14 December 2018

George Washington, the Early Republic, Luck and Democracy.

Today in 1799, George Washington died at his estate in Virginia at the age of 67.

He died less than two years after he retired from the Presidency in January of 1797, after having served for two four year terms as President of the United States under the current U.S. Constitution that took effect on March 4, 1789 (after having presided over the Constitutional Convention in 1787 that drafted it and then lobbying states to adopt it). Almost of the historically well remembered Founding Fathers of the United States were involved in this gathering, four years after the American Revolution had officially ended and thirteen years after the First Continental Congress convened to lay the groundwork for the American Revolution. 

Washington led the American forces for the entire six and a half year duration of the American Revolution, which began in April of 1775 to which he was appointed by the Second Continental Congress which served as the de facto government of the United States until the Articles of Confederation took effect, which also proposed and adopted the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. He service as Commander in Chief ended with a treaty in the wake of the Battle of Yorktown that ended on October 19, 1781, although he didn't resign from this post until the war with Great Britain was officially concluded by the Treaty of Paris that was not approved until 1783.

Thus, he served for eight years as the Commander in Chief of the United States military under the Articles of Confederation (created November 15, 1777 and officially ratified on March 1, 1781) and also before then, during the American Revolution before the Articles of Confederation were adopted, until the war was over in 1783, when he resigned from that post. He then reclaimed the title of Commander in Chief when he was elected President of the United States by the Electoral College, after a six year hiatus, two of which were spent drafting and securing the adoption of our current Constitution.

He never served as President of the United States in Congress Assembled under the Articles of Confederation, however, a post that had ten incumbents during the eight years that the Articles of Confederation were in force, and was roughly equivalent to the Speaker of the House in Congress today, although this person was nominally the head of state of the United States. One one of those people, John Hancock, is remembered today as an important historical figure and founding father of the Untied States. Likewise, neither of the Presidents of the Second Continental Congress are widely remembered as Founding Fathers of the United States.

The First Continental Congress which lasted from September 5 to October 26, 1774 and also had two presiding officers whose names are not familiar to us today, helped unify and organize the American Revolution before it became a military insurgency, and called for the convening of the Second Continental Congress in the event that its demands were not met.

Our tradition of having Presidents serve just two terms that endured until FDR was, in part, a product of Washington's poor health, rather than his magnanimous lack of a desire for power. If he had been healthier in 1796, he might have run for re-election.

The happenstance that George Washington lacked a natural born son is also an important reason that the Presidency never devolved into a monarchy the way that the government of the First Republic in France established in 1792 did after the French Revolution, when it devolved into the First Empire in 1804.

What kind of people wrote our current Constitution, a process over which George Washington, of Virginia, presided:
Fifty-five delegates attended sessions of the Constitutional Convention, and are considered the Framers of the Constitution, although only 39 delegates actually signed. The states had originally appointed 70 representatives to the Convention, but a number of the appointees did not accept or could not attend, leaving 55 who would ultimately craft the Constitution. 
Almost all of the 55 Framers had taken part in the Revolution, with at least 29 having served in the Continental forces, most in positions of command. All but two or three had served in colonial or state government during their careers. The vast majority (about 75%) of the delegates were or had been members of the Confederation Congress, and many had been members of the Continental Congress during the Revolution. Several had been state governors. Just two delegates, Roger Sherman and Robert Morris, would be signatories to all three of the nation's founding documents: the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and the Constitution. 
More than half of the delegates had trained as lawyers (several had even been judges), although only about a quarter had practiced law as their principal means of business. There were also merchants, manufacturers, shippers, land speculators, bankers or financiers, two or three physicians, a minister, and several small farmers. Of the 25 who owned slaves, 16 depended on slave labor to run the plantations or other businesses that formed the mainstay of their income. Most of the delegates were landowners with substantial holdings, and most, with the possible exception of Roger Sherman and William Few, were very comfortably wealthy. George Washington and Robert Morris were among the wealthiest men in the entire country.
All of them were white men who spoke English as their native language. A fair number were deists rather than Christians, although none were Jews or Muslims or Hindus or Buddhists. Many were Free Masons (nine of the fifty-six people who signed the Declaration of Independence were Free Masons, most famously Benjamin Franklin and John Hancock).


Dave Barnes said...

"Many were Free Masons."
Ah, yes, the tools of the Lizard People.

andrew said...

I have a client who is a firm Lizard People and UFO believer. Honestly, we could do worse.