"[Historian Allen] recreates in this meticulous and fast-moving posthumous account the events of the pivotal year 1789 in America. It’s a superb distillation of a complex moment in U.S. history.”— Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
1789: George Washington and the Founders Create America draws on hundreds of sources to paint a vivid portrait of the new nation, setting out to show the world at large that a new—and very American—form of government was calling itself into being. “No future session of Congress will ever have so arduous and weighty a charge on their hands,” the New York Gazette observed in summer 1789. “No examples to imitate, and no striking historical facts on which to ground their decisions—All is bare creation.”
The Constitution had been written in 1787 and ratified in 1788. But 1789 was the year the government it described—albeit only in the broadest of terms—had to be brought into being.
Veteran journalist Thomas B. Allen brings decades of experience and a gifted storyteller’s eye to the long-hidden history of how George Washington and the Founders set the federal government into motion.
Thomas B. Allen, esteemed and prolific author of numerous history books, including Tories: Fighting for the King in America’s First Civil War (2010), Remember Valley Forge (2007), and George Washington, Spymaster (2004), lived for many years in Bethesda, Maryland, just outside the nation's capital. He was a frequent contributor to Smithsonian Magazine, National Geographic, Military History Quarterly, Military History,Naval History, the U.S. Naval Institute’s Proceedings, and other publications.
Prologue: Eleven States Create a Nation
1 The Great Cause
2 The Specter of a King
3 The Reluctant President
4 Out with the Old
5 A New Government Awakens
6 “Now a King”
7 Etiquette Advice for the President
8 “All Is Bare Creation”
9 The Constitution as Blueprint
10 Counting We the People
11 America’s “Other Persons”
12 A Tub Full of Rights
13 “He Shall Have Power”
14 Stricken Washington, Fearful Nation
15 Washington Gets a Bastille Key
16 Seeing America’s Farms and Factories
17 Many Pirates—And No Navy
18 The Second Session: Hope and Angst
19 On the Frontier, Spies and Plots
20 Toward an American Language
Epilogue: In Rising Glory
1 The “Correct”
Constitution of the United States
2 Inside the Dozen: the Bill of Rights
3 A Timeline of the Founding of the United States and the Federal Government
About the Author
Historian Allen, who died in 2018, recreates in this meticulous and fast-moving posthumous account the events of the pivotal year 1789 in America. (“Everything that happened in that epochal year would shape and empower the history that has followed it,” he writes.) Those happenings included, most notably, the implementation of the U.S. Constitution, as well as the first presidential election, the first legislative session of Congress, and the emergence of political parties. Allen profiles such famous founders as George Washington and John Adams alongside more obscure figures like Lt. Col. David Humphreys, one of Washington’s aides, who was the first to enlist Black troops for the Continental Army and was later tapped to draft Washington’s first inaugural address. Allen’s frequent flashbacks to the years immediately preceding 1789 make clear that the unification of separate states into one country was anything but inevitable, with many Americans suspicious of a federal government that could infringe on their rights. As Allen outlines the “threads of unification [which] would bind the states together in a powerful transcontinental nation,” he casts a wide net—addressing, for example, how in 1789 Britain took its first steps toward abolishing slavery, which would eventually have massive ramifications in its fledgling former colony. It’s a superb distillation of a complex moment in U.S. history.
Allen (1929-2018) accepts the myth that Americans disliked the weak Articles of Confederation, which guided the Colonies through and after the Revolution. In fact, most Americans, from farmers to city workers, had few objections. Only the educated elite—northern lawyers and businessmen, southern planters—hated dealing with 13 separate currencies, banks, commercial regulations, and legal systems. Assembling in 1787, they cobbled together the Constitution, a mixture of specific and ambiguous guidelines for a more or less democratic central government. That was the easy part. Assembling a functioning government from these guidelines was exceedingly difficult. However, it’s fun to read about, and readers will enjoy Allen’s lively account of what followed as the first Congress assembled in New York in spring 1789 and welcomed the first president.
1789 by Thomas B. Allen describes how many of the officers who fought in the Revolutionary War became critical components of the fledgling American government after the ratification of the Constitution.... Allen also provides an overview of the key policy decisions made during the First Congress, which began in 1789. This includes passing the bill of rights. establishing a national bank, determining what to do with the war debt. and picking a home for the national government.... Beyond policy debates, 1789 is also a social commentary. Not only did the Founding generation establish the three branches of government, they also created policies, procedures, and traditions that continue to this day. This was also an important time for the American people to create an identity separate and apart from Great Britain. Allen describes the cultural traditions that were uniquely American, particularly as it relates to literary pursuits like magazines and other publications. Daniel Webster also published his first 'dictionary' of the American English language. We highly recommend this book for any student of American history.
Tom Allen - author, biographer, and student of the human heart- has given us a rare, through the keyhole of history look at the character and complexities of our Founding Fathers and the political turbulence that threatened to tear our young country apart. 1789 is must reading for those who want to grasp the relevance of today’s political turbulence with that faced by George Washington during the first year of his presidency.
Praise for The Bonus Army: An American Epic: A feat of research and analysis-a thoughtful, strong argument that these marches were among the most important demonstrations of the 20th century.
Praise for Tories: Fighting for the King in America’s First Civil War: Allen's thorough research and fast-paced narrative provide fresh ways of thinking about the Revolutionary War and shed new light on the lives of those, from bankers to small tradesmen, who remained loyal to the throne in the face of vigorous opposition and persecution.
Praise for The Bonus Army: An American Epic: Dickson and Allen highlight the sacrifices these women and men made on our own soil to win fair treatment for veterans of future wars. Their important and moving work will appeal to both professional historians and casual readers interested in the history of America's changing attitudes towards its soldiers.
Praise for Tories: Fighting for the King in America’s First Civil War: Not for the faint of heart or for those who prefer revolutions in ideas. Recruiters of spies as well as the spies themselves faced the gallows, and Allen tells us who kicked the box and how the body swayed. Bayonets in these pages run with blood.