George Washington grew up loving the land, and indeed the first public office he held was that of surveyor of Culpepper County, Virginia. He learned about frontier life the hard way -- on the job -- and as he went about literally taking the measure of the colony, he developed a vision for its impending independence.
By 1753, Washington was an officer in the army and two years later named commander in chief of the Virginia military.
In 1758, he was elected to the Virginia House of Burgesses and soon after the outbreak of hostilities with the British in 1775, he was made commander in chief of the entire Continental Army in the Revolutionary War.
In October 1781, aided by the French, he cornered the British commander, Lord Cornwallis, in the peninsula at Yorktown, Va.
He rejected a proposal to crown him king and it wasn't until 1787 that Washington emerged to preside over the constitutional convention at Philadelphia, where the Constitution of the United States was adopted. On April 30, 1789, he stood on the balcony of Federal Hall in New York City -- the nation's first capital -- and took the oath of office.