Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

The Return of George Washington: Uniting the States, 1783-1789

The Return of George Washington: Uniting the States, 1783-1789

0.0 10
by Edward Larson

See All Formats & Editions


"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



"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.

Editorial Reviews

Dallas Morning News
“Larson is an exceptionally fine and engaging writer. ... He has taken up what might seem to be a niche in this great man’s life and career, and found there the core of his personality and his greatness.”
Philadelphia Inquirer
“A detailed and elegantly written account of leadership at the most pivotal moment in our nation’s history.”
Wall Street Journal
“Fine and engrossing. … Larson engagingly argues that the stretch between 1783 and 1789 was as important to Washington-and to America-as all that preceded and followed it. … [A] splendid account.”
New York Times Book Review
“Larson is a sure guide through the complexities of writing and ratifying the Constitution. ... Dramatic. … Restoring the politics to Washington’s rise adds motive and depth to the nationalist who rose north to the rescue.”
Washington Times
“Eloquently written. ... Larson synthesizes a vast amount of primary source material with great aplomb. ... Serious scholarship presented in an engaging and concise manner.”
Lawrence M. Friedman
“A fascinating account. ... This is an important book, elegantly written, which adds greatly to our understanding of the way in which one man’s personality and popularity helped create a strong new country out of the fragments of the old colonial system.”
Kenneth R. Bowling
“Highly readable. ... Clears away the naive myths that have so long obscured Washington’s ideas and role during the 1780s.”
Akhil Reed Amar
“A fresh and elegant portrait of the hero we thought we knew, but didn’t, quite. ... An indispensable book about America’s ‘indispensable man.’”
Daily Beast
“Fantastic... The Washington who emerges in these pages is always human, flaws and all, and yet he still manages to be a figure worth revering for his unwavering sense of duty.”
Andrew O'Shaughnessy
“One of the best illustrations of the ability of individuals to change the course of history.”
Douglas Bradburn
“Ed Larson - with his signature wit and light touch - delivers a living, breathing man, who is revealed to be a true visionary leader, but who also possesses the political savvy and ability to get things done. ... An important addition to the literature on the founding of the United States.”
Journal of the American Revolution
“Utterly fascinating. ... Very readable and highly recommended.”
Mental Floss
“Astonishes with continual revelations of a Washington deeply engaged in national affairs and concerned for the floundering United States on the verge of collapse.”

Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Edward J. Larson (A Magnificent Catastrophe) has written before about America's first presidential contest; in The Return of George Washington, he describes the largely forgotten story about how one former general came out of retirement to help create our nation. The rigors of the Revolutionary War, Larson shows us, had whetted the commander in chief's yearning for a quiet life as a Virginia farmer. Washington returned to Mount Vernon in late 1783 and remained there until government paralysis caused by the Articles of Confederation forced him into action. In mid-1787, he joined other Founding Fathers in Philadelphia to struggle in an uphill fight to create a workable constitution. His decisive leadership turned the tide and the rest, as they say, is history.

Publishers Weekly
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.)
Library Journal
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
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2014-07-22
Illuminating history of an overlooked period in the life of our first president. During the years between the end of the American Revolution and the commencement of his first term as the first president, George Washington remained a busy farmer, slave owner, behind-the-scenes political figure and national hero. Pulitzer Prize-winning author Larson (Law and History/Pepperdine Univ.; An Empire of Ice: Scott, Shackleton, and the Heroic Age of Antarctic Science, 2011, etc.) returns with a focused look at some years that many other historians have eschewed in favor of covering the more fiery Revolution and the more storied presidency. Larson shows us a Washington who craved being home, a man who only reluctantly allowed politics or necessity to draw him away. Larson begins with Washington's resignation of his command and his journey home to Mount Vernon from New York (it took him two weeks—with much cheering and celebration along the route). He then traveled west to inspect some of his holdings and had to decide whether to attend the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. Of course, he did choose to go, and he chaired the proceedings. In the central chapters, the author deals with the Convention, with Washington's quiet though essential role, and with the battles and compromises between federalists and antifederalists that the document demanded—and very nearly did not achieve. Larson also reminds us of Washington's medical and dental problems and his decision to have some implants using the teeth of slaves (who were paid for the privilege). Following ratification (which did not happen immediately or easily), pressure grew for Washington to stand for president—which, of course, he did, despite his numerous protests. Larson identifies Washington's three goals—"respect abroad, prosperity at home, and development westward"—and includes an account of an inaugural dish that makes turducken seem unambitious. Profound, even affectionate, scholarship infuses every graceful sentence.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.00(d)

Meet the Author

Edward J. Larson is University Professor of history and holds the Hugh & Hazel Darling Chair in Law at Pepperdine University. He received the Pulitzer Prize in History for Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America's Continuing Debate over Science and Religion. His other books include A Magnificent Catastrophe: The Tumultuous Election of 1800, America's First Presidential Campaign. From 2013 to 2014, Larson was an inaugural Library Fellow at the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington located on the grounds of Mount Vernon. He lives in Georgia and California.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews

The Return of George Washington: Uniting the States, 1783-1789 0 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
tim-1969 More than 1 year ago
The prestige of George Washington more than the Constitution gave a very young United States the will to take the baby steps necessary to grow. If George Washington was not around for the last quarter of the 18th Century, we would not be carrying American passports today.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am a student of history, this book was revealing for me in that I learned facts about our 1st President that I never knew before. This is important because it is not the first book about Washington that I have read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Booooo the author should get a life
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The multi editorial reviews show this is well written detailed segment in the life of the first president not a tell all so will be of little interest to the usual buyer of quick reads posted as picks by nook. Serious biographies especially those focused on incidents not lifetimes are usually keepers for the buyer