Abraham Lincoln vs George Washington: Who Was Better?

Abraham Lincoln vs George Washington: Who is the ultimate winner? The question may seem simple, but it has boggled the minds of millions. In the rich tapestry of American history, two names shine brighter than most: George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. 

George Washington was the first president of the United States of America and one of the founding fathers. Abraham Lincoln was the sixteenth president and known as the great Emancipator of the USA. One of the most popular debates surrounding USA history is Abraham Lincoln vs George Washington: Who was the greater leader? Let us untangle this mystery once and for all. 

In this blog, we will shed light on the lives of these two great leaders. We will also discuss the Abraham Lincoln vs George Washington debate in detail. So let’s get started. 

Abraham Lincoln vs George Washington: An Overview of Lives of Two Great Leaders

George Washington is considered the father of the nation and a driving force behind the American Revolutionary War. It was his desire for a free country that persuaded him to fight the historic battle and bring countless victories for the USA. Additionally, his role in the drafting of the first constitution is also historic. 

Abraham Lincoln, also known as the Great Emancipator, is known for abolishing slavery. Lincoln also helped preserve the Union and ensured that the colonies that came together initially had an incentive to stay together. On top of that, he created the possibility for social and civil reforms for African Americans. 

George Washington: From a Virginia Planter to a Revered Founding Father 

Before we make an apt Abraham Lincoln vs George Washington comparison, it is imperative to look at the early lives of these two great leaders. Here is an overview of the founding father’s life.

Early Life of George Washington

1. Birth and Early Education

George Washington was born in 1732 in Westmoreland County, Virginia. He did not have regular schooling and only attended school between the ages of 7 and 15. Here, he learned mathematics and its application, geography, and Latin. His early life was spent on the Ferry Farm along the Rappahannock River.

2. Family and Inheritance

George Washington inherited Mount Vernon at the age of 20. His father, Augustine Washington, was a planter and a landowner. After his father’s death, young George became the ward of his half-brother Lawrence, who managed the Mount Vernon estate. Upon Lawrence’s death, George inherited the Mount Vernon estate.

3. Outdoor Pursuits

People often wonder how a young planter went on to become one of the greatest military commanders of all time. This is because even in his youth, Washington gained practical skills like surveying the field and taking strategic steps during his expeditions in Virginia. Washington also engaged in outdoor activities like horseback riding, fox hunting, and fishing.

4. Marriage and Slavery

Washington married Martha Dandridge Custis in 1759, gaining control of her large estate, including slaves. He did not approve of slaves personally and hoped for their abolition. However, the irony is that he had around 300 slaves on his estate at the time of his death. It is worth noting that his will declared that all the slaves be freed when his wife dies. 

5. Leadership and Civic Engagement

Washington became a prominent figure in Virginia’s community affairs. He served as a vestryman in the Episcopal church, actively participated in local events, and expressed a desire to enter politics. His leadership qualities emerged as he matured, setting the stage for his pivotal role in the American Revolution and his subsequent election as the first President of the United States in 1789.

George Washington: Road to Presidency

Washington was not always destined to be a great leader. Contrary to popular belief, Washington never really showed any interest in taking the limelight. However, destiny would not have it any other way: Tides turned and opened up the pathway to Washington becoming the president. 

In 1764, British attempts to raise revenue from the colonies disrupted Washington’s peaceful life. While he had previously shown little interest in state affairs, he became concerned about policies like the Proclamation of 1763, which affected his Western ventures. Despite his initial detachment, he remained a loyal subject in the House of Burgesses.

In December 1773, the Boston Tea Party and the Vandalia venture’s failure shifted Washington’s focus to escalating tensions with Britain. While not initially part of the Virginia committee of correspondence, he joined efforts when Virginia legislators called for a Continental Congress in May 1774, and he signed their resolutions. 

Washington also played a key role in the first provincial convention that summer, delivering a speech where he vowed to raise and lead a thousand men at his own expense to support Boston, showcasing his strong commitment to the revolutionary movement.

Washington was later elected as one of the seven delegates to the first Continental Congress. 1774 marked the start of Washington’s career where he was in his seat in full uniform. A thorough overview of his letters reveals that although Washington was opposed to the idea of independence, he was determined to not submit “to the loss of those valuable rights and privileges, which are essential to the happiness of every free State, and without which life, liberty, and property are rendered totally insecure.”

During this time, the congress also sought his advice on many important military matters. This further elevated his rank among his peers. 

