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Meet the Presidents

For White House at Bat: A Presidential History Challenge, students will examine a decision made by of one of the famous Racing Presidents. Of course, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, and William Howard Taft were all famous before they debuted at Nationals Park! Here you will find brief biographies and links to many historical resources to help you get started on your project.

George Washington

1789–1797 “I walk on untrodden ground,” George Washington observed in 1789. As the first president of the United States, he faced an enormous challenge. The way that he filled the office would set a precedent for every U.S. president who followed him. Washington knew that he had to inspire respect and admiration. He also was aware that Americans were suspicious of leaders with too much power.

In addition to defining the role of president, Washington had other goals. He wanted to strengthen the new country’s finances, repair its relationship with Great Britain, and develop its western frontier. Washington’s secretary of the treasury, Alexander Hamilton, made the case for a strong central government and came up with a plan to help manage the country’s war debts.

The biggest international crisis of Washington’s time in office came in 1794, when America faced the possibility of another war with Great Britain. Washington believed that America was too young to risk another conflict. The two countries negotiated a treaty that proved beneficial for the United States because it established Great Britain as a major trading partner. But it kept America neutral in the growing conflict between Britain and France, which was unpopular with many Americans. France had come to America’s aid during the Revolutionary War (1775–1783), and many Americans felt great sympathy for the French cause.

Washington’s policies were tested at home, too. To raise money, the government put a federal tax on whiskey. That move seemed too similar to the British taxes on tea and other goods before the Revolutionary War. In August 1794, farmers in western Pennsylvania staged the Whiskey Rebellion to protest the tax.

Washington sent almost 13,000 militiamen to Pennsylvania to enforce the tax. The rebellion had subsided by the time the troops arrived, but the display of force demonstrated the intention of the government to use its authority to enforce the nation’s laws.

Defining the status of Native Americans was another important issue for Washington. He viewed native people as fighting for their own independence, just as the American colonists had done. Washington signed a treaty with Native American leaders establishing “homelands” under tribal control that protected native territorial borders. It was reinforced by the Proclamation of 1790, which forbade private or state encroachment on any land guaranteed by the treaty.

Washington did not want to serve a second term in office, but he was persuaded to continue as president for the good of the country. When he retired at the end of his second term in March 1797, he published a farewell address to the nation.

In his address, he advised Americans to be fair and just to all nations and to avoid political party alliances and involvement in the political affairs of Europe. He reminded his fellow citizens: “You have in a common cause fought and triumphed together; the Independence and Liberty you possess are the work of joint counsels, and joint efforts, of common danger, sufferings, and successes.” Washington’s presidency established a sense of integrity and strong leadership for all who followed him.

The White House Historical Association acted as consulting editors for the March 2015 and April 2015 issues of Cobblestone magazine. These issues, entitled “Hail to the Chief,” contain brief biographies of all 44 presidents, including this one on George Washington by Marcia Amidon Lusted. (c.) 2015 Carus Publishing Company,

Additional Resources

While there are many published and online primary and secondary sources on the American presidents, we suggest here some tried and true websites to get you started. These sites offer many documents and images that students are free to use for White House at Bat: A Presidential History Challenge. Remember that all sources should be properly cited in your annotated bibliography and, if used in your video production, cited in your storyboard as well.