Today, on Presidents’ Day, we’re not just celebrating George Washington, the first President of the United States, along with all the other U.S. Presidents. We’re also celebrating George Washington, the first great American entrepreneur, according to this article.
While the United States was still a British colony, before the Boston Harbor was filled with tea, Washington built a mill that could grind 278,000 pounds of flour annually and shipped throughout the colonies and to Europe, one of the first transatlantic businesses. After his Presidency, in the 1790s, he also built one of the United States’s largest whiskey distilleries.
Washington was one of the “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” types. He wasn’t born into poverty, but he also wasn’t as wealthy as some of his Founding Father contemporaries. After his father died when he was 11, he never received a formal education because his family couldn’t afford it. Instead, after the French and Indian War, the distinguished veteran tended to the Mount Vernon farm he inherited with his brother. Even running the farm, Washington bought surrounding land and pioneered new methods of growing crops, choosing the “giant pumpkin” crop of his time: wheat, instead of tobacco. Tobacco, he worried, would wear out the soil.
Even his distillery showed his entrepreneurial prowess. Washington delegated day-to-day management to James Anderson, a native Scot who understood distilled spirits. Under Anderson’s management, the distillery produced 10,500 gallons of whiskey, including rye whiskey, annually.
This all sheds new light on Washington’s quest to be free of big government and to establish a business-friendly climate that didn’t include taxation without representation. Or, as John Berlau, the author of this piece, puts it:
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.