George Washington Supervises Construction of the Patowmack Canal

•March 5, 2010 • Leave a Comment

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After returning from his trip to the Ohio country to survey the route of his proposed Patowmack Canal to make the Potomac River navigable and create a water highway to link it with the Ohio River, George Washington obtained approval from the Virginia and Maryland legislatures for the creation of the Patowmack Canal Company – and then began construction of the Patowmack Canal, with George Washington personally canoeing the various falls and rapids in order to determine the best location for the construction of the canal’s locks.  Using black powder to blast through the solid granite rocks at Great Falls and the location of the other locks, the Patowmack Canal was the first canal to be built in America and was deemed the greatest engineering feat of the entire 18th century.


Mount Vernon Conference and Mount Vernon Compact

•March 5, 2010 • Leave a Comment

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One problem still had to be resolved, however, in order for George Washington to be able to implement his dream of building the Patowmack Canal.  This was the navigation and interstate commerce problems presented by the fact that, under the Articles of Confederation, there was no clear framework for facilitating interstate commerce ventures such as Washington’s proposed Patowmack Canal.  To attempt to resolve such problems, George Washington convinced the Virginia and Maryland state legislatures to approve of a conference between the two states to be held in Alexandria, Virginia, with James Madison acting as the sponsor of such legislation for Washington in the Virginia legislature.  Unfortunately, when the Maryland delegates arrived for the conference, the only Virginia delegate in attendance was George Washington’s neighbor George Mason – since Virginia’s Governor Patrick Henry had failed to notify the other Virginia delegates.  What saved the conference was George Washington’s offer to host the delegates at Mount Vernon, even though George Washington himself was not a delegate to the conference.  Held in March 1785, the Mount Vernon Conference proposed a number of agreements between Virginia and Maryland relating to the regulation of navigation and interstate commerce on the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay.

Annapolis Convention

•March 5, 2010 • Leave a Comment

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As a result of the Mount Vernon Conference, the state legislatures Virginia and Maryland enacted legislation proposing a follow-up conference to be held in Annapolis, Maryland, inviting the other states to attend as well to consider further steps to resolve the navigation and interstate commerce problems facing the states after the Revolutionary War.  The Annapolis Convention met in September 1786 at the Annapolis State House.  In attendance were 12 representatives from 5 states (Virginia, New York, New Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania), including James Madison from Virginia, Alexander Hamilton from New York, and John Dickinson from Delaware.

Annapolis Convention Report

•March 5, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Because of a lack of attendance by the various states (including Maryland, even though it was the site of the convention), the delegates felt that they could not accomplish their purpose of proposing a solution to the navigation and other interstate commerce problems that were inadequately being dealt with.  Instead, at the suggestion of Alexander Hamilton, the delegates proposed another convention to be held in Philadelphia to hopefully consist of all of the states.  Each of the delegates then carried copies of the report back to their respective states, while John Dickinson carried a copy to the Articles of Confederation Congress, which approved the report calling for a larger convention to be held in Philadelphia.  On his way back home from the Annapolis Convention, delegate James Madison stopped off at Mount Vernon to discuss strategy for how to next proceed with George Washington.

George Washington Is Elected President of and Presides Over the Federal Convention of 1787 (now referred to as the Constitutional Convention)

•March 5, 2010 • Leave a Comment

The Federal Convention of 1787 (now referred to as the Constitutional Convention) met from May 14 to September 17, 1787 in Philadelphia.  One of its first acts of business after a quorum was finally established on May 25th was to unanimously elect George Washington as President to preside over the Convention.  Washington then presided over the Convention throughout the entire summer.  William Jackson was selected as the Secretary of the Convention and after the Convention ended he gave the Convention’s official papers to George Washington.  Even more detailed notes were kept and compiled with the help of the notes of other delegates by James Madison, who sat in front of the other delegates just to the right of George Washington, who sat at a table on a dias in front of the other delegates.  Since the Virginia delegates arrived before the other states, the Virginia delegation which included  George Washington and James took the time while waiting for the other state delegations to arrive to draft what is known as the Virginia Plan, with much of the ideas presented therein credited to James Madison.  Once the Convention began, Virginia Governor Edmund Randoph was chosen by the Virginia delegation to present the Virginia Plan.  Eventually, the Constitution that was adopted to replace the Articles of Confederation but was to a great extent based upon the Virginia Plan.  Several original copies of the Virginia Plan exist, include one hand-written by George Washington.

George Washington Presides Over Signing of U.S. Constitution

•March 5, 2010 • Leave a Comment

After four months of deliberations during the sweltering summer heat of Philadelphia, the delegates to the Federal Convention of 1787 finally agreed upon the proposed new U.S. Constitution, with George Washington presiding over its signing on September 17, 1787.

Washington’s Last Meeting With His Mother and Washington Receiving the News That He Has Been Unanimously Elected as the First President of the United States

•March 4, 2010 • Leave a Comment


The Constitution of the United States was ratified by the necessary nine states in June of 1788. On February 4th of the following year, the electoral college met and cast their votes for the election of president. While everyone assumed that George Washington would be elected, the votes would not be counted until the new Congress convened. The newly elected Congress convened on March 4, 1789 in New York City, but it took a month for a quorum to be achieved. Finally, on April 6th the ballots were opened and counted and it was determned that George Washington had been unanimously elected as our nation’s first president, and our only president to ever be unanimously elected. Even still, Washington himself was not officially notified of his election until April 14, 1789. Above is a print by Howard Pyle of Washington receiving official word of his election at his Mount Vernon home.  The illustration above that is of Washington’s last visit with his mother before she died, which was shortly before Washington received word of his election and set out for New York.