As in the case of his career as commander-in-chief, Washington’s most important act as president was his giving up the office. The significance of his retirement from the presidency is easily overlooked today, but his contemporaries knew what it meant. Most people assumed that Washington might be president as long as he lived, that he would be a kind of elected monarch like the king of Poland. Hence his retirement from the presidency enhanced his moral authority and set a precedent for future presidents.
Lawyer, politician, writer, militia officer, signer of the Declaration of Independence; 1732—1808.
Philadelphia printer, writer, scientist, inventor, signer of the Declaration of Independence, diplomat to France; 1706—90.
Signer of the Declaration of Independence, vice president under Madison; 1744—1814.
Washington’s aide-de-camp, lawyer, contributor to the Federalist Papers, Secretary of the Treasury; 1755/1757—1804.
Lawyer, signer of the Declaration of Independence, CT governor; 1731—96.
Constitutionalist, congressman, Secretary of State, fourth President; 1751—1836.
Politician, author, political philosopher, Anti-Federalist; 1725—92.
Merchant, financier; helped draft then stylized the Constitution; 1752—1816.
Soldier, delegate to the Constitutional Convention, congressman, South Carolina governor, senator; 1757—1824.
Lawyer, soldier, delegate to the Constitutional Convention; 1746—1825.
Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789–1815 (2009)