The first five presidents of the United States are often called the Virginia Dynasty. Of the five—George Washington (president from 1789 to 1797), John Adams (president from 1797 to 1801), Thomas Jefferson (president from 1801 to 1809), James Madison (president from 1809 to 1817), and James Monroe (president from 1817 to 1825)—only one was not a native Virginian. John Adams hailed from Massachusetts. Also, he served merely one term, as opposed to the two terms served by each of the other four men. Adams, then, was the exception to the rule of the early executives. As a whole, the first administrations formed a coherent phase of development for the new office. The five men and their staffs faced a unique challenge in bringing the presidency and its powers, responsibilities, and personality to life. Their positions not only changed the nation at the time, but also set precedents for policies and procedures that continue to the present day. The original five presidents and their administrations are the first and best key to understanding the U.S. presidency as a whole.
For a useful perspective on the early presidents, these men must be placed in the greater context of their times. The nation over which they presided had only recently broken, as a series of separate states, from the colonial power Great Britain. Just fifteen years before George Washington’s inauguration as president, he was leading troops against his former countrymen from Great Britain in the War of Independence. The British began colonizing North America in 1607, and soon possessed thir-