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What does the phrase "Washington would set a precedent" mean?

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eroom | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 12, 2009 at 6:23 AM via web

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What does the phrase "Washington would set a precedent" mean?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted October 12, 2009 at 6:33 AM (Answer #1)

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This is a hard question to answer because it's pretty vague.  It would be helpful to have some context.  But here's some help for you:

To "set a precedent" means to do something that other people will be likely to follow when they are faced with similar situations in years to come.  So, for example, when the Supreme Court ruled that states couldn't outlaw abortion (Roe v Wade, 1973) they set a precedent and other courts have tended to follow that precedent.

If your question refers to George Washington, I'd guess the precedent he set was to not run for reelection to a third term as president. When he did that, he set a precedent and presidents after him followed that precedent because it had been set down by Washington, who was, of course, a hero.  No president ran for a third term until Franklin D. Roosevelt did in 1940.

I hope this helps.  If not, please restate your question.

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alohaspirit | Middle School Teacher | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

Posted October 12, 2009 at 11:44 AM (Answer #2)

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If you are speaking of George Washington, then he is setting an example and standard for president of the United States. Since he was the first, and he had to prove that he would not be like a king, but actually be the leader of the people, he had to reach out to the citizens and prove he could be a democratic leader.  He actually spent the first part of his presidency traveling around the United States visiting common citizens and getting to know their wants and needs in the government and country.  He set that standard and since him other presidents have followed in his footsteps.

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parama9000 | TA , Grade 11 | Valedictorian

Posted February 28, 2014 at 1:57 PM (Answer #4)

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George Washington, if that is the person in the quote, set a precedence as he was the only president to have been unanimously elected by the electoral college. Also, he set a precedence that a President was to serve only two terms.

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bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted October 12, 2009 at 7:17 AM (Answer #3)

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As the "Father of Our Country," George Washington set many precedents during his lifetime. The most obvious precedent (defined as "a person or thing that serves as a model") is being chosen as the first president of the United States. Additionally, he was the nation's first commanding general; he was the only president unanimously elected by the electoral college (twice); he was the nation's first two-term president; he was the first to be addressed as "Mr. President;" and the first president to be inaugurated and to attend the inauguration.

Washington was also the first president to use force to enforce the law when he put down the Whiskey Rebellion. We also cannot forget that, in the words of Henry Lee (father of Robert E. Lee), Washington was "first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen." 

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