What Precedents Were Set by George Washington?

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George Washington is best known for setting the precedent of a two-term limit for American presidents, but he created other patterns later presidents followed as well. For example, he carefully organized his day so he could fulfill all the roles he had as President, and he created the precedent for presidents governing from an office at their homes as well as from the White House.

As the United States of America’s first president, George Washington was conscious that his actions would set the precedent for all his successors. For this reason, he was careful to correct what he believed were earlier mistakes by the presidents of the Confederation Congress, the interim governing body of the rebelling colonies. He started by banning social visits from the first part of the Presidential day, according to the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association website. Business and meetings involving governance came first, during which he met with his cabinet heads, creating another precedent. Diplomatic visits and social events were held only in the afternoons and evenings. When he chose to return to Mount Vernon for periodic extended stays, Washington also made it acceptable for presidents to retreat to their homes and govern.

Because, as he stated, America needed a president and not a king, he insisted on the simple honorific “Mr. President” instead of more flowery terms like “Your Excellency” or “His Highness, the Protector of Our Liberties.” This was the same reason he gave for choosing to retire at the end of only two terms, though his supporters were anxious for him to run again. Only in the 1940s, after Franklin Delano Roosevelt died during his fourth term, was this tradition enshrined in law.