On June 15, 1775, a Virginian named George Washington accepted a position as Commander of the Continental Army after a unanimous election by the Continental Congress. Test your knowledge of the future first president with these trivia questions.
What was George Washington Doing Before He was Elected Commander of the Continental Army?
Washington was born a British citizen and an esteemed commander in the British army during the French and Indian War of 1754.
By the early 1760s, Washington was living the fairly normal life of a well-to-do plantation owner in Virginia. He served in the House of Burgesses and spent his days overseeing Mount Vernon with his wife, Martha, and her two children from her first marriage. That is until the early 1770s, when the seeds of revolution were first planted.
Did Washington Support America’s Independence From the Get-Go? He did not. While he certainly did not agree with the British oppression via taxes and tariffs happening across all 13 colonies, Washington initially rejected the idea of revolution in favor of a peaceful resolution through British repeals. But, by the early 1770s, Washington had fully converted and became one the first prominent Virginians to voice his support of the revolution, leading to his election into the Continental Congress in 1774.
Why Did the Continental Congress Elect Washington?
Washington was the obvious choice for the role after
militia troops in Boston first engaged the British at the battles of
Lexington and Concord. As a 43-year-old former commander with a
prestigious reputation, Washington had everything the Continental
Congress wanted in their army commander. He was old enough to have
respectable leadership chops but young enough to withstand the rigors of
Plus, he was from Virginia. The Continental Congress hoped appointing someone from the South would help rally more people from southern colonies to their cause.
Did Washington Want the Job?
It’s debatable. While he certainly accepted the position
immediately (much to the relief of the Continental Congress), he later
wrote in a letter to Martha about his new job:
"[I]t was utterly out of my power to refuse this appointment without exposing my Character to such censures as would have reflected dishonour upon myself, and given pain to my friends.”
That’s some pretty serious peer pressure! Upon appointment, Washington said, "I beg it may be remembered that I, this day, declare with the utmost sincerity, I do not think myself equal to the command I am honored with."
Whether that was Washington showing humility for the great honor bestowed upon him saying “you’re making a big mistake,” we’ll never know.
When Did Washington Resign from His Post?
Of course, we all know how the war ended. After the British
signed the Treaty of Paris in 1783 (officially recognizing the United
States as independent), Washington resigned his post as commander.
But if Washington had dreams of an early retirement to Mount Vernon, they were quickly dissipated. In 1787, Washington joined the Constitutional Convention as a delegate from Virginia and then, in 1789, Washington received the second unanimous vote of his life: this time, for the position of President of the United States.