When the war between the British and the colonies broke out, George Washington became the obvious choice for military commander. During his initial command phase from July 1775 to the British departure from Boston in March 1776, Washington instilled discipline in the army, which numbered just over 20,000 at its peak. He managed conflicts among his subordinates and maintained a robust siege.

After the war ended, Washington retired to Mount Vernon where he spent 4 years of his life. However, during the Philadelphia convention, there was only one name for president that all the parties agreed upon. Although Washington was reluctant to accept the offer of the first presidency, his love for peace and unity made him accept the offer. And as time would tell, there was no person more suited to the role of president than George Washington. 

Presidential Term of George Washington

“Perseverance and spirit have done wonders in all ages.” The man not only said those words but also embodied them. George Washington was reluctant to become the president at first, however, once he took office, he was faithful to it till the end. Here are some important developments during the presidential term of George Washington. Assessing this will help us make a better Abraham Lincoln vs George Washington comparison at the end. 

1. The National Bank Issue

One of the first issues to emerge in George Washington’s presidency was related to the Federalist vs. Anti-Federalist form of government. Since the colonies took considerable loans from France over the course of the war, the national debt soared high. 

The total debt of 25 million had to be repaid, but who was responsible for repaying the debt? The states or the central government? Alexander Hamilton, a popular federalist, suggested the creation of a national bank. This bank would print federally-backed money and would be responsible for repaying the debt. 

The only problem was that the Constitution did not say anything about such a bank. However, Hamilton argued that Article 1 of the Constitution implied the creation of any such entity. Thomas Jefferson, a known anti-federalist, opposed the idea. In the end, George Washington sided with Hamilton and thus signed the bill for the creation of the National Bank of the USA. 

2. The French Revolution & George Washington’s Proclamation of Neutrality

The American Revolution set a precedent for many other countries. Soon after the Revolutionary War, the French came asking for assistance from the USA. France expected support because it had helped the Americans win the Revolutionary War. However, George Washington issued a proclamation of neutrality and refused help. 

At the time of the French Revolution, the USA had just ratified its Bill of Rights and a new constitution and was under a considerable amount of debt. Washington believed that supporting another country during this difficult time would weaken the new state. 

This act reinforced the idea that the USA was looking for a policy of isolationism and would not involve itself in international affairs. The precedent set by Washington was followed for the next century. 

3. The Whiskey Rebellion

After the Revolutionary War, the USA was under a considerable amount of debt. To help repay this debt, Hamilton proposed that a tax be placed on whiskey. This enraged the farmers in rural areas. For them, whiskey was a stable form of currency, and they used to sell it to several states of the USA. 

When tax collectors went to collect taxes, they were met with armed resistance. Washington was quick to respond and sent 13,000 troops to crush the rebellion. This had a profound impact on the USA, as it affirmed the fact the new country was able to defend itself against political unrest. 

Legacy of George Washington

George Washington’s presidency was not only successful because he was the first president and the most influential founding father. It was important because he helped set the right precedents for the young country. His decisions and actions established a strong central government that helped kick-start the journey of the USA to success. Similarly, he also helped fix the problem of the national debt.

In his Farewell Address, Washington counseled the nation to steer clear of political divisions rooted in party affiliations or geographical differences, and to exercise caution in forming enduring alliances with foreign nations. Here are some highlights from Washington’s farewell address

  1. I have already intimated to you the danger of parties in the State, with particular reference to the founding of them on geographical discriminations. 
  2. The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is, in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements, let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith.

Present Impact on the USA of George Washington

George Washington is still remembered as one of the greatest and most influential presidents of the USA. Here is why George Washington is still relevant to the USA

  1. Founding Father: You can not read about the USA’s history without reading about the Founding Fathers. His leadership during the Revolutionary War was exemplary and set essential precedents for the new country. 
  2. First President: The nomination and election of George Washington as the first president provided legitimacy to the role of the country’s president. He was the living embodiment of everything a president should be (according to the USA’s constitution)
  3. Military Leadership: Washington’s military strategies and leadership during the Revolutionary War are still studied in military academies worldwide. His ability to persevere through adversity and lead a fledgling army to victory has left a lasting impression on military doctrine.
  4. Setting up the Constitution: The USA’s constitution, although really small, is one of the most influential pieces of documents out there. Washington played a crucial role in setting up the Constitution and lending it credibility. He also helped bring legitimacy to the document. 
  5. Farewell Address: In his farewell address in 1796, Washington emphasized the importance of unity, the dangers of political parties, and the significance of preserving the Constitution. Many of his insights and warnings remain relevant in today’s political landscape.
  6. Iconic Symbol: George Washington is an enduring symbol of American leadership, patriotism, and integrity. His image graces the one-dollar bill and the quarter, and countless statues, monuments, and institutions bear his name.

