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The first president of the USA George Washington (1732-1799) was a former military man and plantation owner. In 1785 he was elected chief commander of 'the Continental Army' in the American Revolutionary War. On 4 July 1776 the colonies signed the Declaration of Independence, creating the United States of America as a nation. France recognised the USA in 1778 and Great Britain in 1783. George Washington was president 1789-1797 and is the only American president not to have resided in the White House - it was only finished after his death.