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PRESIDENTS AND VICE-PRESIDENTS OF THE UNITED STATES.
William Henry Harrison.
V. P. Chester A. Arthur.
V. P. T. A. Hendricks.. Benjamin Harrison... V. P. Levi P. Morton.
1. Washington; 2. J. Adams; 3. Jefferson: 4. Madison; 5. Monroe: 6. J. Q. Adams; 7. Jackson; 8. Van Buren: 9. W. H. Harrison; 10. Tyler; 11. Polk; 12. Taylor; 13. Fillmore; 14. Pierce; 15. Buchanan; 16. Lincoln; 17. Johnson: 18. Grant; 19. Hayes; 20. Garfield; 21. Arthur; 22. Cleveland; 23. B. Harrison.
THE first President of the United States was introduced to politics in the exciting times prior to the Revolution, when all men in the colonies were interested in the questions forced on them by the attitude of Great Britain toward her American dependencies. Although a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses when he was quite young, Washington took little part in the proceedings. It is not in record that he made any speeches, but he is credited with having done a great deal of quiet committee work in behalf of the farming interests. He indorsed the agitation against the Stamp Act, and was thoroughly in sympathy with the opposition to the tea tax and the Boston port bill, the two measures which led to Bunker Hill. He was a delegate to the First Continental Congress, and to the Second, which elected him Commander-in-Chief of the Continental army.
His work in the war is known to all students of American history. ing the long struggle, he took little part in the politics of the time, except so far as he showed the utmost respect for all commands of Congress. When the Revolution ended with the surrender of Cornwallis and the evacuation of New York, Washington came out in favor of more power for Congress, and against the new confederation of the States. During his term as President of the United States, he opposed, with all the power and influence he possessed, the desire of many people to take part in the war between England and France. His action at this time laid down, as a principle in American politics, strict neutrality in all quarrels between nations of the Old World. Washington saw, with perfect clearness, what has been proved beyond doubt by the experience of the United States, that the people of this country were not and could not be interested in the dynastic or other wars of Europe. At the time that he was elected President the connection between America and England had been too recently severed, for the men here to understand the full effects of the Revolution. They had been accustomed to seeing the quarrel between France and England fought out on this continent, and they were unable to understand that work of this sort was at an end forever.
It was natural for Americans to imagine they could cripple England, the country they were most afraid of, by helping France, and the pressure brought to bear on Washington in this direction was very great. He was one of the few who understood that England was the natural ally of the United States, and he also understood that this country had everything to gain, and nothing to lose by remaining neutral. He, therefore, stood firm, and his services during the Revolution were paralleled by those he rendered at this period.
The presidency of Washington was not a time during which politics were very active. The country had just emerged from a most exhausting war, and the one thing needed was peace. It was the duty of all public men then to bind up the wounds, and to devote themselves to working out the problem of self-government, which had come upon them demanding a solution. All was new, untried, almost in a chaotic state. It was the business of Washington to produce the precedents under which the new government was to run-to shape what was practically shapeless. As it was, a few years after,
to be the glorious task of John Marshall, as the great chief justice, to produce the law which would govern us, so it was the task of the first President to evolve the government. No one in the United States was more fitted for this great and most necessary work. Washington combined the most absolute reverence for Congress, and the will of the people as therein expressed, with the full ability to see when that Congress was making a mistake. That the Congress should make mistakes at first was a foregone conclusion. Washington was peculiar in this: he could recognize the error, exert his influence to correct it, assume for the moment almost the initiative of an absolute monarch, and force his ideas on the representatives of the States; and yet, when the emergency was over, he could return to the position of the first servant of the people. He was never tempted to make his temporary sovereignty perpetual, and his sure judgment enabled him to understand just when and where it was necessary to assume the power.
Although the Federalists and Republicans began to show themselves during the two terms of Washington, they did not become defined. He sympathized with the former in some things, but for the most part he kept out of politics. It is not necessary here to go into the many little political questions which arose at this time, because most of them, with the issues that produced them, have been forgotten, and could not be understood now without a long and somewhat tedious explanation.
Washington's great ability, his marvelous character, and his extraordinary insight into the conditions that surrounded him, were best shown in the manner in which he kept his government out of politics. He gave the country what it most needed-rest; and he fought off all issues that would have disturbed it. He put no check on the little questions which came up from time to time, feeling that they were of just enough interest to assure the people, and not of enough importance to seriously disturb them. He believed in keeping quiet, in giving the government time to work out its own methods, in allowing the people to recover from the struggle, and by their industry to make themselves prosperous. He succeeded in all this, and he was then, as he had been before, emphatically the right man in the right place. The debt which the American people owe to Washington is the result of his wisdom as President, as much as his courage and genius as a soldier.
As others of the men of the Revolution, John Adams, of Massachusetts, the second President of the United States, began his political career as a "patriot American." He was in full sympathy with everything done by the men of his State against the British power, and was the more dangerous opponent of British dominion, because of his singular clearness of mental vision. A man who was never extreme, he condemned the English rule on the most purely logical grounds. A man, also, of great ability, he was bound to come to the front in Revolutionary times. He became the legal adviser of the Patriot party in his State, and took an active part in those operations which resulted in Massachusetts taking the initiative in the war.
He was a delegate to the Continental Congress, and proposed Washington as commander-in-chief. He was sent to France with Franklin and Routledge as commissioners during the war, and he went from there to the Hague, where he secured a recognition of the United States from the Dutch. He negotiated the treaty of peace with England in 1783, and, coming soon afterward to this country, was nominated for the presidency. Under the system then in force, the candidate who received the most votes became President, and he who tallied the next lowest vote took the position of Vice-President.