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On 23 December 1783, General George Washington resigned his post as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army. This act marked Washington's return to civilian life, following the official end of the American Revolutionary War on 3 September that year.
Now, from the point of view of today, this might not seem so historic. But it proved the essential ingredient in realizing the world's biggest experiment in democratic self-rule: The United States of America.
You see, once his Continental Army defeated the British, Washington could easily have taken solitary control of the new nation. Some even urged him to become the new nation’s king. His modest refusal fortified the then-theoretical republican foundations of the new United States and allowed democracy to take hold. His voluntary action also helped establish the US precedent of civilian control of the military. It has been described as "one of the nation's great acts of statesmanship.”
General Washington’s holiday from public service proved brief, however, as he was unanimously elected to be the first president of the United States in 1788. For his leadership and his willingness not to be corrupted by power, history dubbed George Washington the "Father of His Country."