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Married to a widow, Martha Dandridge Custis, he devoted himself to a busy and happy life. But like his fellow planters, Washington felt himself exploited by British merchants and hampered by British regulations. As the quarrel with the mother country grew acute, he moderately but firmly voiced his resistance to the restrictions. On July 3, , at Cambridge, Massachusetts, he took command of his ill-trained troops and embarked upon a war that was to last six grueling years.
He realized early that the best strategy was to harass the British.
Finally in with the aid of French allies—he forced the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown. Washington longed to retire to his fields at Mount Vernon.
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But he soon realized that the Nation under its Articles of Confederation was not functioning well, so he became a prime mover in the steps leading to the Constitutional Convention at Philadelphia in When the new Constitution was ratified, the Electoral College unanimously elected Washington President. He did not infringe upon the policy making powers that he felt the Constitution gave Congress.
But the determination of foreign policy became preponderantly a Presidential concern. When the French Revolution led to a major war between France and England, Washington refused to accept entirely the recommendations of either his Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, who was pro-French, or his Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton, who was pro-British.
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Rather, he insisted upon a neutral course until the United States could grow stronger. To his disappointment, two parties were developing by the end of his first term.