Washington's legacy endures as one of the most influential in American history since he served as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army, a hero of the Revolution, and the first president of the United States. Various historians maintain that he also was a dominant factor in America's founding, the Revolutionary War, and the Constitutional Convention. Revolutionary War comrade Light-Horse Harry Lee eulogized him as "First in war—first in peace—and first in the hearts of his countrymen". Lee's words became the hallmark by which Washington's reputation was impressed upon the American memory, with some biographers regarding him as the great exemplar of republicanism. He set many precedents for the national government and the presidency in particular, and he was called the "Father of His Country" as early as 1778.In 1879, Congress proclaimed Washington's Birthday to be a federal holiday.
Washington became an international symbol for liberation and nationalism as the leader of the first successful revolution against a colonial empire. The Federalists made him the symbol of their party, but the Jeffersonians continued to distrust his influence for many years and delayed building the Washington Monument. Washington was elected a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences on January 31, 1781, before he had even begun his presidency. He was posthumously appointed to the grade of General of the Armies of the United States during the United States Bicentennial to ensure he would never be outranked; this was accomplished by the congressional joint resolution Public Law 94-479 passed on January 19, 1976, with an effective appointment date of July 4, 1976.n March 13, 1978, Washington was militarily promoted to the rank of General of the Armies.
In the 21st century, Washington's reputation has been critically scrutinized. Along with various other Founding Fathers, he has been condemned for holding enslaved human beings. Though he expressed the desire to see the abolition of slavery come through legislation, he did not initiate or support any initiatives for bringing about its end. This has led to calls from some activists to remove his name from public buildings and his statue from public spaces. Nonetheless, Washington maintains his place among the highest-ranked U.S. Presidents.