George Washington's Political Opinions

As the first President of the United States of America, George Washington had strong political opinions and beliefs but chose not to officially affiliate himself with any political party, even though members of his very own presidential cabinet were beginning to form divergent political parties based on their differing political opinions. These two parties were the Federalist Party (largely led by Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton) and the Democratic-Republicans (largely led by Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson).

Although Washington tended to side with the Federalists on most of the major issues during his presidency, he refused to tie himself to them, as he believed that the creation of political parties was a divisive step for the American government and people. In fact, in his famous Farewell Address after the conclusion of his second presidential term, Washington warned the United States citizens and politicians of divisive effect of political parties. Therefore, Washington can be referred to today as an Independent, or a non-partisan.

Overall, his political views were more overarching in their scope, rather than specific. Washington stood for national freedom, individual liberties, and a strong central government that would serve to protect the freedoms and liberties of its citizens. Also, he believed in complete separation of church and the state. Therefore, he espoused many of the ideals of the European Enlightenment. This approach to political thought allowed Washington to remain non-partisan throughout his two terms in office. Nonetheless, President Washington was forced to make decisions during his time in office that would ultimately favor one of the emerging political parties in the young United States over the other one. One such decision was the signing of the Jay Treaty with England in 1794. This treaty was the result of increased tensions with the British, particularly in regards to free trade. The treaty was largely written by Alexander Hamilton, a Federalist; therefore, it had the support of the Federalist Party. On the other hand, the Democratic-Republicans (also known as the Jeffersonians because of their ring leader, Thomas Jefferson) did not support the treaty, mostly as a result of their worry that the American federal government would be strengthened too much as a result of closer trade ties with Britain. The Jeffersonians feared the growth of the United States federal government since they equated this growth with the loss of states' rights and individual liberties. Despite their ardent disapproval of the treaty, the Jay Treaty was signed into effect, with the backing of President Washington. This move by President Washington was one of several that proved that he believed in a strong central government. Another instance of the President's show of federal power was during the Whisky Rebellion in 1794. Citizens in western Pennsylvania had begun to hold riots during this time in opposition to a recent federal tax on distilled spirits. Washington had little patience for such behavior and summoned the state militias of several surrounding states to move into Pennsylvania and suppress the rebellion.

Although Washington stood for a powerful central government, he did not believe that a single man in the United States government should have an excess of power. Therefore, he refused to run for a third term as President, setting a precedent for the future Presidents of the United States.