First Entrepreneur: How George Washington Built His--and the Nation's--Prosperity
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Using Washington's extensive but often overlooked financial papers, Edward G. Lengel chronicles the fascinating and inspiring story of how this self-educated man built the Mount Vernon estate into a vast multilayered enterprise and prudently managed meager resources to win the war of independence. Later, as president, he helped establish the national economy on a solid footing and favorably positioned the nation for the Industrial Revolution. Washington's steadfast commitment to the core economic principles of probity, transparency, careful management, and calculated boldness are timeless lessons that should inspire and instruct investors even today.
First Entrepreneur will transform how ordinary Americans think about George Washington and how his success in commercial enterprise influenced and guided the emerging nation.
maintenance, tack and saddle, entertaining dignitaries, paying couriers, and so forth.6 Transparency was another characteristic that served Washington well both in business and in the military life. Many of his acquaintances and business associates were in the habit of juggling accounts to obscure secret expenditures or investments—or, more often, to hide fiscal embarrassments. No one could ever justly accuse Washington of such deceits. Probity and openness, he knew, built the trust essential to
rebellion at Newburgh, gaining the necessary time that helped the United States to pull through to the September 1783 Treaty of Paris, was a magnificent accomplishment. Before resigning, though, he left behind one more great public legacy. This was his circular to the state governors of June 8, 1783. In it he expressed the perhaps naïve hope that the nation’s diverse civilian leaders would unite in a vision for the United States in which its people would grow “respectable and prosperous.” The
for the Constitutional Convention.66 The nation’s fiscal difficulties helped lead men like Washington to advocate political change. Without a smoothly running—and safe—civil society that could operate without threat of disruption from without or within, the economy would never flourish. Only a stable authority that could gather revenue and protect and promote national prosperity would suffice. Unfortunately, the Confederation government was not up to the task. Writing to Benjamin Harrison on
was $7,003,725. “Hence it appears,” the president continued, that “there never has been a disposition at any one period, in a majority of the States, to collect Taxes; notwithstanding the easy & advantageous terms on which such payments might have been made.” The Continental Congress had attempted to tackle the debt back in 1783 by imposing an impost, but the measure never came into effect and the states had continued to service—or not—their domestic and foreign debt by their own methods.12
schemes, suggesting feeble-mindedness; and hope that Washington would wake up and side with the angels. Jefferson recorded his private conversations with the president with an eye toward self-vindication, while possibly twisting or exaggerating Washington’s words so that, if he failed to come around, readers could assume it was because of weakness of mind. In a private exchange on February 29, Jefferson recorded Washington as whining that “he really felt himself growing old, his bodily health