George Washington's Journey

The President Forges a New Nation


About The Book

“An absorbing portrait...Breen’s superb chronicle offers glimpses into Washington’s love of his country and its people, and his willingness to meet them on their own terms to secure the unity of the new republic.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

This is George Washington in the surprising role of political strategist.

T.H. Breen introduces us to a George Washington we rarely meet. During his first term as president, he decided that the only way to fulfill the Revolution was to take the new federal government directly to the people. He organized an extraordinary journey carrying him to all thirteen states. It transformed American political culture.

For Washington, the stakes were high. If the nation fragmented, as it had almost done after the war, it could never become the strong, independent nation for which he had fought. In scores of communities, he communicated a powerful and enduring message—that America was now a nation, not a loose collection of states. And the people responded to his invitation in ways that he could never have predicted.

About The Author

Susan Breen

T.H. Breen is currently the James Marsh Professor at-large at the University of Vermont. He is the author of eleven books on U.S. History, many of them prizewinners.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (January 12, 2016)
  • Length: 320 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781451675429

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Raves and Reviews

“An absorbing portrait of early America's struggles . . . Breen's superb chronicle offers glimpses into Washington's love of his country and its people, and his willingness to meet them on their own terms to secure the unity of the new republic.”

– Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Worth the time of anyone interested in Washington and the birth of the United States. . . . Mr. Breen reports anecdotes that bring Washington to life. . . . both of these books, enjoyably written and learned, reveal still more of the apparently limitless greatness of Washington.”

– The Wall Street Journal

“[An] excellent new contribution to American historiography. . . . valuable reading during an election year.”

– Richmond Times-Dispatch

“Rather than simple good will journeys, Breen convincingly argues that Washington’s tours of New England and the South were key elements in his campaign to bind the American populace to the ideal of the union and the recently installed Constitutional government. . . . T.H. Breen is a noted authority on early American history, and his contributions have been widely acclaimed. His writing is, as always, fluid and vivid, resting on a foundation of deep research and the assurance accumulated through decades of study. With verve and grace, Breen restores the importance of these innovative goodwill trips to their rightful place in our understanding of the politics – and evolving political culture – of the new republic. Readers will find George Washington’s Journey as illuminating as it is enjoyable.

– Journal of the American Revolution

“The 2,400-mile journey over two summers, with its triumphs and its dangers, an immense undertaking in a horse-drawn carriage over rutted wilderness roads, is the basis of Breen’s highly readable tale. . . . Breen treats us to behind-the-scenes wrestling between Massachusetts Gov. John Hancock and Washington. . . . Washington’s journey offers a fresh insight into our first president, a man generally accepted as the most popular American of his era, but a man not well understood by succeeding generations.”

– Buffalo News

“Everything about this book was exciting for a history lover...If you are interested in the life and times of George Washington, or simply this period of history, this would be an excellent book to add to your collection. Recommended.”

– Readful Things Blog

“Clear and vivid, Breen’s writing demonstrates Washington’s great gift for political theater. . . . In Breen’s deft hands, readers will encounter a very personal George Washington. . . . What makes Breen’s account so compelling is the depth of the research. . . . Unlike other historians of the founding era, Breen holds nothing back on his criticism of Washington as a slave owner. . . . George Washington’s Journey is an important contribution to the history of the early American republic.”

– Washington Indy Review of Books

“T. H. Breen has managed the minor miracle of writing a book about George Washington that, although hagiographic, isn’t toweringly maddening. His subject is an interesting one, too. . . . Breen digs into his sources and tells the story of those alleged goodwill tours in wonderfully readable detail—a better and bigger account of them than I can remember reading anywhere else. . . . a natural storyteller.”

– Open Letters Monthly

“Breen’s clearly written account of these sojourns give readers a fresh understanding of the president’s personality, his public and private lives, and the political and social climate of the time….This quick, accessible study will appeal to fans of Harlow Giles Unger’s The Unexpected George Washington and general readers with an interest in Early American history and political science.”

– Library Journal

“It is hard to think that anything new could be said about George Washington. But Breen has done it. Tracing Washington’s republicanized versions of royal progresses through the new nation at the beginning of his presidency was an inspired choice of subject, and Breen has developed it beautifully. In clear and accessible prose he has given us new insights into the acute political skills of our first president and the state of country in the 1790s.”

– Gordon S. Wood author of The Idea of America

“In this vivid and insightful book, T.H. Breen takes readers on a revealing journey with the greatest of eighteenth-century Americans. More than any other founder, Washington passionately believed that only a strong and united nation could sustain liberty. By touring distant and disparate states, the first president built a connection with ordinary people that helped the new nation survive its difficult early years. Breen eloquently reminds Americans of how much we gain from remembering Washington's commitment to a more perfect union.”

– Alan Taylor, author of The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832

“With the deft touch of one of America’s master historians, TH. Breen convincingly shows America’s greatest founder—George Washington—as a genius of political stagecraft who made the office of the Presidency into the people’s office, and helped a divided and scattered people see and feel the purpose of their great Union. A surprising and compelling book—and refreshingly relevant.”

– Douglas Bradburn, Founding Director, National Library for the Study of George Washington, Mount Vernon

"George Washington's vision for the future of the United States was not fully formed when he became President in 1789. It took two dramatic journeys, to New England and the South, for that vision to come to fruition and become truly continental. Tim Breen's chronicle of those journeys is at once informative and inspiring, revealing a hope for unity and prosperity in the symbol of one remarkable man.

– Edward G. Lengel, Director, Washington Papers, University of Virginia

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