Abraham Lincoln: An Overview of the Legend’s Life

Abraham Lincoln, also known as the Honest Abe, is often considered as the most popular president of the USA. Numerous movies in his name are a testament to this fact. But who was Abraham Lincoln before he became the great emancipator? Here is an overview of the life of Abraham Lincoln. 

Early Life of Abraham Lincoln

1. Early Life and Family

Abraham Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809, in a backwoods cabin near Hodgenville, Kentucky. He had a humble upbringing and experienced the death of his mother, Nancy Hanks, at a young age.

2. Education and Skill Development

Abraham Lincoln had limited education, however, his desire for learning was strong. He was self-taught and was an avid reader. He also developed ciphering skills during his early years. 

3. Legal Career

Abraham Lincoln became a successful lawyer in Illinois and practiced law before he entered politics. He was known for his strong work ethic. He mainly dealt with cases ranging from criminal traits to patent suits. 

4. Marriage to Mary Todd

Lincoln’s first and only true love was Mary Todd. They had a turbulent courtship, including a broken engagement, but eventually married on November 4, 1842. They had four children, with only one, Robert Todd, surviving to adulthood.

5. Religious Beliefs

Growing up, Abraham Lincoln was not religious and was very skeptical about God and the universe. Later, he developed a profound religious sense and came to believe that all history was part of God’s plan. 

Road to the Presidency of Abraham Lincoln

Before we make an Abraham Lincoln vs George Washington presidency comparison, it is important to see how these two great leaders became president. This is Abraham Lincoln’s road to the presidency.

  1. Political Career: Abraham Lincoln’s political career started in 1830. He became an Illinois State legislator and served as a US congressman in the 1840s.
  2. Lincoln-Douglas Debates: Lincoln gained national attention through a series of debates with Stephen A. Douglas during the 1858 Illinois Senate race. While he lost the Senate race, his articulate arguments against the extension of slavery raised his profile.
  3. Republic Nomination: It was in 1860 that Abraham Lincoln secured the Republican Party’s nomination. Many people in the North were drawn to his position against the expansion of slavery. 
  4. Election Victory: In the presidential election of 1860, Lincoln won the electoral college with a majority, although he did not carry any Southern states. He received 39.8% of the popular vote.
  5. Inauguration: Abraham Lincoln became the 16th president of the USA. His election played a significant role in the lead-up to the American Civil War, which began shortly after his inauguration.

Presidential Term of Abraham Lincoln

1. Creation of the Confederate States of America

Even before his inauguration, Abraham Lincoln was in a massive crisis. As soon as he was elected, the state of South Carolina withdrew from the Union. Congress feared that other states would follow, which is why it recommended a couple of compromises, such as the Crittenden Compromise. 

According to the Crittenden Compromise, slavery would be guaranteed forever in the states where it already existed. Abraham Lincoln was opposed to the idea, as he feared that a permanent territorial division would be counterintuitive to the essence of US democracy. 

Later that year, six more states seceded and combined to form the Confederate States of America. Abraham Lincoln was in deep trouble now. 

2. Outbreak of the Civil War

Abraham Lincoln knew that he had to act quickly if he wanted to quash the rebellion. One of the first outbreaks erupted at Fort Sumter. However, Abraham Lincoln delayed responding to the scene because he was receiving contradictory advice from his advisors. 

After a month, Lincoln ordered two relief expeditions, one for Fort Sumter and another for Fort Pickens, as he sought to avoid displaying weakness to the Republicans and maintain Union unity. He also expressed readiness to withdraw from Sumter if Fort Pickens could be secured.

The war went on for 4 years. However, it ended because of some strategic decisions taken by Abraham Lincoln. In April 1865, General Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant. Confederate troops in the western periphery surrendered later in Galveston, Texas, on June 2nd.

3. Uniting and Strengthening the Republican Party

Abraham Lincoln’s pivotal role in strengthening the Republican Party is evident through his charismatic leadership, strategic alliances, and effective political tactics. As a unifying figure, Lincoln worked tirelessly to bridge internal party divisions, fostering unity among Republicans.

