The country’s first president, George Washington, was born on February 22, 1732 in Virginia. At this time, America was still known as the colonies and was under British rule. The Washington family was not rich and at the age of 11, George’s father passed away, leaving little money for education. Having no formal schooling, George Washington taught himself through reading and experimenting.
Washington wanted to join the British Navy, but his mother didn’t want him to. Instead, he explored the woods of Virginia as a surveyor with George William Fairfax. When he was 17, George Washington got a job as the surveyor for the county of Culpeper.
When he was 20 years old, George Washington’s brother, Lawrence, died of tuberculosis and George inherited his brother’s property, Mount Vernon, on the Potomac River near Alexandria, Virginia.
George Joins the Military
Without previous military experience, Washington was made a commander of the Virginia militia in 1752 at the age of 20. The British had decided to make the French leave, and the battles became known as the French and Indian War. Washington was sent with a message to the French, demanding they leave. On the 900-mile return trip, he fell off a raft and nearly drowned. During one battle, Washington had two horses shot out from beneath him and four bullet holes shot through his coat.
In 1759, Washington quit the military and went back to Mount Vernon. He was elected to the Virginia House of Burgesses and served there until 1774. In 1759, he married the widow Martha Dandridge Custis and became stepfather to her two children.
The Revolution Begins
In the late 1760s, Washington became concerned about the rising taxes on the colonists by the British. He decided it was time to declare independence from England. He served as a delegate to the First Continental Congress in 1774 in Philadelphia. The next year, the American Revolution began. Washington became the commander-in-chief of the Continental Army.
President George Washington
In 1787, Washington attended the Constitutional Convention where he led the committee to draft the new Constitution. Impressed with his knowledge and abilities, he was asked to run for president.
The first presidential election was held on Jan. 7, 1789. Washington beat John Adams and took office on April 30, 1789 in New York City. At that time, the new nation only had 11 states and around four million people.
After serving two terms as president (and declining a third term), Washington returned to Mount Vernon in 1796. He died on Dec. 14 at the age of 67. To this day, he is still referred to as the father of our country.