George Washington's Presidency

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What problems or issues did George Washington face?

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Michael Koren eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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George Washington faced several issues when he became President of the United States. One of those issues was dealing with our financial problems. Our debt had to be repaid. Some states had already repaid their debts while others hadn’t done this. As a result, President Washington’s Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, developed a debt plan, which called for combining the debts of the states with the debts of the federal government. This plan did face some opposition. However, a compromise was reached which eventually moved our capital to Washington, D.C., and the debts were combined and eventually repaid.

Another issue facing President Washington was that other countries were trying to push us around. Great Britain was interfering with our trade and impressing our sailors. Great Britain also wouldn’t leave the forts in the west. This led to Jay’s Treaty, which helped reduce the British interference with our trade, and Britain agreed to leave the forts in the west.

Spain also interfered with our trade and helped the Native Americans attack us. This led to Pinckney’s Treaty. The United States was allowed to store products at the port of New Orleans as well as use that port. American ships would be allowed to travel on the Mississippi River without being attacked by the Spanish. Spain also agreed to stop helping the Native Americans attack us. Even the border dispute with Spanish Florida was resolved, as the 31st parallel became the boundary.

There also was unrest at home. When the Whiskey Rebellion occurred, the U.S. military was sent in to end the revolt. President Washington sent the message that disorder would not be tolerated.

President Washington faced several issues while he was President. He was successful in handling many of these issues.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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I would say that President Washington faced several challenging elements in being the first President of the new nation.  One challenge came from the national debt.  Fighting and for and gaining independence did not come cheap and the amount of debt that the new nation faced was staggering.  He was able to navigate the challenges of the role of the federal government with such raging polarities in his cabinet with the likes of Alexander Hamilton, a proponent of an intervening government, with Thomas Jefferson, an advocate for a less intrusive form of government.  With challenges abroad, Washington was also facing challenge with the role of America in the new world order.  Would America assert its new found might in other problems all over the world or would the nation remain more inwardly drawn in this regard?  Domestic uprisings like the Whiskey Rebellion also proved to be a challenge that Washington faced down with his use of the army to quell such an insurrection.

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The major issue faced by George Washington was president of the new United States was to get the country off on a start to democracy.  It would have been very easy for the country to become something of a monarchy and there were those (like Alexander Hamilton) who would have welcomed this.  By resisting this temptation (to become king) Washington set the US on the path to becoming a true democracy.

When Washington became president, there was little precedent for a country that did not have a ruler.  In some way, Washington was going to need to govern the country well yet, at the same time, keep from having the political system revolve around the president as an individual.  This is a challenge that many other new countries have been unable to solve.  Because Washington was able to solve the problem, the US became a stable democracy instead of becoming a country ruled by a series of strongmen or dictators.

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larrygates eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Washington was responsible for getting the country off on a firm foundation after the new government was formed. One of his first obstacles was the debate between Jefferson and Hamilton over the Bank of the United States. There was also the issue of funding the debt of the states from the Revolution, which Hamilton proposed and Washington opposed. Then, of course, there was the Whiskey Rebellion, caused by opposition to Hamilton's tax on Whiskey. Washington showed his magnanimity by commuting the sentences of those convicted in the Rebellion. He issued his declaration of Neutrality when most of his cabinet wanted the United States to intervene in the ongoing war between Britain and France, and again showed his diplomatic skills during the Citizen Genet affair; when he easily could have had Genet deported to certain death; but instead allowed him to remain in the United States.

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