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 his private life at Mount Vernon. And yet, as Washington contentedly grew his estate, the fledgling American experiment foundered. 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 called to address these problems, its chances of success seemed slim. Franklin, Madison, Hamilton, and the other Founding Fathers realized only one American could unite the fractious states. Reluctant, but duty bound, George Washington went to Philadelphia to preside over the convention in the summer of 1787.
Although Washington is often overlooked in most accounts of this critical period, Pulitzer Prize-winner Edward J. Larson 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 convinced to ratify the Constitution, thereby saving the Union.
Edward J. Larson is the inaugural Library Fellow at the newly opened George Washington Presidential Library, located on the grounds of Mount Vernon. He is also a University Professor of History and holds the Hugh & Hazel Darling Chair in Law at Pepperdine University. Author of numerous books, he received he Pulitzer Prize in History for Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America’s Continuing Debate Over Science and Religion.
More About the Speakers
Edward J. Larson
John Edward Hilboldt
Director, Lectures & Seminars