What were several challenges that confronted George Washington during his years as president?  

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mrkirschner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

George Washington was the first president of the United States under the United States Constitution. He had to set a precedent for future presidents regarding what the role of the executive branch would be. It was his responsibility to not infringe on the lawmaking powers of Congress and at the same time, set the president and the executive branch as the director of foreign policy. This was a fragile balance, and how he handled this challenge would affect the future of American government.

After the French Revolution, a major war broke out between England and France. Washington, despite strong overtures from members of his cabinet to intervene, kept the United States neutral in this affair. On the domestic front, Washington had an even greater challenge. Private citizens, as well as the states, had fallen deeply in debt. The entire economic system was in disrepair. Washington, with his Secretary of the Treasury, needed to remedy the debt.

A major challenge to the federal government's ability to tax occurred in Western Pennsylvania. The young nation was watching to see how the president would respond to the Whiskey Rebellion. Washington, after attempting a peaceful resolution, was forced to send over 12,000 militia to squelch the rebellion and enforce federal policy.

Although the economic hardships were probably Washington's greatest challenge, the responsibility of being the first president was significant. The actions that he took would be used as a precedent for future presidents. Washington understood this challenge and acted very deliberately to protect the new Consitution. He did this while navigating the competing political interests that existed between federalists and anti-federalists.