PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Chris Stigall talked to author Edward Larson on Talk Radio 1210 WPHT about his new book, The Return of George Washington, about Washington’s return to politics following the Revolutionary War.
Larson, a professor at the Pepperdine University School of Law, said Washington was reluctant to come back to public service after leading the Revolutionary army.
“He never really wanted to leave Mt. Vernon. He wanted to stay on the plantation for a variety of reasons…He didn’t want to become President, but he wanted his country to succeed. He became convinced during his time at the convention and then when he saw how tough ratification was, how tough those battles [were]. He was very involved in the battle for ratification. He realized that he would be needed because he was, aside from Ben Franklin, who was in his eighties and couldn’t serve, the only true national celebrity.”
He stated that at that point in time in American history, Washington was the one public servant that could unite the nation.
“Washington had truly become, through the Revolution, a national figure, because soldiers had served under him and grown to love and respect him from all parts of the country, and they went back to all parts of the country, and they became the local leaders…He was the one celebrity, so they turned to him, Ben Franklin and others, saying ‘You’re the only person that can do this.’ Even then, when he agreed to serve as President, he didn’t expect to even serve a whole term. He thought he’d only serve long enough to get it going, and then step aside, but it never quite came. It always seemed that he was still needed.”
Larson explained that Washington brought competing sides together to work for the benefit of the country.
“They talk about Lincoln and the team of rivals – well, the first team of rivals was what Washington put together. He put Hamilton and Jefferson in the same cabinet and got them to work together and both of them urged him to run for re-election, and they wanted him to run a third time, but he said, ‘I’m out of here.’”