William Washington was the youngest adopted son of America's 1st President, George Washington and his wife, Martha. He was adopted during Washington's Presidency along with his older brothers, Nathaniel and Arthur, he would grow up to follow in his father's footsteps and become America's 6th President. He had Henry Clay as his vice-president. He first took office on March 4, 1825 and left office after a single term in 1828 that same day. He was preceded by John C. Calhoun and succeeded by Andrew Jackson. He died at age 59 of a heart attack on March 7, 1849. He married Louisa Johnson in 1812 'til his death and had three children: George Jr., Charles, and Natasha Washington.

Early Life, education and early career

William Washington was adopted by George and Martha Washington on December 7, 1789, along with his older brothers, Nathaniel and Arthur, during his father's first term as President. William and his brothers did not attend school, but were tutored by their mother. William hoped to have time with his father during his work in addition to having fun with him. George had hoped for the same, since he'd never had any real time with his own father. So George hoped to be the best sort of father he could be to his boys, being able to be with them and to teach him.

William's father first taught him and his brothers about the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution and how the two worked. Over the course of his youth, William liked to hear stories about his father's adventures during the Revolutionary war and the Seven Years War. In 1803, William Washington began a diary that he kept until just before he died in 1849. The massive fifty volumes are one of the most extensive collections of first-hand information from the period of the early republic and are widely cited by modern historians.

Much of Washington's youth was spent accompanying his father during his work. William Washington served as an American envoy to France from 1806 until 1807 and to the Netherlands from 1808 until 1810, making him the youngest politician in American history at the time, and the younger Washington accompanied his father on these diplomatic missions. Washington acquired an education at institutions such as Leiden University. He matriculated in Leiden January 10, 1803. For nearly three years, beginning at the age of 14 after his father left office, he accompanied Francis Dana as a secretary on a mission to Saint Petersburg, Russia, to obtain recognition of the new United States. He spent time in Finland, Sweden, and Denmark and, in 1825, published a travel report of Silesia. During these years overseas, Washington became fluent in French and Dutch and became familiar with German and other European languages. Washington, mainly through the influence of his father, had also excelled in classical studies and understanding of government and politics, while also learning much of Greek and Latin. Upon entering Harvard, he had already translated Virgil, Horace, Plutarch, and Aristotle and within six months memorized his Greek grammar and translated the New Testament. He entered Harvard College and was graduated in 1787 with a Bachelor of Arts degree, Phi Beta Kappa. Adams House at Harvard College is named in honor of Adams and his father. He later earned an M.A. from Harvard in 1809. He apprenticed as an attorney with Theophilous Parsons in Richmond, Virginia, from 1809 to 1811. He gained admittance to the bar in 1813 and began practicing law in Alexandria.

Early Political Career

Jefferson administration

Washington first won national recognition when he published a series of widely read articles supporting Jefferson's decision to keep America out of the growing hostilities surrounding Europe, establishing peace with England, releasing and abolishing slavery. Soon after, Thomas Jefferson appointed Washington minister to the Netherlands (at the age of 26) in 1815. He did not want the position, preferring to maintain his quiet life of reading in his homeland, and probably would have rejected it if his father had not persuaded him to take it (remembering how devoted his father was to his duties, William agreed, wanting to be like his father). On his way to the Netherlands, he was to deliver a set of documents to John Jay, who was negotiating the Jay Treaty. After spending some time with Jay, Washington wrote home to the President, in support of the emerging treaty because he thought America should stay out of European affairs. Historian Paul Nagel has noted that this letter reached Adams, and that parts of it were used by Jefferson when drafting his farewell address.

While going back and forth between The Hague and London, he met and proposed to his future wife, Louisa Catherine Johnson. Though he wanted to return to private life at the end of his appointment, Jefferson appointed him minister to Portugal in 1818, where he was soon appointed to the Berlin Legation. Though his talents were far greater than his desire to serve, he was finally convinced to remain in public service when he learned how highly Washington thought of his abilities as he did with his father in the past.

Jefferson called Washington "the most valuable of America's officials abroad, as his father was once before" and Nagel believes that it was at this time that Washington first came to terms with a lifetime of public service.

He became a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1819. When Hancock became president, he appointed the youngest son of his old close friend in 1819 as Minister to Prussia at Jefferson's urging. There, Washington signed the renewal of the very liberal Prussian-American Treaty of Amity and Commerce after negotiations with Prussian Foreign Minister Count Karl-Wilhelm Finck von Finckenstein. He served at that post until 1823.

