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The Return of George Washington, 1783-1789
by Edward J. Larson


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After commanding the Continental Army to victory in the Revolutionary War, General Washington stunned the world: He retired. Four years later, as he rode from Mount Vernon to lead the Constitutional Convention, he was the one American who could united the rapidly disintegrating country.  Read more...


 
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Overview

After commanding the Continental Army to victory in the Revolutionary War, General Washington stunned the world: He retired. Four years later, as he rode from Mount Vernon to lead the Constitutional Convention, he was the one American who could united the rapidly disintegrating country. This is the little-known story of the return of George Washington.

In this groundbreaking new look at our first citizen, Pulitzer Prize winning historian Edward J. Larson masterfully chronicles how George Washington saved the United States by coming out of retirement four years after the War of Independence to lead a country on the brink of dissolution and secure its future. Though the period between the Revolution and the Presidency has previously been neglected in studies of Washington's life, Larson's striking reassessment shows that Washington's greatness in fact rests on these years 1783 to 1789 and rightfully elevates our foremost Founding Father's "forgotten years" to a central place in the American story.

In December 1783, Washington, the most powerful and popular man in America, stepped down as commander in chief and returned to private life as a farmer and landowner. Yet as Washington found happiness in successfully growing his Virginia estate, the fledgling American experiment foundered under the Articles of Confederation. Sectional bickering paralyzed government; debts went unpaid; the economy stagnated; national security was neglected; the union of states was in peril.

When a Constitutional Convention was called to forge a new government, its chances of success were slim. Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and other leaders realized only one American the retired hero George Washington could unite the fractious states. After months of anguish, Washington answered the call and left his beloved Mount Vernon in the spring of 1787 to preside over the convention in Philadelphia. Although Washington is overlooked in most accounts, Larson brilliantly uncovers Washington's vital role in shaping the Constitution and shows, as never before, how it was only with Washington's spirited behind-the-scenes influence that the delegates passed, and the states later ratified, the founding document that has guided our government to this day.

From the moment of General Washington's resignation to his victory in the first federal elections and his triumphant inauguration in New York as our first President, The Return of George Washington is a landmark work that will forever change our understanding and appreciation of America's great founder."

 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9780062248671
  • ISBN-10: 0062248677
  • Publisher: William Morrow & Company
  • Publish Date: October 2014
  • Page Count: 366

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Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
  • Review Date: 2014-08-04
  • Reviewer: Staff

After eight years of leading the fledgling colonies in their war for independence, George Washington resigned as commander-in-chief in order to return to private life. Yet the difficulties of establishing a new nation drew Washington back, and historian Larson, Pulitzer Prize–winner for Summer for the Gods, vividly recounts those events that led to Washington’s election as the first president of the United States. Washington spent the first two post-revolutionary years tending to Mount Vernon and his western lands, but kept close watch on the young confederacy’s political growing pains. Initially ambivalent about returning to politics, his sense that division among the states threatened national liberty caused him to join the Constitutional Convention in 1787. Larson brings to life the founders’ daily struggles to draw up a document that would preserve individual liberty while ensuring the new government’s supreme power and sovereignty. During the next year, with the Constitution in place, Washington articulated “three main objectives for America under the Constitution: respect abroad, prosperity at home, and development westward.” On May 1, 1789, Americans awoke under their first full federal administration, and “neither they nor their President would ever be the same.” Larson’s compulsively readable history shines new light on a little-discussed period of Washington’s life, illustrating his role as the indispensable American. (Oct.)

 
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