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George Washington
1732 - 1799

First president of the United States (1789-1797). Washington was a land surveyor who carefully accumulated over 1,500 acres of land on his own account before his elder brother deeded him the plantation of Mount Vernon and a military position. He was a skilful military leader, first on behalf of the British and then eventually as the commander-in-chief of the Continental Army. His prominence led to a principle role in instigating and steering the Constitutional Convention of 1787, and he was unanimously elected by the Electoral College as first President of the Union when the constitution was ratified. He served two terms managing his debt-ridden country, and refused a third term, instead retiring to Mount Vernon.

Occupants of public offices love power and are prone to abuse it.

from his farewell address
We began a contest for liberty ill provided with the means for the war, relying on our patriotism to supply the deficiency.

1781 - urging troops not to lose heart at the battle of West Point in the American Revolutionary War
Liberty, when it begins to take root, is a plant of rapid growth.

Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labour to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politican, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them.

Sep. 17, 1796 - from his farewell address
[Political parties] ... the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of Party are sufficient to make it the interest and the duty of a wise People to discourage and restrain it. It serves always to distract the Public Councils and enfeeble the Public Administration. It agitates the Community with ill founded Jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection.

Sep. 17, 1796 - from his farewell address
Respect for [the government's] authority, compliance with its laws, acquiescence in its measures, are duties enjoined by the fundamental maxims of true liberty.

The propitious smiles of heaven can never be expected on a nation which disregards the eternal rules of order and right which heaven itself has ordained.

1789 - from his inaugural address
Labour to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire - conscience.

from one of his schoolboy notebooks
I hope I shall always possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain (what I consider the most enviable of all titles) the character of an Honest Man.

Aug. 28, 1788 - from a letter to Alexander Hamilton
[My terms in office] have been a uniform sacrifice of inclination to the opinion of duty, and to a deference for what appeared to be your desire.

Sep. 17, 1796 - from his farewell address
However combinations or associations of [factions] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely, in the course of time and things, 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 - destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.

Sep. 17, 1796 - warning about the growing power of political parties, from his farewell address
Few men have virtue to withstand the highest bidder.

A good moral character is the first essential in a man. It is therefore highly important to endeavor not only to be learned, but virtuous.

There is nothing which can better deserve our patronage than the promotion of science and literature. Knowledge is in every country the surest basis of public happiness.

Jan. 8, 1790 - from an address to the U.S. Congress
Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force; like a fire, a troublesome servant and a fearful master. Never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action.

To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace.

Jan. 8, 1790 - from a speech to both houses of the U.S. Congress