The Return of George Washington: 1783-1789

The Return of George Washington: 1783-1789

Language: English

Pages: 384

ISBN: 0062248677

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Edward J. Larson recovers a crucially important—yet almost always overlooked—chapter of George Washington’s life, revealing how Washington saved the United States by coming out of retirement to lead the Constitutional Convention and serve as our first president.

After leading the Continental Army to victory in the Revolutionary War, George Washington shocked the world: he retired. In December 1783, General Washington, the most powerful man in the country, stepped down as Commander in Chief and returned to private life at Mount Vernon. Yet as Washington contentedly grew his estate, the fledgling American experiment floundered. Under the Articles of Confederation, the weak central government was unable to raise revenue to pay its debts or reach a consensus on national policy. The states bickered and grew apart. When a Constitutional Convention was established to address these problems, its chances of success were slim. Jefferson, Madison, and the other Founding Fathers realized that only one man could unite the fractious states: George Washington. Reluctant, but duty-bound, Washington rode to Philadelphia in the summer of 1787 to preside over the Convention.

Although Washington is often overlooked in most accounts of the period, this masterful new history from Pulitzer Prize-winner Edward J. Larson brilliantly uncovers Washington’s vital role in shaping the Convention—and shows how it was only with Washington’s support and his willingness to serve as President that the states were brought together and ratified the Constitution, thereby saving the country.

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154–55, 284 Pendleton, Edmund, 220 Pennsylvania, 11–12, 63; delegates to Constitutional Convention from, 87, 109–12; first federal election in, 239, 250, 257–58, 272–73; politics in, 70, 74–77, 108, 114–17, 143, 174, 185–95, 329n80, 330n83; positions at Constitutional Convention of, 112–13, 130, 247; ratification of Constitution by, 179, 187–95, 201, 209–10; State House, 100, 108–10, 116, 155, 187; Washington in, 28–29, 36–46, 161–62, 284–85 Pennsylvania Gazette, 179, 190 Pennsylvania Herald,

the trade of the Western Country” for the state.24 Capitalizing on Washington’s name, Rumsey used the certificate to obtain patents and patrons for his innovative but ultimately inoperable invention. To this point, the trip could hardly have gone better. FOR WASHINGTON, the troubles began after he left the settled lands east of the Alleghenys and began ascending Braddock’s Road into southwest Pennsylvania. As a colonial militia officer serving under British general Edward Braddock during the

three liveried slaves rode outside, and trunks packed with enough clothes and supplies for a long stay were strapped in place. Washington had hoped to depart a day earlier, but the rain squalls that would dog his journey kept him from leaving. A clear morning dawned on the ninth, however, offering the promise of a better day. Washington’s coach rolled away from Mount Vernon shortly after sunrise. BOOK II To, From, and In Philadelphia 1787 The State House in Philadelphia, site of the

giving Clinton’s party a formidable 46–19 seat margin at the ratifying convention. Perhaps because of its partisan nature, the debate in New York over the Constitution was particularly intense. Beyond the Federalist essays, which Washington instantly hailed as lasting contributions to the library of liberty and government,103 it generated a flood of articles and pamphlets on each side over a ten-month period. Antifederalists harped on the threat to liberty poised by a distant, central government

procure the Election of so many of their own Junto under the New Government, as, by the introduction of local and embarrassing disputes, to impede or frustrate its operation.”17 Henry was already stumping Virginia to this end and Clinton’s party would soon do the same in New York. Still smarting from their treatment at the state convention, Pennsylvania antifederalists met during September in Harrisburg to endorse a list of key constitutional amendments and slate of congressional candidates who

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