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George Washington (February 22, 1732 [O.S.

February 11, 1731]

December 14, 1799) was the first President of the United States (1789
97), the Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army during
the American Revolutionary War, and one of theFounding Fathers of the
United States. He presided over the convention that drafted the
current United States Constitution and during his lifetime was called the
"father of his country".
Widely admired for his strong leadership qualities, Washington was unanimously elected president in
the first two national elections. He oversaw the creation of a strong, well-financed national
government that maintained neutrality in the French Revolutionary Wars, suppressed the Whiskey
Rebellion, and won acceptance among Americans of all types. Washington's incumbency
established many precedents, still in use today, such as the cabinet system, the inaugural address,
and the title Mr. President. His retirement from office after two terms established a tradition that
lasted until 1940, when Franklin Delano Roosevelt won an unprecedented third term. The 22nd
Amendment (1951) now limits the president to two elected terms. Born into the provincial gentry
of Colonial Virginia, his family were wealthy planters who owned tobacco plantations and slaves
which he inherited. He owned hundreds of slaves throughout his lifetime, but his views on slavery
evolved to support abolition. In his youth he became a senior British officer in the colonial militia
during the first stages of the French and Indian War. In 1775 the Second Continental
Congress commissioned Washington as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army in the
American Revolution. In that command, Washington forced the British out of Boston in 1776, but was
defeated and nearly captured later that year when he lost New York City. After crossing the
Delaware River in the middle of winter, he defeated the British in two battles (Trenton and Princeton),
retook New Jersey and restored momentum to the Patriot cause.
His strategy enabled Continental forces to capture two major British armies at Saratoga in
1777 and Yorktown in 1781. Historians laud Washington for the selection and supervision of his
generals, preservation and command of the army, coordination with the Congress, state governors
and their militia, and attention to supplies, logistics, and training. In battle, however, Washington was
repeatedly outmaneuvered by British generals with larger armies. After victory had been finalized in
1783, Washington resigned as commander-in-chief rather than seize power, proving his opposition
to dictatorship and his commitment to American republicanism. Washington presided over
the Constitutional Convention in 1787, which devised a new form of federal governmentfor the
United States. Following unanimous election as president in 1789, he worked to unify rival factions in
the fledgling nation. He supported Alexander Hamilton's programs to satisfy all debts, federal and
state, established a permanent seat of government, implemented an effective tax system, and
created a national bank. In avoiding war with Great Britain, he guaranteed a decade of peace and

profitable trade by securing the Jay Treaty in 1795, despite intense opposition from
the Jeffersonians. Although he remained nonpartisan, never joining the Federalist Party, he largely
supported its policies. Washington's Farewell Address was an influential primer on civic virtue,
warning against partisanship, sectionalism, and involvement in foreign wars. He retired from the
presidency in 1797, returning to his home and plantation at Mount Vernon.
While in power, his use of national authority pursued many ends, especially the preservation of
liberty, reduction of regional tensions, and promotion of a spirit of American nationalism. Upon his
death, Washington was eulogized as "first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his
countrymen" by Henry Lee. Revered in life and in death, scholarly and public polling consistently
rankshim among the top three presidents in American history; he has
been depicted and remembered in monuments, currency, and other dedications through the present

Abraham Lincoln ( February 12, 1809 April 15, 1865) was

the 16th President of the United States, serving from March 1861
until his assassination in April 1865. Lincoln led the United States
through its Civil Warits bloodiest war and its greatest moral,
constitutional, and political crisis. In doing so, he preserved
the Union, abolished slavery, strengthened the federal
government, and modernized the economy.
Born in Hodgenville, Kentucky, Lincoln grew up on the western
frontier in Kentucky and Indiana. Largely self-educated, he
became a lawyer in Illinois, a Whig Party leader, and a member of
the Illinois House of Representatives, in which he served for
twelve years. Elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1846, Lincoln promoted
rapid modernization of the economy through banks, tariffs, and railroads. Because he had originally
agreed not to run for a second term in Congress, and because his opposition to the Mexican
American War was unpopular among Illinois voters, Lincoln returned to Springfield and resumed his
successful law practice. Reentering politics in 1854, he became a leader in building the
new Republican Party, which had a statewide majority in Illinois. In 1858, while taking part in a series
of highly publicized debates with his opponent and rival, Democrat Stephen A. Douglas, Lincoln
spoke out against the expansion of slavery, but lost the U.S. Senate race to Douglas.
In 1860, Lincoln secured the Republican Party presidential nomination as a moderate from a swing
state. Though he gained very little support in the slaveholding states of the South, he swept the
North and was elected president in 1860. Lincoln's victory prompted seven southern slave states to
form the Confederate States of America before he moved into the White House - no compromise or
reconciliation was found regarding slavery and secession. Subsequently, on April 12, 1861, a
Confederate attack onFort Sumter inspired the North to enthusiastically rally behind the Union in a
declaration of war. As the leader of the moderate faction of the Republican Party, Lincoln confronted
Radical Republicans, who demanded harsher treatment of the South, War Democrats, who called for
more compromise, anti-war Democrats (called Copperheads), who despised him, and irreconcilable
secessionists, who plotted his assassination. Politically, Lincoln fought back by pitting his opponents
against each other, by carefully planned political patronage, and by appealing to the American
people with his powers of oratory. His Gettysburg Address became an iconic endorsement of the
principles of nationalism, republicanism, equal rights, liberty, and democracy.
Lincoln initially concentrated on the military and political dimensions of the war. His primary goal was
to reunite the nation. He suspended habeas corpus, leading to the controversial ex parte
Merryman decision, and he averted potential British intervention in the war by defusing the Trent
Affair in late 1861. Lincoln closely supervised the war effort, especially the selection of top generals,

including his most successful general, Ulysses S. Grant. He also made major decisions on Union
war strategy, including a naval blockade that shut down the South's normal trade, moves to take
control of Kentucky and Tennessee, and using gunboats to gain control of the southern river system.
Lincoln tried repeatedly to capture the Confederate capital at Richmond; each time a general failed,
Lincoln substituted another, until finally Grant succeeded. As the war progressed, his complex
moves toward ending slavery included the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863; Lincoln used the
U.S. Army to protect escaped slaves, encouraged the border states to outlaw slavery, and pushed
through Congress the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which permanently
outlawed slavery.
An exceptionally astute politician deeply involved with power issues in each state, Lincoln reached
out to the War Democrats and managed his own re-election campaign in the 1864 presidential
election. Anticipating the war's conclusion, Lincoln pushed a moderate view of Reconstruction,
seeking to reunite the nation speedily through a policy of generous reconciliation in the face of
lingering and bitter divisiveness. On April 14, 1865, five days after the April 9th surrender of
Confederate commanding generalRobert E. Lee, Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth, a
Confederate sympathizer.
Lincoln has been consistently ranked both by scholars and the public as one of the three greatest
U.S. presidents.

William Shakespeare ( 26 April 1564 (baptised) 23 April

1616) was an English poet, playwright, and actor, widely regarded
as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's preeminent dramatist. He is often called England'snational poet, and
the "Bard of Avon".His extant works, including collaborations,
consist of approximately 38 plays, 154 sonnets, two long narrative
poems, and a few other verses, some of uncertain authorship. His
plays have been translated into every major living language and
are performed more often than those of any other playwright.
Shakespeare was born and brought up in Stratford-uponAvon, Warwickshire. At the age of 18, he married Anne Hathaway, with whom he had three
children: Susanna, and twins Hamnet and Judith. Sometime between 1585 and 1592, he began a
successful career in London as an actor, writer, and part-owner of a playing company called the Lord
Chamberlain's Men, later known as theKing's Men. He appears to have retired to Stratford around
1613, at age 49, where he died three years later. Few records of Shakespeare's private life survive,
which has stimulated considerable speculation about such matters as his physical
appearance,sexuality, and religious beliefs, and whether the works attributed to him were written by
Shakespeare produced most of his known work between 1589 and 1613. His early plays were
primarily comedies andhistories, and these are regarded as some of the best work ever produced in
these genres. He then wrote mainly tragedies until about 1608, including Hamlet, Othello, King Lear,
and Macbeth, considered some of the finest works in the English language. In his last phase, he
wrote tragicomedies, also known as romances, and collaborated with other playwrights.
Many of his plays were published in editions of varying quality and accuracy during his lifetime. In
1623, however, John Hemingesand Henry Condell, two friends and fellow actors of Shakespeare,

published a more definitive text known as the First Folio, a posthumous collected edition of his
dramatic works that included all but two of the plays now recognised as Shakespeare's. It was
prefaced with a poem by Ben Jonson, in which Shakespeare is hailed, presciently, as "not of an age,
but for all time". In the 20th and 21st centuries, his works have been repeatedly adapted and
rediscovered by new movements in scholarship and performance. His plays remain highly popular,
and are constantly studied, performed, and reinterpreted in diverse cultural and political contexts
throughout the world.