Washington, George, 1732 - 99, 1st President of the United States
(1789-97), commander in chief of the Continental army in the American
Revolution, called the Father of His Country.
He was born on Feb. 22, 1732 (Feb. 11, 1731, O.S.), the first son of
Augustine Washington and his second wife, Mary Ball Washington, on the
family estate (later known as Wakefield) in Westmoreland co., Va. Of a
wealthy family, Washington embarked upon a career as a surveyor and in1748
was invited to go with the party that was to survey Baron Fairfax's lands
W of the Blue Ridge. In 1749 he was appointed to his first public office,
surveyor of newly created Culpeper co., and through his half-brother
Lawrence Washington he became interested in the Ohio Company, which had as
its object the exploitation of Western lands. After Lawrence's death
(1752), George inherited part of his estate and took over some of
Lawrence's duties as adjutant of the colony. As district adjutant, which
made (Dec., 1752) him Major Washington at the age of 20, he was charged
with training the militia in the quarter assigned him.
At the war's end he was the most important man in the country. He retired
from the army (at Annapolis, Md., Dec. 23, 1783), returned to Mt. Vernon,
and in 1784 journeyed to the West to inspect his lands there.
Dissatisfied with the weakness of the government (see Confederation,
Articles of), he soon joined the movement intent on reorganizing it. In
1785 commissioners from Virginia and Maryland met at Mt. Vernon to settle
a dispute concerning navigation on the Potomac. This meeting led to the
Annapolis Convention (1786) and ultimately to the Constitutional
Convention (1787). Washington presided over this last convention, and his
influence in securing the adoption of the Constitution of the United
States is incalculable.
After a new government was organized, Washington was unanimously chosen
the first President and took office (Apr. 30, 1789) in New York City. He
was anxious to establish the new national executive above partisanship,
and he chose men from all factions for the administrative departments.
Thomas Jefferson became Secretary of State, and Alexander Hamilton
Secretary of the Treasury. His efforts to remain aloof from partisan
struggles were not successful. He approved of Hamilton's nationalistic
financial measures, and although he was by no means a tool in the hands
of the Secretary of the Treasury, he consistently supported Hamilton's
policies. In the Anglo-French war (1793) he decided against Jefferson, who
favored fulfilling the 1778 military alliance with France, and he took
measures against Edmond Charles Édward Genêt. Jefferson left the cabinet,
and despite Washington's efforts to preserve a political truce the
Republican party (later the Democratic party) and the Federalist party
Washington was unanimously reelected (1793), but his second administration
was Federalist and was bitterly criticized by Jeffersonian, especially for
Jay's Treaty with England. Washington was denounced by some as an
aristocrat and an enemy of true democratic ideals. The Whiskey Rebellion
and trouble with the Native Americans, British, and Spanish in the West
offered serious problems. The crushing of the rebellion, the defeat of the
.Native Americans by Anthony Wayne at Fallen Timbers, and the treaty
Thomas Pinckney negotiated with Spain settled some of these troubles.
Foreign affairs remained gloomy, however, and Washington, weary with
political life, refused to run for a third term. Washington's Farewell
Address (Sept. 17, 1796), a monument of American oratory, contained the
famous (and much misquoted) passage warning the United States against
permanent alliances with foreign powers.
Washington returned to Mt. Vernon, but when war with France seemed
imminent (1798) he was offered command of the army. War, however, was
averted. He died on Dec. 14, 1799, and was buried on his estate. There
are many portraits and statues of Washington, among them the familiar,
idealized portraits by Gilbert Stuart; the statue by Jean Antoine Houdon,
who also executed the famous portrait bust from a life mask; and
paintings by Charles Wilson Peale, John Trumbull, and John Singleton
Copley. His figure also has bulked large in drama, poetry, fiction, and
essays in American literature. The national capital is named for him; one
state, several colleges and universities, and scores of counties, towns,
and villages of the United States bear his name. Wakefield and Mt. Vernon
are national shrines.
Birthplace: Larue County, Ky.
Abraham Lincoln was born in Hardin (now Larue) County, Ky., on Feb. 12,
1809. His family moved to Indiana and then to Illinois, and Lincoln gained
what education he could along the way. While reading law, he worked in a
store, managed a mill, surveyed, and split rails. In 1834, he went to the
Illinois legislature as a Whig and became the party's floor leader. For
the next 20 years he practiced law in Springfield, except for a single
term (1847-49) in Congress, where he denounced the Mexican War. In 1855,
he was a candidate for senator and the next year he joined the new
A leading but unsuccessful candidate for the vice-presidential nomination
with Frémont, Lincoln gained national attention in 1858 when, as
Republican candidate for senator from Illinois, he engaged in a series of
debates with Stephen A. Douglas, the Democratic candidate. He lost the
election, but continued to prepare the way for the 1860 Republican
convention and was rewarded with the presidential nomination on the third
ballot. He won the election over three opponents.
