What was President George Washington's domestic policy and its accomplishments?

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George Washington's domestic policy was marked by a keen awareness of his role in setting precedents for future administrations. He established the principle of civilian control of the military, executive privilege, and a strong financial system through the appointment of Alexander Hamilton as Secretary of the Treasury. He also effectively quelled the Whiskey Rebellion, demonstrating federal authority, yet pardoned its leaders to promote healing. His leadership was so trusted that he was convinced to serve a second term despite his initial reluctance.

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President George Washington was keenly aware that any action he took as President would set a precedent for future administrations and conducted himself accordingly. An indication of the sensitivity he felt for this issue is that fact that although he wore a sword at his inauguration, he also wore a plain suit rather than a military uniform. The precedent: the Commander in Chief of U.S. Armed Forces would remain civilian. Since that time, no President has worn a uniform while in office.

Among his other accomplishments:

  • Washington's appointment of Alexander Hamilton as Secretary of the Treasury was key in putting the U.S. on sound financial footing. Although a dispute arose between Hamilton and Jefferson over the establishment of the Bank of the U.S., Hamilton's policies were largely implemented and secured the financial success of the nation.
  • When the House of Representatives demanded to see documents relating to the Jay Treaty, Washington refused, stating that the proper business of advice and consent on treaties belonged to the Senate alone. By so doing, he established the principle of Executive Privilege.
  • Washington sent a large army under General Richard Henry Lee to put down the Whiskey Rebellion. The Rebellion collapsed as soon as Lee's troops appeared. Although Alexander Hamilton wished to set an example by having the leaders of the rebellion hanged, Washington pardoned all of them, rightly believing that severe punishment would have made healing difficult.

It is interesting to note that Washington did not wish a second term in office, and hoped to return to Mt. Vernon; however both Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson convinced him to serve again. Both men, although polar opposites in political opinion, believed Washington to be the only man capable of steering the new nation in the right direction.

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