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.
horizons and encompass the affairs of Virginia and—eventually—a new nation. All of these concerns paled into insignificance, however, next to the glaring reality that Washington remained a bachelor. Finding amiable women willing to share his company had never been a problem. His teenage years had probably seen their share of affairs, and the personal fame that came with military service enhanced Washington’s magnetism in feminine society. For a brief period he carried on some sort of liaison—how
flower gardens to fit the new design, conceived to make a man-made landscape look natural; built a greenhouse; and relocated outbuildings. This work alone, including refurbishing and redesigning the mansion house and the surrounding landscape, took four years. Amid his ambitious plans for Mount Vernon, Washington prepared to return his estate and its various ventures to profitability. He understood that a reversion to prerevolutionary business as usual was unrealistic. After eight years of war,
setting up equipment and drawing measurements, George discovered that he had a talent for the craft. For the first time, and to his great relief, he could put to use his talent for exactitude and efficiency outside school exercises and copy books. After several months of tests, he completed his earliest known formal survey on August 18, 1747. He was still too inexperienced to survey professionally in his own right, but he took the first step by signing on as an assistant to a local surveyor. His
licencious appetites & corrupted the morals of men.” He would bring up the subject of a moral economy again, more sweepingly, in the final version of his address.6 The draft address moved on from the past to lay out his vision for the road ahead. The country’s future ultimately was industrial, but the transformation would take generations. “We shall not soon become a manufacturing people,” he believed. Although the population would boom (as he accurately predicted), creating an abundance of
interest arrearage due to be paid to 1789 was $11,519,646. Trivial figures today, they amounted to a crushing burden for a new nation just emerging from years of war and weak government. And they were getting worse. Overall, national debt with interest due rose from $39 million in 1783 to $53 million in 1790, alongside another $25 million in debts owed by the states. Spending long hours hunched over his desk, Washington compiled lengthy notes summing up the debt problem. It originated, he wrote,