From the start, Lincoln made clear that, unlike Buchanan, he believed the
national government had the power to crush the rebellion. Not an
abolitionist, he held the slavery issue subordinate to that of preserving
the Union, but soon perceived that the war could not be brought to a
successful conclusion without freeing the slaves. His administration was
hampered by the incompetence of many Union generals, the inexperience of
the troops, and the harassing political tactics both of the Republican
Radicals, who favored a hard policy toward the South, and the Democratic
Copperheads, who desired a negotiated peace.
The Gettysburg Address of
Nov. 19, 1863, marks the high point in the record of American eloquence.
Lincoln's long search for a winning combination finally brought Generals
Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman to the top; and their series of
victories in 1864 dispelled the mutterings from both Radicals and Peace
Democrats that at one time seemed to threaten Lincoln's re-election. He
was re-elected in 1864, defeating Gen. George B. McClellan, the Democratic
candidate. His inaugural address urged leniency toward the South: With
malice toward none, with charity for all . . . let us strive on to finish
the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds . . . This policy
aroused growing opposition on the part of the Republican Radicals, but
before the matter could be put to the test, Lincoln was shot by the actor
John Wilkes Booth at Ford's Theater, Washington, on April 14, 1865. He
died the next morning.
Lincoln's marriage to Mary Todd in 1842 was often unhappy and turbulent,
in part because of his wife's pronounced instability.
Died: 14th April 1865
John Fitzgerald Kennedy
John Fitzgerald Kennedy was born in Brookline, Mass., on May 29, 1917. His
father, Joseph P. Kennedy, was Ambassador to Great Britain from 1937 to
Kennedy was graduated from Harvard University in 1940 and joined the Navy
the next year. He became skipper of a PT boat that was sunk in the Pacific
by a Japanese destroyer. Although given up for lost, he swam to a safe
island, towing an injured enlisted man.
After recovering from a war-aggravated spinal injury, Kennedy entered
politics in 1946 and was elected to Congress. In 1952, he ran against
Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., of Massachusetts, and won.
Kennedy was married on Sept. 12, 1953, to Jacqueline Lee Bouvier, by whom
he had three children: Caroline, John Fitzgerald, Jr., and Patrick Bouvier
(died in infancy).
In 1957 Kennedy won the Pulitzer Prize for a book he had written
earlier, Profiles in Courage
After strenuous primary battles, Kennedy won the Democratic presidential
nomination on the first ballot at the 1960 Los Angeles convention. With a
plurality of only 118,574 votes, he carried the election over Vice
President Richard M. Nixon and became the first Roman Catholic president.
Kennedy brought to the White House the dynamic idea of a New Frontier
approach in dealing with problems at home, abroad, and in the dimensions
of space. Out of his leadership in his first few months in office came the
10-year Alliance for Progress to aid Latin America, the Peace Corps, and
accelerated programs that brought the first Americans into orbit in the
race in space.
Failure of the U.S.-supported Cuban invasion in April 1961 led to the
entrenchment of the Communist-backed Castro regime, only 90 miles from
United States soil. When it became known that Soviet offensive missiles
were being installed in Cuba in 1962, Kennedy ordered a naval quarantine
of the island and moved troops into position to eliminate this threat to
U.S. security. The world seemed on the brink of a nuclear war until Soviet
Premier Khrushchev ordered the removal of the missiles.
A sudden thaw, or the appearance of one, in the cold war came with the
agreement with the Soviet Union on a limited test-ban treaty signed in
Moscow on Aug. 6, 1963.
In his domestic policies, Kennedy's proposals for medical care for the
aged, expanded area redevelopment, and aid to education were defeated, but
on minimum wage, trade legislation, and other measures he won important
Widespread racial disorders and demonstrations led to Kennedy's proposing
sweeping civil rights legislation. As his third year in office drew to a
close, he also recommended an $11-billion tax cut to bolster the economy.
Both measures were pending in Congress when Kennedy, looking forward to a
second term, journeyed to Texas for a series of speeches.
While riding in a procession in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963, he was shot to
death by an assassin firing from an upper floor of a building. The alleged
assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, was killed two days later in the Dallas city
jail by Jack Ruby, owner of a strip-tease place.
At 46 years of age, Kennedy became the fourth president to be assassinated
and the eighth to die in office.