Oil on canvas. H 23, W 19 in • H 58.4, W 48.3 cm. Independence National Historical Park, Portrait Collection (Second Bank of the United States), Philadelphia, PA.
Daniel Morgan, c. 1794
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.