Washington received his initial military training and command with the Virginia Regiment during the French and Indian War. He was later elected to the Virginia House of Burgesses and was named a delegate to the Continental Congress, where he was appointed Commanding General of the Continental Army. He commanded American forces, allied with France, in the defeat and surrender of the British during the Siege of Yorktown. He resigned his commission after the Treaty of Paris in 1783.
Washington played a key role in adopting and ratifying the Constitution and was then elected president (twice) by the Electoral College. He implemented a strong, well-financed national government while remaining impartial in a fierce rivalry between cabinet members Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton. During the French Revolution, he proclaimed a policy of neutrality while sanctioning the Jay Treaty. He set enduring precedents for the office of president, including the title “Mr. President”, and his Farewell Address is widely regarded as a pre-eminent statement on republicanism.
Washington owned slaves, and, in order to preserve national unity, he supported measures passed by Congress to protect slavery. He later became troubled with the institution of slavery and freed his slaves in a 1799 will. He endeavored to assimilate Native Americans into Anglo-American culture but combated indigenous resistance during occasions of violent conflict. He was a member of the Anglican Church and the Freemasons, and he urged broad religious freedom in his roles as general and president. Upon his death, he was eulogized as “first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen”. He has been memorialized by monuments, art, geographical locations, stamps, and currency, and many scholars and polls rank him among the greatest U.S. presidents.