George Washington's Presidency

Start Free Trial

What obstacles did George Washington face while in office?

One of the many obstacles that George Washington faced while in office was managing a fractious cabinet full of powerful personalities. This particular obstacle was part of the challenge of essentially creating the presidency from scratch.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

George Washington faced many obstacles while in office. The greatest obstacle he faced was setting the precedent for future executives to follow. George Washington had to demonstrate humility while also demonstrating that the office was worthy of respect. He wanted to be addressed as "Mr. President" and normally appeared in...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

George Washington faced many obstacles while in office. The greatest obstacle he faced was setting the precedent for future executives to follow. George Washington had to demonstrate humility while also demonstrating that the office was worthy of respect. He wanted to be addressed as "Mr. President" and normally appeared in civilian dress. Washington also willingly left office after two terms, though he could have had a lifetime appointment.

Washington also had to manage the differences in his Cabinet that would later become the foundation of the Democratic-Republican and Federalist parties. Washington ultimately sided with the Federalists under the leadership of Alexander Hamilton due to the party's belief in a strong central government. Washington often had to play the role of peacemaker between Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson, the Secretary of State who would later go on to become the third president.

Washington also worked hard to keep American forces at home. France wanted to use American troops during the early days of its war with Britain, but Washington was careful to avoid foreign entanglements since he knew the army was in no condition to fight in Europe, and a close alliance with France would ultimately turn the American republic into a French satellite. Washington was also willing to use force when Western farmers threatened a rebellion over having to pay a whiskey tax. This move, while unpopular in the West, demonstrated that the federal government had authority over all land owned by the United States.

While some of Washington's moves were unpopular and led to the rise of the Democratic-Republicans, Washington set the example for future presidents. Washington kept the new nation away from fighting established European powers. He also balanced a Cabinet with diverse viewpoints. The most important part of the Washington administration was that the president kept the new nation alive and together.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

As the first president of the United States, George Washington faced numerous challenges. One of the first big hurdles he faced concerned building an economy that could be self-sufficient and settling the differences of opinion about what that economy should look like.

Revolution and independence left the new country with many debts and few solid economic institutions. The states, in particular, were riddled with debt. Alexander Hamilton wanted the federal government to assume these debts, something which Thomas Jefferson bristled at. For his part, Washington tried to stay above the contentious fray of his cabinet members, preferring to take on the role of arbiter. He was able to help them reach a compromise in 1790 in which the federal government took over state debts in exchange for the capital being established where it is today.

Further rifts in the cabinet occurred concerning the establishment of the National Bank, which Hamilton was championing. Jefferson and Madison felt that this bank had no constitutional authority to function and heatedly opposed it. In the end, Washington sided with Hamilton, which did little to further endear the president to Jefferson.

To make matters worse, the financial Panic of 1792 led many to lose faith in the new economy. Jefferson blamed Hamilton for it, and once again, Washington found himself in the unenviable position of trying to smooth over tensions between these two men.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Undoubtedly the biggest single challenge that George Washington had to face in office was building the institution of the presidency. As the first President of the United States, Washington had to create the institution that, in due course, would develop into arguably the most important branch of American government.

Even for a great general like Washington, this was by no means an easy task. For one thing, he had to manage an at-times fractious cabinet full of powerful personalities like Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton. This would've been an enormous challenge for anyone, but for a man determined to stay above the political fray as much as possible, it was even more so.

In appointing Jefferson and Hamilton to his cabinet, men with radically different visions of how the United States should develop, Washington was trying to balance competing interests, so as to minimize divisions within the country as a whole.

Yet, somewhat inevitably, this meant that there would be arguments within the cabinet concerning issues about which the two political giants felt strongly, such as the establishment of the federal Bank of the United States, which Hamilton strongly supported and Jefferson fiercely opposed. This had the effect of undermining unity within the Washington administration at a time when it was needed most.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

George Washington faced many obstacles while in office. One obstacle was dealing with other countries that were trying to push us around. Great Britain and Spain were interfering with our trade as well as encouraging the Native Americans to attack us. The British also wouldn’t leave the forts in the West they were supposed to leave after the Revolutionary War ended. President Washington knew we couldn’t afford to go to war. We weren’t strong enough militarily nor were we financially able to afford a war. Instead, he chose diplomacy to work out the differences. This resulted in Jay’s Treaty and Pinckney’s Treaty being made.

Another challenge George Washington faced was dealing with our financial issues. We were in debt from the Revolutionary War, and we needed to establish our financial system. Alexander Hamilton proposed a debt plan that was accepted, which allowed us to deal with our debt. He also proposed to create a national bank.

Finally, George Washington had to deal with some rebellion at home. When farmers refused to pay the Whiskey Tax, the federal government responded to put down the rebellion. This sent a message the federal government wouldn’t tolerate disorder and lawlessness.

George Washington had several challenges as President. He successfully resolved many of the challenges he faced.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team