‘George Washington, Entrepreneur’ Review: Mount Vernon Industries

The Wall Street Journal reviews George Washington, Entrepreneur, by Senior Fellow John Berlau.

When he resigned as commander in chief of Britain’s Virginia forces in the French and Indian War in 1758, the 26-year-old George Washington put aside his military ambitions and returned to his Mount Vernon plantation for good. (Or so he thought.) Naturally enough, the young man started out as a traditional slaveholding Southern tobacco planter like his father and grandfathers before him. Yet in the decades that followed, a remarkable transformation took place. By the time he died in 1799, Washington had turned his back on the whole ethos of Southern agrarianism that was so dear to fellow Virginians like Thomas Jefferson. The planter had become an entrepreneurial proto-capitalist. Toward the end of his life, Washington said that, if there were any way to pull it off, he’d sell all his Virginia property and move to a northern city to make his living as an investor. Washington’s experiences in war and government had convinced him to embrace investment, commerce, finance and, as John Berlau reveals with a short but lively book, entrepreneurship. In “George Washington,Entrepreneur” the author, an economist at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, presents an aspect of Washington’s leadership that will be unfamiliar to many readers.

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