EDUCATORS ’ PERSPECTIVE
Reconstruction of George Washington ’ s 1797 distillery near Mount Vernon , Virginia .
Recreation of the 16-sided barn at the Pioneer Farm at Mount Vernon . The original farm structures were built between 1792 and 1795 , and the reconstructions were completed in 1996 .
left his neglected Mount Vernon in a sorry state of disrepair . Washington spent the years between the war and his assumption of the presidency shoring up his financial situation . According to historian Erica Armstrong Dunbar , before leaving Virginia to take up the office of President , Washington was forced for the only time in his life to borrow money at interest (£ 600 at 6 %).
In his book Dealmaker-in-Chief , Cyrus A . Ansary argues that Washington ’ s entrepreneurial activities “ served as the chrysalis of the astonishingly prescient economic policies he put in place as the first President of the United States . His carefully crafted economic blueprint for the country and his determined execution of its ingredients during his two terms in office … enlarged the dreams and opportunities of Americans , led to a flourishing entrepreneurial climate and made an inspiring tale for our time .” Those economic policies , along with the establishment of a sound financial system under the auspices of Alexander Hamilton , set the stage for unprecedented economic expansion .
Lengel estimates that at his death on December 14 , 1799 , Washington , one of the wealthiest men in America , was worth about $ 780,000 . His determination to buck the mercantile system , go all out for independence and embrace scientific farming practices and principles set Washington apart and allowed him to succeed financially while others in the same situation largely failed . An enthusiasm for farming and an endless curiosity pushed Washington to innovate and diversify without taking undue risks .
Washington set the standard politically and financially for subsequent Presidents to follow . Few of his successors have exceeded those standards .
Brian Grinder is a professor at Eastern Washington University and a member of Financial History ’ s editorial board . Dr . Dan Cooper is the president of Active Learning Technologies .
Ansary , Cyrus A . George Washington , Dealmaker-in-Chief : The Story of How the Father of Our Country Unleashed the Entrepreneurial Spirit in America . Bethesda , MD : Lambert Publications . 2019 .
Berlau , John . George Washington , Entrepreneur : How Our Founding Father ’ s Private
Business Pursuits Changed America and the World . New York : All Points Books . 2020 .
Brady , Patricia . Martha Washington : An American Life . New York : Viking . 2005 .
Larson , Edward J . American Inheritance : Liberty and Slavery in the Birth of a Nation , 1765 – 1795 . New York , NY : W . W . Norton & Company . 2023 .
Larson , Edward J . The Return of George Washington : 1783 – 1789 . New York , NY : William Morrow . 2014 .
Lengel , Edward G . First Entrepreneur : How George Washington Built His — and the Nation ’ s — Prosperity . Boston , MA : Da Capo Press . 2016 .
1 . Washington ’ s relationship with Robert Cary & Co . began after his marriage to Marth Dandridge Custis . Cary & Co . had represented the Custis family ’ s business dealings in the mother country for years .
2 . The Mount Vernon website states , “ According to Washington ’ s records in 1799 , superfine flour could sell for $ 8.50 a barrel as compared to $ 7.50 to $ 8.00 a barrel for fine flour , $ 6.66 per barrel for lower grade ‘ middlings ’ and $ 1.50 a barrel for ‘ shipstuff ’— the lowest quality .”
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