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Reluctant Politician Essay

1658 words - 7 pages

George Washington: Reluctant Politician George Washington, although unanimously elected to two terms of the Presidency by the Electoral College, disliked politics and believed them to be a divisive and potentially dangerous development for the future of the new United States of America. In this view he may have blamed the politics and not the underlying, varied needs and desires of the various groups, but it was a view he held to steadfastly throughout his political career. He worked hard to minimize the effects of politics while he was in office, but ultimately failed, with political parties forming before his second term as President ended. Washington was not unfamiliar with politics. ...view middle of the document...

While this allowed the country, through its elected leaders, to have the fullest say in who lead them, it was a system that could only work as long as the country had no political parties. For both of Washington’s presidential terms, John Adams served as Vice-President. (White House web site, 2002) Washington’s style of leadership was similar to his preferred way of waging war, where he avoided full-scale battles whenever possible. In the Constitutional Convention, he was rarely in the forefront, preferring to work quietly in the background to bring people to consensus (ANA, 2002). Shortly after his inauguration in 1789, he acted “forcefully and swiftly” (Presidential Resources, 2002) to establish the functions of the office. He was always most comfortable with a very centralized form of government (Presidential Resources, 2002) so this task suited him well. But to his disappointment, by the end of his first term, political parties were beginning to form. (White House web site, 2002) Given the historical framework, his reluctance to see political parties form might be understandable. The French Revolution had just taken place, and all the world leaders were aware that this revolution, unlike the one in the United States, had not led to peace and an ability to work together. France was no longer an aristocracy, but this change unleashed a period of great political turmoil that must have concerned Washington as well as the remaining reigning monarchs of the world. Washington tried to remain politically neutral, but he tended to favor some of Jefferson’s ideas, in particular some of his fiscal ideas (ANA, 2002). However, he later angered Jeffersonians, who were partial to France, when he advocated neutrality in the repeated disagreements between England and France. Others were displeased because he endorsed the treaty with Great Britain formally ending the Revolutionary War, which many felt was a capitulation to the British. (ANA, 2002) People were organizing into groups based on common political beliefs, and although Washington opposed such actions, groups continued to develop. Nevertheless, Washington remained negative. To him, party politics meant "the alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which...has perpetrated the most horrid enormities...and leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism." (DiLorenzo, 2002) By the end of his second term of office, two clear political parties were forming: the Democratic-Republicans and the Federalist Party. (ANA, 2002) Washington viewed this as an ominous development, saying, ‘Special-interest politics, which is to say all politics, "are likely, in the course of time...to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the Power of the People, and to usurp for themselves the reins of Government.’” (DiLorenzo, 2002) After one term he reluctantly...

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