Study Guide

George Washington President Washington

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President Washington

Washington didn't want the presidency, but he didn't really have a choice. At the Constitutional Convention, it had become clear that a pair of fault lines risked splitting the nation apart: one running between large and small states and another between free and slave states. Only a series of precarious compromises between the opposed interests had enabled the Convention to produce a Constitution at all. And just what status that document would have was still unclear. Most Americans had no attachment to a national "United States." If the new government was going to succeed, it would need a leader who could inspire trust in its institutions and foster citizens' attachment to them, without exacerbating any of the oppositions that risked tearing the nation asunder. The government needed a leader of dignity who could unite all hearts. As historian Forrest McDonald put it, "Washington was the only man who measured up to the job." On 14 April 1789, Congress's secretary arrived at Mount Vernon to tell Washington that he had just been unanimously elected president of the United States.blank" rel="nofollow">Constitution had been ratified did not mean that the battle for a stronger national government had actually been won.

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