In 1798, on the anniversary of the declaration of independence, and taking an expeditious decision that would ultimately destroy the careful constitutional checks and balances laid down at the Philadelphia Convention, President John Adams commissioned a Commander-in-chief of the armies. Accordingly, George Washington was ordered to prepare for a war with France that Adams hoped to avoid by "showing his teeth" in making a talismanic appointment they both considered largely as symbolic as his ill-fitting dentures.
Showing His TeethReluctantly called out of retirement to serve his country for the third time, Washington set about the business of planning for a Provisional Army that might meet any emergency that might arise. Both Adams and Washington hoped this activity could be achieved from Mount Vernon.
Soon enough though, the quasi-war escalated dramatically, the Provisional Army was mobilized and once again Washington was called upon to save the infant republic from a belligerent imperial power.
Constitutional amendments were required to place the country on a war footing, legislation which at the time caused little alarm because of his former empowerment from the Continental Congress. Proving woefully inadequate, a whole new government structure was soon required to invest Washington with the necessary powers to fight a second war of independence.
With the benefit of hindsight, the consequence of the War with France was a weak civilian Presidency, Cabinet-style government and a peer-level military authority. Because inasmuch as Washington had brought majestic power to the office of the Presidency, he had now demonstrated the subordinacy of that role to the defence of the Republic. In effect, the Imperial Powers who had been scared off by Washington-as-President, had now been scared off by Washington-as-C-in-C, and the sum total of that equation was that the Presidency was fatally diminshed, an outcome that had been scarcely assisted by John Adam's appalling performance in office.
Other great men such as Andrew Jackson, Theodore Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, William Westmoreland and Norman Schwartzkopf would follow in his steps as Commander-in-Chief, but George Washington had the distinction of being first.