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George Washington was the first president of the United States, serving from 1789 to 1797. Prior to his terms as president, Washington had a career in public life, including service in the Virginia House of Burgesses and as Commander in Chief of the Continental Army during the American Revolution. Washington's steady leadership of the young nation stressed avoiding the entangling conflicts of Europe and respecting the balance of powers between the executive and legislative branches. Like most of the aristocracy of Virginia at the time, Washington was an Episcopalian. In his governing, Washington was carefully non-sectarian and spoke in favor of religious liberty even for non-Protestant Christians. In a letter to Rhode Island's Jewish community in 1790, Washington assured them that the new nation would give "to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance."