1The Presidency of George Washington Until recent decades, the presidency of George Washingtonwas surprisingly controversial.As the first presidentunder the Constitution, historians were reluctant to see him as “flesh and blood.” At the time no one else could have been elected president and given the office the presumption of legitimacy and a symbol of “republicanism and loyalty to the federal union.”The responsibility of becoming the first U.S. president was not lost on Washington. Of the occasion, Washington remarked he felt “not unlike that of a convicted felon being led to the gallows.”As the unanimous choice of the newly established electors, Washington was a cautious president,aware that everything he did would establish a precedent for the new nation. His first cabinet was an interesting mix of individuals; some committed more to the primacy of the states, while others advocated a strong federalist or national government. The cabinet was composed of Thomas Jefferson, Secretary of State, Henry Knox, Secretary of War, Edmund Randolph, Attorney General, and Alexander Hamilton, Secretary of the Treasury.Hamiltonquickly functioned in the dual capacity as Secretary of the Treasury and one of Washington’s primary advisors. Hamilton possessed two traits that separated him from his contemporaries and leaving their imprint on the national government. First, he displayed an unyielding and unquestioning loyalty to the nation and not the states. His policies showed littlesympathy and understanding of demands for local autonomy. Hamilton’s policies as Secretary of the Treasury were aimed at increasing the power of the nation and never feared the exercise of centralized executive power. Secondly, Hamilton regarded his fellow human beings with unmitigated cynicism. People, he believed, were motivated by self-interest, placing no value on the individual capacity for virtuousand self-sacrificing behavior. Such beliefs on Hamilton’s part found their way in how he tackled the task of being Secretary of the Treasury.Without hesitation, Hamiltondrafted the “Report on the Public Credit (1789),” to financially stabilize the nation. Waging the American Revolution had not been without financial cost. The war left the country owing eleven million dollars in foreign debt (mostly to France), twenty-seven million dollars in national debt to merchants, former soldiers, and revolutionary bonds.