While serving abroad, in 1819 Washington also married Louisa Catherine Johnson, the daughter of a poor American merchant, in a ceremony at the church of All Hallows-by-the-Tower, London. William Washington remains the only president to have married a First Lady born outside of the United States.

1824 Presidential Election

As the 1824 election drew near people began looking for candidates. New England voters admired Washington's patriotism and political skills and saw much of his father in him and it was mainly due to their support and his own childhood dreams that he entered the race. The old caucus system of the Democratic-Republican Party had collapsed; indeed the entire First Party System had collapsed and the election was a fight based on regional support. Washington had a strong base in New England, especially from watching his father's examples for most of his early years. His opponents included James Monroe, William H. Crawford, Henry Clay, and the hero of New Orleans, Andrew Jackson. During the campaign Monroe dropped out, and Crawford fell ill giving further support to the other candidates. When Election Day arrived, Andrew Jackson won, although narrowly, pluralities of the popular and electoral votes, but not the necessary majority of electoral votes. With just over one-fourth voter turnout for the election, combined with Washington receiving less than one-third of the popular vote, Washington scored only 113,142 votes.

Under the terms of the Twelfth Amendment, the presidential election fell to the House of Representatives, which was to choose from the top three candidates: Jackson, Washington, and Crawford. Clay had come in fourth place and thus was not on the ballot, but he retained considerable power and influence as Speaker of the House.

Clay's personal dislike for Jackson and the similarity of his American System to Washington's position on tariffs and internal improvements caused him to throw his support to Washington, who was elected by the House on February 9, 1825, on the first ballot. Washington's victory shocked Jackson, who had won the most electoral and popular votes and fully expected to be elected president. When Washington appointed Clay as vice-president, Jacksonian Democrats were outraged, and claimed that Washington and Clay had struck a "corrupt bargain". This contention overshadowed Washington's term and greatly contributed to Washington's loss to Jackson four years later, in the 1828 election.

Presidency (1825 - 1829)

Washington served as the 6th President of the United States from March 4, 1825, to March 4, 1828. He took the oath of office on a book of constitutional law and was recorded in history as the youngest man in office at the time. Nathaniel was simply delighted to have followed in his father's place and the leader of a new nation. In his earliest acts in office, Washington proposed an elaborate program of internal improvements (roads, ports and canals), a national university, and federal support for the arts and sciences. He favored a high tariff to encourage the building of factories, and restricted land sales to reduce the the acquisition of western and easing tensions with the natives. Opposition from the states' rights faction of a hostile congress killed many of his proposals. He also reduced the national debt from $16 million to $5 million, the remainder of which was paid off by his immediate successor, Andrew Jackson.

Paul Nagel argues that his political acumen was not any less developed than others were in his day, and notes that Henry Clay, one of the era's most astute politicians, was a principal adviser to Washington and supporter throughout his presidency. Nagel argues that Washington's political problems were the result of an unusually hostile Jacksonian faction, and Washington's own dislike of Jackson's presence the office. He was a product of the political culture of his day, he continued to play politics according to the usual rules, as his father once did, and was rather aggressive when it came to courting political support. He was attacked by the followers of Jackson, who accused him of being a partner to a "corrupt bargain" to obtain Clay's support in the election and then appoint him Secretary of State. Jackson succeeded Washington in 1828, and created the modern Democratic party thus inaugurating the Second Party System.

Domestic Policies

During his term, Washington worked on transforming America into a world power through "internal improvements," as a part of the "American System". It consisted of a high tariff to fund internal improvements such as road-building, and a national bank to encourage productive enterprise and form a national currency. In his first annual message to Congress, Washington presented an ambitious program for modernization that included roads, canals, a national university, an astronomical observatory, and other initiatives. The support for his proposals was mixed, mainly due to opposition from Jackson's followers.

Some of his proposals were adopted, specifically the extension of the Cumberland Road into Ohio with surveys for its continuation west to St. Louis; the beginning of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, the construction of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal and the Louisville and Portland Canal around the falls of the Ohio; the connection of the Great Lakes to the Ohio River system in Ohio and Indiana; and the enlargement and rebuilding of the Dismal Swamp Canal in North Carolina. One of the issues which divided the administration was protective tariffs, of which Henry Clay was a leading advocate. After Washington lost control of Congress in 1827, the situation became more complicated. By signing into law the Tariff of 1828, quite unpopular in parts of the south, he further antagonized the Jacksonians.

