Episode 061: Edward Larson, George Washington in Retirement

Larson Return of George Washington

If you had only six years to enjoy retirement what would you do?

Would you improve your plantation? Build canals? Or work behind-the-scenes to unite your country by framing a new central government?

These were some of the activities George Washington undertook during his brief retirement from public service between 1783 and 1789.

Today, we explore George Washington's retirement with Edward Larson, winner of the Pulitzer Prize in History and author of The Return of George Washington: Uniting the States, 1783-1789.

About the Show

Ben Franklin’s World is a podcast about early American history.

It is a show for people who love history and for those who want to know more about the historical people and events that have impacted and shaped our present-day world.

Each episode features a conversation with a historian who helps us shed light on important people and events in early American history.

Episode Summary

Ed-Larson-PhotoIn this episode, we explore an understudied aspect of George Washington’s life-his retirement—with Edward Larson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and author of The Return of George Washington: Uniting the States, 1783-1789.

During our exploration, Ed reveals how and why George Washington retired from government and military service after the War for American Independence; The activities Washington took up during his brief retirement; And, why Washington felt compelled to return to public service in 1787 during the Constitutional Convention.

What You’ll Discover

  • Why Ed wrote a book about George Washington’s life between his service as Commander-in-Chief and his presidency
  • Washington’s resignation as Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army
  • Washington’s retirement activities
  • Details about Mount Vernon during the 1780s
  • Washington’s involvement with inland navigation
  • The western frontier after the American Revolution
  • The Annapolis Convention of 1786
  • Why Washington attended the Constitutional Convention of 1787
  • Why Washington almost did not attend the Constitutional Convention of 1787
  • How the members of the Constitutional Convention reached consensus
  • Washington’s stance on the Three-Fifths Compromise
  • Washington’s views on slavery
  • The role Washington played in the ratification of the Constitution
Constitutional Convention
George Washington at the Constitutional Convention of 1787


Links to People, Places, and Publications


Time Warp PlainTime Warp Question

In your opinion, what might have happened if George Washington had opted not to attend the Constitutional Convention? Would the Constitution have been written? What would the structure of the government and the unity of the United States be like today?

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