His compelling oratory skills and ability to inspire party members solidified the Republican base. Moreover, Lincoln strategically aligned himself with key party figures like William H. Seward and Salmon P. Chase, forging alliances that brought together diverse Republican elements.

Lincoln’s commitment to an anti-slavery stance was a defining feature of his leadership. By embracing this moral cause, he united Republicans and appealed to the broader American populace who shared these values.

4. Emancipation Proclamation

The Emancipation Proclamation, a document that changed the fabric of the USA for all times to come, was issued in 1863. Directly or indirectly, the proclamation helped free around 200,000 slaves. Apart from actually freeing slaves, it also proved as a powerful symbol of freedom and unity. 

Abraham Lincoln believed that this step would not be enough. He believed that slaves would be enslaved again after the war unless something concrete was done for them. He added the 13th amendment to the Constitution and made the anti-slavery component a part of the law. He also called slavery ‘a gigantic evil’.

Lincoln’s unwavering support for the antislavery amendment is a key foundation for this honor. Additionally, his exceptional leadership during the four-year Civil War, which ultimately led to the liberation of enslaved individuals, further cemented his legacy.

Legacy of Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln left a lasting impact on the United States of America. He is still remembered for his bravery, resilience, and unending spirit. Here is what Abraham Lincoln left behind

  1. Emancipation Proclamation: A game changer for the young country, the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 helped end slavery in the country. It also changed the tides for the American Civil War and declared all enslaved people in the Confederate territories to be totally free. 
  2. Preservation of the Union: Lincoln’s leadership during the Civil War played a pivotal role in preserving the United States as a single nation. His commitment to maintaining the Union and his leadership qualities helped navigate the country through its most challenging period.
  3. The 13th Amendment: This amendment to the otherwise, rigid constitution of the USA, abolished slavery throughout the country. 
  4. Gettysburg Address: Lincoln’s eloquent Gettysburg Address in 1863 reaffirmed the principles of equality and democracy enshrined in the Declaration of Independence. It emphasized the importance of a “government of the people, by the people, for the people.”
  5. Moral Leadership: Abraham Lincoln is known for his chivalry, but more importantly, he is known for his commitment to equality and justice. His legacy continues to inspire advocates of social justice and civil rights working in the USA right now. 

Abraham Lincoln: Current Impact on the USA

Much like numerous historical leaders, Abraham Lincoln’s memory remains vivid and enduring, etched into the collective consciousness of generations. Here are 5 ways in which Abraham Lincoln is still relevant. 

  1. Civil Rights Movement: The modern civil rights movement takes its inspiration from Abraham Lincoln. Current movements like Black Lives Matter and any ongoing efforts to eliminate systemic racism draw inspiration from the actions of Abraham Lincoln. 
  2. Presidential Leadership: Lincoln’s leadership during a time of crisis, as seen in his dedication to preserving the Union, remains a benchmark for presidential leadership. Subsequent presidents often refer to Lincoln and his actions as a source of inspiration when dealing with national challenges and crises.
  3. Democracy: In his Gettysburg address, Lincoln was heard saying that government is “of the people, by the people, for the people”. This quote is still etched into the minds of his fans. His legacy encourages politicians and civilian leaders to prioritize people over everything else. 
  4. National Unity: Lincoln’s emphasis on national unity and healing after a divisive civil war has enduring relevance in a politically polarized society. His legacy encourages efforts to bridge political divides and work toward common goals, particularly during times of partisan strife.
  5. Preservation of Democracy: America faced many challenges in its beginning years. Abraham Lincoln’s leadership and quick thinking helped preserve the union and reinforced democratic principles. This legacy underscores the importance of safeguarding democratic principles and institutions in the face of contemporary threats.

Abraham Lincoln vs George Washington: A Quick Comparison

George WashingtonAbraham Lincoln
1st president of USA16th President of USA
Born in VirginiaBorn in Kentuccky
Founding Father (one of 7)The Great Emancipator
Revolutionary WarCivil War
Military BackgroundLaw Background
Had 10 slavesHad no slaves
Relatively stable (social) statusPoor Background
Died at 67Died at 56
Natural DeathWas Shot

Abraham Lincoln vs George Washington: Who was the Greatest Leader?

The Abraham Lincoln vs George Washington comparison is always a fun one. However, when there are two individuals who are this great, it can be hard to choose a winner. We will still try in this ultimate Abraham Lincoln vs George Washington Debate. 

