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.
Signer of the Declaration of Independence, diplomat, second President; 1735—1826.
Son of John and Abigail Adams, diplomat, senator, sixth President, congressman; 1767—1848.
Continental Army officer, lawyer, politician, Vice President under Thomas Jefferson; killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel; 1756—1836.
Soldier, politician, New York governor, vice president under Jefferson and Madison; 1739—1812.
Merchant, Continental congressman, diplomat to France; 1737—89.
Lawyer, politician, writer, militia officer, signer of the Declaration of Independence; 1732—1808.
Washington’s aide-de-camp, lawyer, contributor to the Federalist Papers, Secretary of the Treasury; 1755/1757—1804.
Lawyer, orator, Virginia governor; 1736—99.
Lawyer, signer of the Declaration of Independence, CT governor; 1731—96.
Lawyer, diplomat, Continental congressman, first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court; 1745—1829.
Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789–1815 (2009)