Patriotism and Profit: Washington, Hamilton, Schuyler and the Rivalry for America’s Capital City

Susan Nagel. Pegasus, $28.95 (352p) ISBN 978-1-64313-708-7
Journalist Nagel (Marie-Therese, Child of Terror) delivers an overstuffed yet underwhelming account of the development of Washington, D.C., as America’s capital in the 1790s. After prolonged surveys of European expeditions to the New World and England’s colonization of America, Nagel focuses on U.S. president George Washington and New York senator Philip Schuyler, “whose parallel dreams, analogous visions, and similar skills provoked an intense, decades-long rivalry and protracted crusade for the location of the new empire city.” Schuyler advocated for New York City, then operating as the temporary home of the federal government, to be permanently made the nation’s capital, while Washington pushed for a site along the Potomac River near his Mount Vernon estate. Washington eventually won passage of the 1790 Residence Act, which authorized him to select and supervise the location and design of the capital. Nagel dubs Washington “the first real estate developer president,” and notes that he was the largest single shareholder in the Potomac River Canal Company, which stood to benefit from the development of D.C. But her claim that Washington “misled, coerced, and otherwise cheated his way to creating the nation’s capital city” will strike many readers as unfair, given the other players and issues involved, including the federal government’s assumption of states’ wartime debts. This sensationalist history overstates its case. (Oct.)
Reviewed on : 07/23/2021
Release date: 10/01/2021
Genre: Nonfiction
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