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First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.
—Henry Lee III, "Eulogy on Washington", Dec. 26, 1799
The "Father of His Country", George Washington was the first President of the United States under the Constitution, and generally considered one of the greatest Presidents in history. There were a number of people who led the country as specified under the Articles of Confederation, but those are generally glossed over when most Americans think about history, mainly because the national government under the Articles was a total joke with no power whatsoever. Commander of the American forces during the Revolutionary War: highlights from his command during the war include the Battle of Trenton (where he led a group of American soldiers across the frozen Delaware River to slaughter a bunch of Hessian mercenaries in the middle of the night on Christmas of 1776) and his encampment at Valley Forge (where his troops rested for the bitter winter of 1777-1778 - many of them died and all suffered terribly, but Washington is remembered as being very noble about the whole thing).
After America's victory in 1783, Washington resigned his commission and went back to private life, leading King George III to claim that he would be "the greatest man in the world" if he actually went through with it. He was instrumental in persuading Army officers not to carry out a planned mutiny over their lack of pay. When he was unable to persuade them because of the disgrace or the fact that mutinying would not get them their pay, he tried to read a letter to them to persuade them. He had to pull out his glasses to do so, and the officers realized that his health was failing, and so refrained to avoid distressing him. Even better, according to legend, he said "Forgive me, for I have grown blind as well gray at the cause of Liberty" while doing so. Many of the men present were reportedly driven to tears. These events were instrumental in presenting him as an American Cincinnatus.
The original Articles of Confederation did not work well. As such, a new Constitution was written in 1787 (with Washington serving as the president of the Constitutional Convention), and Washington was unanimously elected President in 1788. His runner-up, John Adams, served as Vice President because that's how things worked back then. He served two terms (refusing a third, despite popular demand), then retired to live on his plantation at Mount Vernon. This set a tradition for a "maximum of two terms in office" for Presidents, which was kept until Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected President four times in a row, after which the Constitution was amended to have the maximum of ten years be an actual rule. (Usually it's just eight, since the President can't serve half a term, unless he was a vice president who succeeded halfway through his predecessor's term.)
The closest thing Americans have to a real-life superhero. While he might or might not have been Batman, Washington was definitely Bruce Wayne: His extensive real estate holdings made him the wealthiest man in Virginia, possibly in all North America. A man known as Parson Weems wrote many stories about Washington, including the famous one that as a child, Washington chopped down his father's prize cherry tree, but, being unable to tell a lie, promptly confessed to it. Another (equally apocryphal) story says that he was able to throw a silver dollar across the Potomac River. Other rumors include tidbits like how his teeth were made of wood, and he was a Christian who prayed every day - though neither would have been unusual at the time. The American capital, Washington, D.C., is named for him, as is the state of Washington on the opposite side of the country (it gets confusing sometimes). Also no less than 30 counties, 27 cities and villages, 241 townships, and numerous parks, streets, and public schools throughout the United States.
On the other hand he was genuinely Immune to Bullets. Really. During Braddock's disastrous defeat every other officer was killed or wounded. Washington had horses shot out from under him and later found bullet holes in his clothes but remained untouched. On another occasion he rode between two lines of firing militia men - in a friendly fire incident - and was at least once caught between the lines during the Revolution, always without ill effect.
And the one time a British sniper caught him unarmed, at close range, with only one guard. Washington just turned and went the other way, and the sniper couldn't bring himself to shoot a man who could so calmly face death. It's said that an Indian leader who led the attack that saw only Washington uninjured had said that Washington "is the particular favorite of Heaven, and who can never die in battle." Eerie as all heck. Although given how he died in real life (by slowly choking to death, probably either of diphtheria or a tonsillar abscess) he might have preferred a quick bullet.
Still, he did enjoy the battlefield for as long as he did, he once wrote to his brother of one of his battles saying "I heard the bullets whistle and, believe me, there is something charming to the sound of bullets."
