As president of he United States, George Washington established precedents that would shape and define the future of the Executive Branch. His precedents defined the role of government and the image the people had of the presidency. In this essay I will discuss four precedents that I believe to be the most important and influential to the presidency of America. The first precedent I believe to be important is the organization of the Executive Branch. Washington relied on the advice of the department heads.
This set the precedent of including the cabinet in the office of the Executive Branch. Washington was also allowed to choose his own cabinet appointees setting a tradition that is still followed today. The second precedent that I believe was important was the separation of power, also known as checks and balances. Washington carefully avoided dictating or influencing the judicial and legislative branches. He set the precedent of executive restraint by not using his power to veto bills unless there were constitutional concerns regarding the bill.
The third precedent that I believe had great influence on the Presidential Office was the execution and enforcement of unpopular law. When Washington led federal troops against the corn farmers of the Whiskey Rebellion in 1794, he made a clear statement about the power of federal law and its supremacy over the land. His display of force verified that the government has the right and the power to levy and collect taxes. The fourth precedent I believe important was the two-term presidency. I believe this precedent had the greatest influence on the American presidency.
Washington had the support and power to set himself up as king. Although the people wanted Washington to serve a third term he declined. He believed it would set a dangerous precedent that would allow a dictatorship and the collapse of the Constitution. By retiring after two terms he set the precedent of a two-term presidency. This precedent lasted until Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected for his third term. During this third term the 22nd amendment to the Constitution establish that a president can not serve more than two terms.
Most importantly, Washington’s conduct as president and as a person created an image of dignity. By organizing the executive branch, using restraint to ensure separation of power, executing and enforcing federal laws and setting a two-term presidency Washington saved a republic. His time as our president set many precedents that have lasted for generations and set our nation on a path that has lasted longer than any other republic in the history of the world.