With victory won, Washington was the most revered man in the United States. A lesser person might have used this power to establish a military dictatorship or to become king. Washington sternly suppressed all such attempts on his behalf by his officers and continued to obey the weak and divided Continental Congress.
However, he never ceased to work for the union of the states under a strong central government. He was a leading influence in persuading the states to participate in the Constitutional Convention, over which he presided, and he used his immense prestige to help gain ratification of its product, the Constitution of the United States.
Although worn out by years of service to his country, Washington reluctantly accepted the presidency of the United States. Probably no other man could have succeeded in welding the states into a lasting union. Washington fully understood the significance of his presidency.
“I walk on untrodden ground,” he said. “There is scarcely any part of my conduct which may not hereafter be drawn in precedent.” During eight years in office, Washington laid down the guidelines for future presidents.
Washington lived only two years after turning over the presidency to his successor, John Adams.
The famous tribute by General Henry Lee, “first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen,” accurately reflected the emotions that Washington’s death aroused. Later generations have crowned this tribute with the simple title “Father of His Country.”
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