Washington had also established his own spy ring during the Revolution and even used double agents to help him in his Battle of Trenton. Washington has also become a bit more popular due to Kenneth C. Davis's Don't Know Much About History, in which he paints a picture of Washington as "the plain-spoken frontiersman, not the marbleized demigod" of Weems' stories. In particular, Davis recounts an anecdote told by General Henry "Ox" Knox. In Washington's boat on the night of the Trenton crossing, Knox was 6'3" and 280lbs, making him a large man even by modern standards. As Washington got into the boat, he nudged Knox with his boot and said "Shift that fat ass, Harry. But slowly, or you'll swamp the damned boat."
By US law, Washington is permanently senior to all US military officers, current, former, or future. Which means that if John J Pershing were to be formally awarded a Six-star General (General of the Armies) rank, Washington would be 7-star.
Washington was also extremely well-traveled, both for military and presidential purposes. You can find a plaque or exhibit claiming "Washington slept here" at just about every city and inn along the Atlantic coast--especially in Virginia.
- Badass: The very first Commander-in-Chief of the United States Armed Forces.
- Badass Bureaucrat: His served mostly to keep the colonial forces on the path to ultimate victory, which meant more administration than giving orders, but his leadership is the reason they were still together after seven years of combat.
- Four-Star Badass: This trope has gotten played straight, inverted, subverted, and averted at one point or another. He was officially a three star general (his rank was Lieutenant General, the highest rank ever awarded during the American Revolution to a military officer), though he was for all intents and purposes this trope by default for the colonial troops. By an act of Congress he is permanently senior to anyone who comes after him, and while he did lead troops as President once, he was technically both four star in authority while above that legally.
- Call to Agriculture: His farms on Mount Vernon.
- Cincinnatus: Refusing kingship of the United States on moral as well as pragmatic grounds (Washington had no heirs, for one). When King George heard about this, he said, "If true, then he is the greatest man in the world."
- Definitely Just a Cold: Plagued by a chronic malaria that he caught during his war days. On the eve of his death, Washington shrugged off a "trifling" sore throat.
- Face Death with Dignity: This arguably saved Washington's life multiple times.
- Failure Hero: It has been said that any General besides William Howe could have toppled Washington, and any General besides Washington could have defeated Howe. Not to mention George's spotty record during the war with France.
- Hidden Depths: He was a hell of a dancer and tasteful interior decorator.
- Large and In Charge: Even enemy troops were impressed with Washington's great height. Upon being captured by the French, Washington was given a military escort back to safety.
- Magnetic Hero: During his presidency, he was the glue that held his cabinet together when they disagreed on basically everything else.
- One Head Taller: George Washington (6' 2" ft) and Mary Curtis (5' ft).
- Perpetual Frowner: The result of having to force his mouth closed around primitive spring-loaded dentures, making him look uncommonly grim in pictures. Washington's scary countenance so frightened John Adams that he refused to wear dentures himself.
- Shrouded in Myth
- "Well Done, Son" Guy: Had a bristly relationship with his mother, Mary Ball Washington.
- Manly Wade Wellman's short fantasy story "Vandy, Vandy" features an appearance not of the actual Washington's ghost, but the evil-smiting myth-encrusted figure described above.
- In the Masters of Horror episode "The Washingtonians," Washington and his descendants are revealed to be cannibals, though its more of a "campy and ridiculous" sort of horror than a real scary one. (Note that the real Washington was probably sterile.)
- In one of the Animorphs' many time travel adventures, at one point they're sent back to the Revolutionary War, just as Washington's about to cross the Delaware. Marco steals George's spare boots because his feet are cold. His friend Jake later gets shot in the head, prompting the first major timeline divergence in the series.
- The cartoon Time Squad always portrayed Washington as The Cape (trope) whenever he appeared... except for the episode that opened with him going on a psychotic rampage in the Squad's space station. (It was an Unwinnable Training Simulation, simulating what would happen if they dropped The Masquerade for him.)
- Highly ambiguous character in the Illuminatus trilogy.
- Appears in Thomas Pynchon's Mason & Dixon. As a fellow surveyor he talks shop with the protagonists before they set out to draw their Line. Then, Pynchon being Pynchon, the three of them test out Mt. Vernon's latest hemp crop, leading to dancing on the porch while Martha fetches in the munchies.
