the year of 1782 turned out to be a relatively peaceful year for Washington as he awaited an official treaty with Britain.

Newburgh Conspiracy

Things began to get ugly again for Washington's army early in 1783. The men had not been paid for some time and they were concerned both about their current pay and their military pensions. In March, things came to a head as a letter began to circulate through the army camp. It demanded that Congress pay the troops immediately or they would take control and crown George Washington king. The officers leading the conspiracy planned a meeting to discuss their strategy.

A Major Decision - King Washington?

Washington soon discovered the conspiracy and called a new meeting of his officers to discuss the matter. It was at this point that Washington made one of the most important decisions in the history of the United States. He could have easily assumed the title of king and taken control of the government. Few would have objected as he had no doubt earned the title with his actions during the war. However, Washington had just fought tyranny and wanted no part of establishing it in the Americas.

When Washington entered the meeting with his officers, they were clearly angry. They felt Congress had treated them poorly. They had risked their lives and led the country to victory, yet the country refused to pay them for their services. Washington gave a passionate speech from the heart begging his men to have patience. When he finished the room was silent. The men were not convinced. Then Washington decided to read a letter to his men. Reaching into his pocket for his glasses he said "Gentlemen, you will permit me to put on my spectacles, for I have not only grown gray but almost blind in the service of my country." For some reason, this one sentence broke through to his men. Many began to cry. They would continue to follow their leader George Washington just like they did in battle.

Peace Treaty and Resigning Commission

The United States and Britain officially ended the Revolutionary War with the signing of the Treaty of Paris on September 3, 1783. The British evacuated New York City on November 25th and George Washington led the Continental Army on a victory procession through the city. A week later he said goodbye to his men and headed south to meet with the Continental Congress. On December 23, 1783 Washington appeared before the Congress and resigned his commission as commander-in-chief.

Constitutional Convention

After resigning from military service, Washington returned to Mount Vernon with the hope of spending the rest of his days at home with Martha. However, duty called once again as the country's political leaders were discovering that the Articles of the Confederation did not form a proper government. Washington knew this first hand from his experiences during the war when he continuously failed to get the assistance he needed from the government.

At first, Washington wanted nothing to do with the new Constitution. However, men such as General Henry Knox and James Madison convinced him to attend. They said his name was needed to give the people confidence in the new Constitution. When Washington arrived in Philadelphia he was elected president of the convention. This role suited him fine as he observed the arguments, rarely commenting, while helping to resolve differences and keep order. On September 17, 1787, George Washington was the first of the delegates to sign the Constitution before it was sent to the states for ratification.

Interesting Facts

When King George III of England heard that Washington would resign his post and not become king he said "If he does that, he will be the greatest man in the world."

The position of president in the Constitution was written with George Washington in mind. The authors had such confidence in his character that they left the definition of the position open, allowing Washington to define the position once in office.

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George Washington Biography Contents
  1. Overview and Interesting Facts
  2. Growing Up George Washington
  3. French and Indian War
  4. Fort Duquesne
  5. Married Life and Mount Vernon
  6. The American Revolution Begins
  7. Commander in Chief
  8. Crossing the Delaware
  9. 1777 and Valley Forge
  10. Victory in the American Revolution
  11. End of the War, King Washington, and the Constitutional Convention
  12. First President of the United States
  13. The Presidency
  14. Leaving the Presidency, Retirement, and Death
  15. George Washington Quotes and Bibliography