George Washington in Constitutional Convention
George Washington (1732-1799) was commander of the Continental Army during the American Revolution and the first president of the United States of America. A Virginia planter, surveyor, and land speculator, he sought a commission in the British Army before the Revolution, but in the 1770s, he became an early advocate for separation from Great Britain. During the war, he became synonymous with the cause of independence.
Washington never attended college, but he was eminently respected by the founders and was an obvious choice for chair of the Constitutional Convention. He had hosted one of the initial state conferences at his Mt. Vernon estate in March 1785, in which representatives from Virginia and Maryland met to resolve disputes over the jurisdiction of the Pocomoke and Potomac Rivers. At the Philadelphia Convention, Washington presided but seldom participated in the debates. When the Convention adjourned, he confided to a fellow delegate, "I do not expect the Constitution to last for more than twenty years."2 When he was elected the nation's first president in April 1789, his almost universal respect and popularity ensured a successful and stable beginning to the new government under the U.S. Constitution. Washington set an important precedent by voluntarily stepping down from the presidency in 1792, after serving two terms. From then until the 1940s, two terms remained the unofficial limit for the presidency, thanks to the power of Washington's example.