Cover image for The return of George Washington : 1783-1789
Title:
The return of George Washington : 1783-1789
Author:
Larson, Edward J. (Edward John), author.
Edition:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York, NY : William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, [2014]

© 2014
Physical Description:
xv, 366 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations (some color) ; 24 cm
Summary:
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, Washington shocked the world: he retired. In December 1783, the most powerful man in the country stepped down as Commander in Chief and returned to private life. 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, 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 new history 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.--From publisher description.
Language:
English
Contents:
Book I. From New York to Mount Vernon, 1782-1786: Retiring becomes him ; Reeling in the West ; To go or not to go -- Book II. To, from, and in Philadelphia, 1787: The center holds ; In his image ; "Little short of a miracle" -- Book III. From Mount Vernon to New York, 1788-1789: Ratifying Washington ; The first federal elections ; The inaugural parade -- Epilogue.
ISBN:
9780062248671
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

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.


Author Notes

Edward John Larson (born in 1953) is an American historian and legal scholar. He is University Professor of history and holds the Hugh & Hazel Darling Chair in Law at Pepperdine University. He received the 1998 Pulitzer Prize for History for his book Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America's Continuing Debate Over Science and Religion. The book argues that Inherit the Wind (both the play and the movie) misrepresented the actual Scopes Trial.

Larson was born in Mansfield, Ohio, and attended Mansfield public schools. He graduated from Williams College and received his law degree from Harvard University and his Ph.D. in the history of science from the University of Wisconsin--Madison. In 2004, Larson received an honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters from The Ohio State University. He held the Fulbright Program's John Adams Chair in American Studies in 2000-2001. In 2015 his biography The Return of George Washington: 1783-1789, became listed on the New York Times bestseller list.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

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.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Library Journal Review

When George Washington dramatically resigned his commission in the Continental Army at the close of the Revolutionary War, he expressed his interest to exit public life for good and return to his beloved Mount Vernon on the shores of the Potomac. But it was not to be a quiet retirement. Soon Washington was swept into the movement to create a new, "energized" national government, a movement that would thrust the duty-bound general into new positions of leadership and cement his reputation for being indispensable. In this compelling, solidly researched work, historian Larson (history, Pepperdine Univ.; An Empire of Ice) canvasses an often overlooked chapter in Washington's life: the period between the Revolutionary War and his election as America's first president, along the way stressing Washington's role as "public figure and political leader during these critical years." VERDICT As in his Pulitzer Prize-winning work Summer of the Gods, Larson is a skilled storyteller combining scholarly research with a flair for relating historical events and personages to general readers. Recommended for those who enjoyed Ron Chernow's Washington: A Life (2010) as well as biography hounds and history buffs. [See Prepub Alert, 4/7/14.]-Brian Odom, Birmingham, AL (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Choice Review

Larson (history and law, Pepperdine) has produced a detailed, well-written examination of what is a neglected period in both US history and the career of George Washington. Rather than penning a full biography of the revolutionary general and first president, Larson turns his efforts to Washington's influence in shaping the developments of this "critical period" of US history. From 1783 to 1789, US independence was precarious and its administration disorganized; many American elites (Washington foremost among them) actively sought a powerful national government and unified polity. The narrative begins with the near-mutiny of army officers at the close of the Revolutionary War, and concludes with the parade at Washington's inauguration as president under the new constitution. Washington emerges not as some mythic figure above the fray of partisanship, but as an active participant in the nationalists' efforts. Specialists will not find much groundbreaking material here, and much of the rich scholarly literature on this period is disappointingly absent from the research. However, Larson has produced an eminently readable study of the period between Washington's two most important public endeavors. Summing Up: Recommended. All levels/libraries. --Kevin M. Gannon, Grand View University


Table of Contents

Prefacep. xi
Book I From New York to Mount Vernon, 1782-1786
Chapter 1 Retiring Becomes Himp. 3
Chapter 2 Reeling in the Westp. 33
Chapter 3 To Go or Not to Gop. 67
Book II To, From, and In Philadelphia, 1787
Chapter 4 The Center Holdsp. 101
Chapter 5 In His Imagep. 135
Chapter 6 "Little Short of a Miracle"p. 167
Book III From Mount Vernon to New York, 1788-1789
Chapter 7 Ratifying Washingtonp. 201
Chapter 8 The First Federal Electionsp. 235
Chapter 9 The Inaugural Paradep. 267
Epiloguep. 297
Notesp. 305
Illustration Creditsp. 355
Indexp. 359

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