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.
mar his second term. Henceforward his efforts would have one primary focus—secure internal and external peace and stability, above all, as the foundation of prosperity. WASHINGTON TOOK THE OATH OF OFFICE for his second term as president of the United States in the Senate chamber on March 4, 1793. A month later he went to the circus with Samuel and Elizabeth Powel, forgetting his worries as he marveled at the equestrian demonstrations. Despite all the drama of the previous months, there was no
have operated in Washington’s day, including the important role of enslaved African Americans. Even better, the estate’s superb website includes a digital encyclopedia describing all aspects of Washington’s life and endeavors, as well as videos that show estate operations for those unable to view them in person. Elsewhere, the physical legacy of Washington’s entrepreneurship is harder to detect. While a few remnants of his Potomac Company enterprise near Great Falls, Virginia, still exist and
labor-intensive, absorbing much of the time and energy of his slaves and white workmen. Wheat, relying more heavily on animal power, did require the devotion of more resources to livestock (and especially the growth of corn and other plants for fodder), but it freed his workers to do other things. This in turn furthered Washington’s dual goals of reducing expenditures and increasing his economic self-sufficiency. The changeover was extremely rapid. In 1764, his estate produced 257 bushels of
the opportunity to promote domestic manufactures. Writing to Capel & Osgood Hanbury on July 25, 1767, Washington celebrated the British ministry’s apparent “opposition to any Act of Oppression” and elaborated on his unwillingness to accept the status quo. Putting “the Commercial System of these Colonies . . . upon a more enlarged and extensive footing than it is,” he argued, “would, ultimately, redound to the advantages of the Mother Country so long as the Colonies pursue trade and Agriculture,
ministers for war, foreign affairs, and finance. Some suggested Alexander Hamilton, whose talents “as a financier” had become well known, for the latter office, and Washington extolled his “probity and Sterling virtue.” In February, though, the delegates tapped Philadelphia financier Robert Morris. A successful businessman who had earned a small fortune from privateering, Morris had provided important financial support to Congress and the Continental Army in the winter of 1776–1777. He was also a