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Inaugurated on April 30, 1789, George Washington was the first President of the United States. President Washington established the executive and judicial branches of the federal government of the United States as well as guaranteed the survival of the United States as a power and independent nation. His presidency set the standard for future Presidents and opened the way for the "First Party System" whereby the federalists and republicans battled for control of Congress and the presidency.

Washington played a leading role in the decision to locate the permanent national capital in the District of Columbia. He played the central role in setting foreign policy, opting for neutrality in the wars between France (an official ally) and Britain (the leading trading partner). Washington believed America's future interests did not depend on Europe but on the American people and the western lands.

Major acts as President

Organized the first United States Cabinet and the Executive Branch

Established the United States federal judiciary

Oversaw the ratification of the United States Bill of Rights

Major treaties

Treaty of Greenville (1795)- brought an effective end to the Northwest Indian War with the ceding of Indian lands in the Ohio River Valley to the United States

Jay Treaty (1795)- averted war with Great Britain, solved many issues left over from the Revolution, and opened peaceful trade; highly controversial and led to formation of opposition party under Jefferson

Pinckney’s Treaty (1795) - established friendship between Spain, defined boundaries with Spanish colonies, and guaranteed navigation rights on the Mississippi River.

Treaty of Tripoli (1796)- the United States agreed to pay a yearly tribute to the Pasha of Tripoli in exchange for the peaceful treatment of United States shipping in the Mediterranean

Major legislation signed

Judiciary Act of 1789 - established the federal judiciary, as well as the United States Attorney General

Indian Intercourse Acts - regulated commerce between American Indians and non-Indians and restricting travel by non-Indians onto Indian land

Naturalization Act of 1790 - provided the first rules to be followed by the United States in the granting of national citizenship

Residence Act of 1790 - designated Philadelphia, Pennsylvania as the temporary capital city of the United States federal government for a period of ten years

Bank Act of 1791 - established the First Bank of the United States

Coinage Act of 1792 - established the United States Mint, established the United States dollar, and regulated coinage of the United States

Militia Act of 1792 - established the various states militia and granted the President the authority to call out the state militia under federal control

Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 - made it a federal crime to assist an escaping slave, and established the legal system by which escaped slaves would be returned to their masters

Slave Trade Act of 1794 - limited the United States' involvement in the transportation of slaves by prohibiting the export of slaves from the United States

Naval Act of 1794 - established the United States Navy

[edit] Legislation vetoed

The Apportionment Bill, vetoed April 5, 1792, on constitutional grounds.

A Bill of the rights to alter and amend an Act entitled, "An Act to ascertain and fix the military establishment of the United States", vetoed February 28, 1797, on the advice of Secretary of War James McHenry.

Through the Judiciary Act of 1789, Washington established a six-member Supreme Court. The court was composed of one Chief Justice and five Associate Justices. The Supreme Court was given exclusive original jurisdiction over all civil actions between states, or between a state and the United States, as well as over all suits and proceedings brought against ambassadors and other diplomatic personnel; and original, but not exclusive, jurisdiction over all other cases in which a state was a party and any cases brought by an ambassador.

Under the Supreme Court, the Judiciary Act created 13 judicial districts within the 11 states that had then ratified the Constitution (North Carolina and Rhode Island were added as judicial districts in 1790, and other states as they were admitted to the Union). Within these judicial districts were circuit courts and district courts. The circuit courts, which were composed of a district judge and (initially) two Supreme Court justices "riding circuit," had jurisdiction over more serious crimes and civil cases and appellate jurisdiction over the district courts, while the single-judge district courts had jurisdiction primarily over admiralty cases, along with petty crimes and lawsuits involving smaller claims. The circuit courts were grouped into three geographic circuits to which justices were assigned on a rotating basis.

The first executive offices created under the President were the Secretary of State, the Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of War, the Postmaster General, and the Attorney General. Each office, excluding the Attorney General, would head an executive department. These five officials, along with the President and Vice President, formed the backbone of the United States Cabinet.

On July 27, 1789, Washington signed a bill into law reauthorizing an executive Department of Foreign Affairs headed by a Secretary of Foreign Affairs. Originally established by the Continental Congress in 1781, Congress passed another law renaming the Department of Foreign Affairs to United States Department of State and named the Secretary of State as head of the Department. Washington approved this act on September 15, 1789. The Secretary’s main function was to serve as the principal adviser to the President in the determination of foreign policy. Washington appointed Thomas Jefferson as the first State Secretary on September 26, 1789.

Dating back to 1775, on September 2, 1789, Washington reestablished the United States Department of the Treasury headed by the Secretary of the Treasury. The Secretary served as the principal economic advisor to the President and would play a critical role in policy-making by bringing an economic and government financial policy perspective to issues facing the government. The post would become the Chief Financial Officer of the government. Alexander Hamilton was appointed by Washington to serve as the first Treasury Secretary on September 11, 1789.

To manage the United States Army, Washington created the position of Secretary of War to head the United States Department of War. This office was a continuation of the Continental Secretary of War. The Secretary’s duties were the formulation of Indian policy, planning for and managing the national military, and oversaw the creation of a series of coastal fortifications. Henry Knox served as the Continental War Secretary before the ratification of the United States Constitution and Washington appointed Knox to continue under him as the first Secretary of War on September 12, 1789.

When Washington signed the Judiciary Act of 1789, he not only created the federal judiciary but also created the office of Attorney General. Unlike the other Cabinet officials, the Attorney General would not head an executive department. The Attorney General’s functions would be to prosecute on behalf of the United States and to serve as the chief legal officer of the government by giving his advice and opinion upon questions of law to the President. Washington would appoint his former aide-de-camp Edmund Randolph as the first Attorney General on September 26, 1789. Along with the Attorney General, the United States Marshals Service as well as the United States Attorneys were established.

The final Cabinet level position created by Washington was the Postmaster General. The Postmaster role went back to 1776, with the function to provide postal service for the United States. Later, to assist the Postmaster, Washington signed the Postal Service Act on February 20, 1792, creating the United States Post Office Department. Washington appointed Samuel Osgood to the post on September 26, 1789 as the first Postmaster General.

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Q: What were George Washington political achievements?
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