The Papers of George Washington | FAQ

Q: What was Washington’s first official position?

A: On July 20, 1749, at the age of 17, George Washington became official Surveyor of Culpeper County, Virginia.


Q: What legislative positions did George Washington hold?

A: George Washington served as a member of the House of Burgesses of Virginia, 1759–1774. Also, he was a member of the first and second Continental Congresses in 1774 and 1775.


Q: How old was Washington when he became Commander in Chief of the Continental Army?

A: Washington became Commander in Chief of the Continental Army in 1775, at the age of 43.


Q: Did General Washington employ spies in his service?

A: Yes. The two best known were “Culper, Sr.” and “Culper, Jr.”


Q: Was George Washington ever wounded in battle?

A: Never, although he narrowly escaped bullets on various occasions. Among these were at Braddock’s Defeat where two horses were shot under him and he had four bullets in his clothes; at the final skirmish of the Forbes expedition, on November 12, 1758, where he rushed between two parties of British who were firing at each other; at Kip’s Bay skirmish on September 15, 1776, where he rashly exposed himself in an attempt to rally the militia; at the battle of Princeton, January 3, 1777; and when making a reconnaissance of the British after the landing at the Head of Elk on August 26, 1777.


Q: Is it true that George Washington always rode a white horse during the War of the Revolution? Did he use the same horse throughout the war? What was the name of the horse?

A: During the Revolutionary War Washington rode two horses at least though there may have been others. His favorite mount, especially in time of action, was Nelson, a sorrel. The other horse was named Blue Skin. The latter horse seems to have been a light bluish gray, closely akin to white.


Q: When Washington was inaugurated as first President of the United States, did he make his inaugural address from the balcony of Federal Hall?

A: No. He took the oath of office from the balcony of Federal Hall, New York City, was proclaimed President and then proceeded to the Senate Chamber. There he made his address before the members of both Houses of Congress.


Q: Is it true that George Washington’s Inaugural Address is the shortest Inaugural Address in our history?

A: It is true of Washington’s Second Inaugural Address which was only 135 words long and took less than two minutes to read. His First Inaugural Address was some 2,000 words long.


Q: Who administered the oath of office at Washington’s first Inauguration?

A: No Chief Justice of the Supreme Court having been appointed, Robert R. Livingston, Chancellor of New York, administered the oath of office.


Q: How long did it take George Washington to go from Mount Vernon to New York to be inaugurated as the first President of the United States?

A: Eight days: April 16–23, 1789.


Q: Did Washington receive a salary as Commander in Chief of the Army?

A: Washington refused to accept any pay for his services. He kept a minute expense account which was submitted to and paid by the government.


Q: Which political party elected George Washington President of the United States?

A: Washington was not elected as a party candidate. He received the unanimous vote of the Presidential electors at both elections, 1789 and 1793.


Q: How many bills did President Washington veto?

A: President Washington vetoed but two bills (both minor measures) during his administration. Neither was passed over the veto.


Q: Did Washington ever occupy the White House as President?

A: No. John Adams was the first President to occupy the White House.


Q: Where did President and Mrs. Washington live in Philadelphia?

A: They occupied a comparatively small, red brick house at 190 High Street.


Q: Did Washington receive pay as President of the United States?

A: Washington was at first reluctant to accept payment for his services. Later, however, he evidently agreed that it would not be a good precedent, and would cause complications in accounts. Congress appropriated $25,000 a year for the President and Washington accepted this salary.

It was the largest salary in America for personal services at that time. It must be pointed out, however, that the government did not provide a Presidential mansion and that Washington had to maintain the expenses of his household from this amount, and complained that it was scarcely adequate.


Q: Was Washington a signer of the Constitution?

A: As President of the Constitutional Convention, Washington was the first signer of the document.


Q: Why did Washington not sign the Declaration of Independence?

A: Washington was not in Congress at the time. He was already in the field, fighting for independence.


Q: Who was President Washington’s chief political advisor?

A: Alexander Hamilton, Secretary of the Treasury, soon became President Washington’s chief political advisor.


Q: Is is true that the key to the French Bastille was sent to Washington?

A: When the French Bastille was captured by the mob, Lafayette sent a key of the notorious prison to Washington at Mount Vernon. The key is still to be seen there.


Q: How was the site of the permanent capital city determined?

A: The selection of the Federal District [Washington, D.C.] was the result of a political deal between Hamilton and Jefferson. Jefferson assisted Hamilton in getting his Assumption Bill passed, in return for which Hamilton swung enough northern votes to locate the Capital of the United States on the Potomac River.

George Washington was authorized by Congress to select the site within certain limits on the Potomac. Washington designated Major Charles Pierre L’Enfant to “prepare a plan of the city.”


Q: Did Washington lay the cornerstone of the Capitol?

A: Yes. Washington laid the cornerstone on September 18, 1793.


Q: Did George Washington found the American Navy?

A: George Washington started the first American Navy by fitting out small vessels during the siege of Boston. The crews for these vessels were made up of Army officers and soldiers who knew something about the sea.


Q: Which President of the United States first issued a Thanksgiving Proclamation?

A: George Washington issued the First Presidential Thanksgiving Proclamation on October 3, 1789. Link to text.


Q: Where was Washington’s Farewell Address delivered?

A: Washington never delivered his Farewell Address in public. It was dated September 17, 1796, and transmitted to the people of the United States through the medium of David Claypoole’s American Daily Advertiser, Philadelphia, in its last issue of September 19, 1796.