Watson’s new book on George Washington’s capital city clash

After serving two terms as the first U.S.  president and winning a war under brutal conditions, you would think George Washington was ready to put his feet up.

“That was the only place Washington never slept,” Boca’s own presidential historian Robert Watson said about his 44th and latest book on the equally brutal fight to secure the country’s first capital.

Most everyone knows about historically correct Philadelphia and even New York. But “over 30 cities were considered, including Annapolis, and everybody wanted their own city,” Lynn University’s distinguished professor of American history said about “George Washington’s Final Battle: The Epic Struggle to Build a Capital City and a Nation” [Georgetown University Press].

“There were factions and coalitions with parochial interests, and debates on where to put a capital were the most heated. There was a northern and southern rift,” Watson said. “Europe saw us as a backwater. So, by building a capital city, we could unite the country and give people a sense of national identity.”

So how did Washington bring all the warring factions together to agree on the site of Washington D.C. on the Potomac?

By strength of personality.

“He was 6-foot-2, and anyone who met him commented on his size,” Watson said. “He was a very physical and robust man. He had charisma and he knew it. He was very conscious of his image, and he was used to winning support.”

Turns out Washington died suddenly at age 67 in 1799, missing the actual platting of the city that bears his name by a year. “They were originally going to name it Washingtonapolis,” Watson said.

By Marci Shatzman

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