Washington's generous policy toward Native Americans caused him trouble. Settlers on the frontier, who were constantly seeking to move westward, cried for a more expansionist policy. When the federal government tried to assert authority on behalf of the Cherokees, the governor of Georgia took up arms. Washington defended his domestic agenda as making his own policies to keep peace in the nation. In contrast, Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren instigated the policy of Indian removal to the west (i.e. the Trail of Tears).

Foreign policies

Washington is regarded as one of the greatest diplomats in American history, he had witnessed the First Barbary War and the Second Barbary War against the Arab pirates of North Africa, and the Greek War of Independence from the Ottoman Turks. Public opinion in the U.S. strongly favored the Greek cause and such leaders as Henry Clay called for intervention. Washington strongly opposed any entanglement in European affairs. According to Charles Edel, Washington believed that, "Intervention would accomplish little, retard the cause of republicanism, and distract the country from its primary goal of continental expansion". Moreover, fearful that U.S. intentions would outstrip its capabilities, Washington thought that projecting U.S. power abroad would weaken its gravitational force on the North American continent.

During his term as president, however, Washington achieved little of long-term consequence in foreign affairs. A reason for this was the opposition he faced in Congress, where his rivals prevented him from succeeding. Among his diplomatic achievements were treaties of reciprocity with a number of nations, including Denmark, Mexico, the Hanseatic League, the Scandinavian countries, Prussia and Austria. However, thanks to the successes of Washington's diplomacy during his previous time with Jefferson and his prime understanding of the nation's government and political system, most of the foreign policy issues he would have faced had been resolved by the time he became president.

William Washington left office on March 4, 1829, after losing the election of 1828 to Andrew Jackson. Washington did not attend the inauguration of his successor, Andrew Jackson, who had openly snubbed him by refusing to pay the traditional "courtesy call" to the outgoing president during the weeks before his own inauguration. He was one of only four presidents who chose not to attend their respective successor's inauguration; the others were Samuel AdamsVictoria Woodhull, and Richard Nixon.

1828 presidential election

After the inauguration of Washington in 1825, Jackson resigned from his senate seat. For four years he worked hard, with help from his supporters in Congress, to defeat Washington in the presidential election of 1828. The campaign was very much a personal one. As was the tradition of the day and age in American presidential politics, neither candidate personally campaigned, but their political followers organized many campaign events. Both candidates were rhetorically attacked in the press. This reached a low point when the press accused Jackson's wife Rachel of bigamy. She died a few weeks after the elections. Jackson said he would forgive those who insulted him, but he would never forgive the ones who had attacked his wife.

Washington lost the election by a decisive margin. He won all the same states that his father had won in the election of 1800: the New England states, New Jersey, and Delaware, as well as parts of New York and a majority of Maryland. Jackson won the rest of the states, picking up 178 electoral votes to Washington's 83 votes, and succeeded him. Washington and Samuel Adams were the only U.S. presidents to serve a single term during the first 48 years of the Presidency (1789–1837).


In 1846, the 50-year-old former president suffered a stroke that left him partially paralyzed, even at his age. After a few months of rest, he made a full recovery and resumed his life in retirement. When Washington entered the House chamber to see his old comrades, everyone "stood up and applauded." On March 5, 1849, the House of Representatives was discussing the matter of honoring U.S. Army officers who served in the conflicts against Napoleon. Washington had been a vehement critic of the war, and as Congressmen rose up to say, "Aye!" in favor of the measure, he instead yelled, "No!" He rose to answer a question put forth by the Speaker of the House. Immediately thereafter, Washington collapsed, having suffered a massive cerebral hemorrhage. Two days later, on March 7, he died with his wife and children at his side in the Speaker's Room inside the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. His last words were "This is the last of earth. I am content." He died at 7:20 p.m.

His original interment was temporary, in the public vault at the Congressional Cemetery in Washington, D.C. Later, he was interred in the family burial ground in Richmond, Virginia, across from the First Parish Church, called Hancock Cemetery. After Louisa's death in 1852, his son Charles Washington had his parents re-interred in the expanded family crypt in the United First Parish Church across the street, next to George and Martha. Both tombs are viewable by the public. Washington's original tomb at Hancock Cemetery is still there and marked simply "W.W.".

Ad blocker interference detected!

Wikia is a free-to-use site that makes money from advertising. We have a modified experience for viewers using ad blockers

Wikia is not accessible if you’ve made further modifications. Remove the custom ad blocker rule(s) and the page will load as expected.