- Fairly Oddparents depicts him as a maniac with an axe with an uncontrollable urge to chop wood.
- Day of the Tentacle has him lounging about with the founding fathers.
- Quite a few pages are dedicated to his exploits in The Lost Symbol.
- Histeria! depicts him as talking like Bob Hope. (Both were famous for making speeches to the troops.)
- How I Met Your Mother. George and Benjamin Franklin were friends with Barnabus Stinson (Barney's ancestor) who wrote "The Bro Code". George and Ben also once did a "Devil's Threesome".
- Washington, Washington, six-foot-eight, weighs a fucking ton...
- In Nightmare Ned, he shows up as a talking quarter when the Tooth Fairy is about to rip out his teeth, saying that even without teeth he became president.
- Was once the target of an assassination attempt by
Hans SprungfeldJebediah Springfield on The Simpsons. He fought him off hand-to-hand.
- A Cahill from the Tomas branch in The 39 Clues.
- Snoopy every so often talked (or pretended to talk) to the then-general during the Valley Forge winter. Being the World Famous Patriot didn't prevent Snoopy from tossing in some Anachronism Stew, including at one point offering to let Washington drive a Zamboni at a proposed ice-skating rink.
- In James Fenimore Cooper's 1820 novel The Spy, a romance thriller based during the Revolution, the identity of the Rebel spymaster is revealed at novel's end to be George Washington. Washington was a so-so general but an absolute master of counter intelligence. He got the British to swallow some real whoppers, so much for never telling a lie.
- Bob Newhart did a Stand Up Comedy routine about a soldier in Washington's army complaining, as soldiers always have and always will. It starts with the sound of tramping feet and the words:
You hear what Nutty George did last night? The dollar across the Potomac — they didn't tell you about that? Had us up till three in the morning looking for the damned thing.
- Deadliest Warrior has George Washington go up against Napoleon Bonaparte. George barely manages to win over Napoleon.
- Portrayed as The Eeyore and The Ghost in the musical 1776, where he never appears but his letters from the front line are a constant discouragement to the Continental Congress. He also features in Adams' acidic forecast of how future historians would view the American Revolution:
Franklin: Don't worry, John. The history books will clean it up.
- David Drake's Into the Hinterlands is essentially a retelling of George Washington's early career In Space
- Dan's target of the week in Dan Vs. "George Washington". He believes that George Washington chopped down a palm tree that wrecked his car, since an axe with the initials G.W. carved into handle was still stuck in the tree. Chris and Elise try to convince Dan that Washington couldn't have done it since a) the cherry tree thing is a myth and b) he's been dead for over two centuries. Dan believes that Washington's ghost wrecked his car, and travels to Washington's home to commit vandalism as payback. The ending confirms Dan's theory.
- Washington's execution is the Point of Divergence in the alternate-history/Libertarian fantasy comic book The Probability Broach. The author claims that Washington's handling of the Whiskey Rebellion was the beginnings of over-reaching federal power in America. The man who got Washington convicted is then elected President, and promptly disbands any federal infrastructure, creating the "North American Confederacy."
- According to the immense fresco on the ceiling of the United States Capitol Building, he became a god.
- The SCP Foundation has SCP-2776, an automaton created in the likeness of George Washington. As per several letters recovered, the automaton was created when the real George Washington was still an officer serving with General Braddock, dying of an illness. The automaton went on to win the war and serve as president, unaware that it wasn't the real Washington. It also had a number of built-in weapons and a program to go on a destructive rampage towards London if it would appear that America was losing against Britain.
Bill Maher: They named a state and a capital after him. He's on the one dollar bill. He's about as close to Kim Jong Il as we get in this country.
- Although considered debunked for decades, historical research in the early 21st Century indicated the anecdote may be more plausible than has long been believed.
- When he caught news of this, King George II the last British monarch to lead troops in battle, reportedly remarked that Washington's attitude would change if he'd heard a few more. But his grandson George III didn't win the war, so fuck him.