Washington planned wisely
One name was on every man's lips for the new chief of state, and Washington was unanimously chosen President. On April 30, 1789, he took the oath pledging faithfully to execute the office of President of the United States and to the best of his ability to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."
It was a lusty republic that set out upon its career. The economic problems caused by the war were on their way to solution and the country was growing steadily. Immigration from Europe came in volume; good farms were to be had for small sums; labor was in strong demand. The rich valley stretches of upper New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia soon became great wheat-growing areas. Although many items were still home-made, manufactures too were growing. Massachusetts and Rhode Island were laying the foundations of important textile industries; Connecticut was beginning to turn out tinware and clocks; New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania were producing paper, glass, and iron. Shipping had grown to such an extent that on the seas the United States was second only to England. Before 1790, American ships were traveling to China to sell furs and bring back teas, spices, and silks.
The main impulse of American energy, however, was westward. New Englanders and Pennsylvanians were moving into Ohio; Virginians and Carolinians were heading for Kentucky and Tennessee. Up the long slopes of the Alleghenies climbed the white-topped wagons of the emigrant trains. Into Kentucky wound the buckskin-clad hunters and the pioneers with carts of furniture, seeds, simple farm implements, and domestic animals. In many a rough clearing, the frontier farmer and his neighbors raised a log cabin, its timbers chinked with clay, its roof covered with oak staves. Year by year, more rafts and boats, laden with grain, salt meat, and potash, floated down the Mississippi to New Orleans. Year by year, the western towns grew more important. Wild animalsi disease, and other perils and hardships had to be faced, but still ten thousand rivulets of settlement spilled into the wilderness. The keynote of an earlier day-"Westward the course of empire takes its way"-was still the watchword.
This was the condition of the country when Washington took office. The new Constitution, at the time merely a blueprint of things to come, possessed neither tradition nor the backing of organized public opinion. The two parties, formed during the period of ratification, continued antagonistic. The Federalists were the party of strong central government, of rising business, and commercial interests. The Anti-Federalists were champions of state rights and agrarianism. The new government had to create its own machinery. There were no taxes coming in. Until a judiciary could be established, there was no means of law enforcement. The army was small. The navy had ceased to exist.
The wise leadership of Washington was essential to the nation at this time. The qualities that had made him the first soldier in the Revolution also made him the first statesman in the newly organized country. He had the power of planning for a distant end and a capacity for taking infinite pains. He inspired respect and trust; he had directness rather than adroitness; fortitude rather than flexibility; and great dignity and reserve as well as shyness, humility, and stoical self-control.