1. Leadership Style

George WashingtonGeorge Washington
He had a transformative leadership style during the Civil War, was marked by strategic thinking and adaptability. He, himself accepted, that ‘My policy is to have no policy’. He was a reactive leader and changed course according to the changes in circumstances. He had an inclusive and participative leadership style. Washington exhibited a stoic and unifying leadership style during the American Revolutionary War. His famous quote, “Perseverance and spirit have done wonders in all ages,” reflects his unwavering commitment to the cause. 

2. Crisis Management

George WashingtonGeorge Washington
Abraham Lincoln had to deal with crisis after crisis even before he was inaugurated. However, his handling of the Confederacy was monumental. He not only highlighted the vision of a unified nation but also implemented it. Washington had to manage a new country that had a weak constitution and barely any unity. His management skills were evident during the dire winter at Valley Forge (between 1777 and 1778). Despite the severity of the conditions, he was able to keep his troops feeling energized and enthusiastic. 

3. Legacy in Law and Governance

Abraham LincolnGeorge Washington
Lincoln’s legacy is primarily associated with his role in preserving the Union and abolishing slavery. His leadership led to the passage of the Emancipation Proclamation and, ultimately, the 13th Amendment. His famous Gettysburg Address reaffirmed the principles of liberty and equality.Washington’s legacy includes his pivotal role in the Constitutional Convention of 1787, where he presided as its president. His support for a strong federal government and his willingness to serve as the first President of the United States set essential precedents for the nation’s governance.

4. Social Impact and Civil Rights

Abraham LincolnGeorge Washington
The historic document, the Emancipation Proclamation, followed by the 13th Amendment, set the precedent for all times to come. It was monumental as it ensured the end to formal slavery in US. The current civil rights movement draws inspiration from Abraham Lincoln and his staunch stance and presidency. A slave owner himself, Washington’s actions and principles influenced the eventual push civil rights and equality in the United States. His willingness to fight for the nation’s independence contributed to the broader conversation on liberty and human rights.

Abraham Lincoln vs George Washington: A Look at Similarities

Here are six notable similarities between Abraham Lincoln and George Washington:

  • Both George Washington and Abraham Lincoln were notably tall for their respective time periods, with Washington standing at 6’3″ and Lincoln even taller at 6’4″.
  • They both married women who were considerably shorter than them, with both Mary Todd Lincoln and Martha Dandridge Washington measuring around five feet in height.
  • Despite coming from different family backgrounds, both men married women from affluent and influential families.
  • Both Washington and Lincoln had military experience in conflicts involving Native American nations, showcasing their involvement in Indian wars.
  • They were both athletically inclined and skilled equestrians, earning reputations as excellent wrestlers.
  • Despite having limited formal education, they exhibited intelligence and creativity. For instance, Lincoln secured a patent for his invention designed to lift ships off shoals, while Washington engaged in agricultural experimentation and even invented a plow.

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If you look at the stories of both these great leaders and assess the Abraham Lincoln vs George Washington debate in detail, you will realize that great leaders are not born, they are made. Both these influential men had to go through certain hurdles and face many obstacles before they could reach the top. Their excellent communication and diplomatic skills help turn the tides for them. 

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Abraham Lincoln vs George Washington: who was the greater leader? You can pose this question to millions of people, and almost all will agree that both these leaders were irreplaceable. Both had a lasting impact on the legacy of America. Both left lessons for the youth and reinforced democratic principles. 

Where George Washington helped set up a strong nation in the beginning, Abraham Lincoln helped sustain the nation. Without the contribution of these great men, America’s rise to a global superpower would not have been possible. So the next time, you are making a Abraham Lincoln vs George Washington comparison, know that the world will never agree on one answer. You have to decide. 


How were Abraham Lincoln and George Washington similar?

Yes. In some ways, they were. Both were from humble backgrounds and showed courage and resilience in the face of challenges. Moreover, both were involved in conflicts surrounding native Americans. 

What are the key differences between Abraham Lincoln vs George Washington?

George Washington was the founding father of America and Abraham Lincoln was the 16th president. Abraham Lincoln was also the great emancipator who helped abolish slavery. 

Who is considered the greater president in Abraham Lincoln vs. George Washington?

George Washington is often considered as the greatest president because his contributions helped establish the country. However, in the Abraham Lincoln vs George Washington debate, many believe Lincoln to have the upper hand because he helped end slavery. 

Oleksandra Mamchii

Working as a academic lead at Best Diplomats.

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