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The Return of George Washington
Cover of The Return of George Washington
The Return of George Washington
1783-1789
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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

"An elegantly written account of leadership at the most pivotal moment in American history" (Philadelphia Inquirer): Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Edward J. Larson reveals how George 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.

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

"An elegantly written account of leadership at the most pivotal moment in American history" (Philadelphia Inquirer): Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Edward J. Larson reveals how George 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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Awards-
About the Author-
  • EDWARD J. LARSON received the Pulitzer Prize for History for Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America's Continuing Debate over Science and Religion. He is the co-author of Modern Library's The Constitutional Convention: A Narrative History from the Notes of James Madison and author of The Return of George Washington: Uniting the States, 1783-1789, and A Magnificent Catastrophe: The Tumultuous Election of 1800. He was an inaugural fellow at the National Library for the Study of George Washington. Larson is University Professor of History and holds the Hugh & Hazel Darling Chair in Law at Pepperdine University. He travels widely as a media commentator, visiting instructor, and guest speaker.

Reviews-
  • AudioFile Magazine Larson is an exceptionally fine historian, storyteller, and prose master, and Mark Bramhall amplifies those qualities in his restrained and expertly paced narration. Wisely--thankfully--Bramhall doesn't attempt to reproduce the voices of Washington or others but through subtle changes in tone and inflection suggests character, temperament, and state of mind. On the page, eighteenth-century rhetoric can be difficult to parse from writer to writer, and for that reason alone an audio performance is a convenience and an enhancement. Here, too, Washington--remote and passive as a historical figure--comes to life as a farmer, botanist, landowner, politician, and a man you'd like to spend an evening with. D.A.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine
  • Publisher's Weekly

    August 4, 2014
    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.

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