The Real Birthday Of America’s First Entrepreneur

While Monday was the federal holiday celebrating his birth, today is the real birthday of George Washington. He was born February 22, 1732.

In a column posted last weekend, I point out that in addition to his achievement’s as first president and Revolutionary War general, Washington should also be celebrated as one of this country’ “earliest business innovators and large-scale entrepreneurs.”

During a time period of America’s existence as British colony and then a young nation—when communication and transportation faced challenges, to put it mildly—this businessman built an enterprise with international reach.

He built a mill that ground 278,000 pounds of branded flour annually that was shipped throughout America and, unusually during colonial times, exported to Europe. And in the 1790s, late in his life, he built one of the new nation’s largest whiskey distilleries.

I note that some of Washington’s entrepreneurial ventures — most notably the flour mill and whiskey distillery (the latter with the support of the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States) — have recently been rebuilt on their original locations at Mount Vernon. Folks can read more about this on Mount Vernon’s website.

Finally, I argue that Washington’s lifelong entrepreneurship is one of the best answers to to absurd suggestion by Georgetown law professor Louis Michael Seidman to “give up on the Constitution”:

Washington’s lifelong entrepreneurship sheds new light on his fight for liberty, and his motivation to develop a constitutional structure in which all were free to develop their many talents. It also provides an effective answer to claims like the recent ranting of a law professor in the New York Times that Americans should “give up on the Constitution” because it is not “remotely rational” to listen to “white propertied men who have been dead for two centuries” and “knew nothing of our present situation.” In fact, Washington knew more about the “present situation” of entrepreneurs frustrated by government hurdles than most legal academics writing for the New York Times could ever “remotely” hope to.