About the National Archives

Welcome Remarks for George Washington’s Final Battle: The Epic Struggle to Build a Capital City and a Nation

Greetings from the National Archives. I’m David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, and it's my pleasure to welcome you to today’s virtual book talk with Robert Watson, author of George Washington’s Final Battle: The Epic Struggle to Build a Capital City and a Nation.

Before we begin, though, I’d like to tell you about two upcoming programs you can view on our YouTube channel.

On Monday, February 22, at noon, Robert Elder will tell us about Calhoun: American Heretic, his new biography of John C. Calhoun, one of the most notorious and enigmatic figures in American political history. Elder argues that Calhoun’s story is crucial for understanding today’s political climate.

And on Thursday, February 25, at 7 p.m., we invite you to the panel discussion on “The Black Family: Representation, Identity, and Diversity,” which is the theme of this year’s Black History Month. The panel will discuss the Black family as the foundation of African American life and history and examine its place in history, literature, the arts, and social policy.

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I come to you from the National Archives Building in Washington, DC—the “Federal City” built on the site chosen by our first President, George Washington. The location for a permanent capital was hotly contested in 1790, and Washington actively advocated for a site along the Potomac River, not far from his own home of Mount Vernon.

When the commissioners of the Federal District named the new capital for Washington in 1791, they not only honored the wartime commander in chief but also acknowledged his guiding role in the selection of the young nation’s seat of government

Although he did not live to see the government officially relocated there, his vision shaped the national capital for years to come.

In George Washington’s Final Battle, Robert Watson highlights Washington’s political skills and reveals how he worked behind the scenes to establish the new city.

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Robert Watson is Distinguished Professor of American Studies at Lynn University and Senior Fellow at the Florida Joint Center for Citizenship. He is the author of numerous books on history and politics including The Ghost Ship of Brooklyn, The Nazi Titanic, and America’s First Crisis: The War of 1812, and is the editor of two encyclopedias—The American Presidents and American First Ladies. Professor Watson has served on the board of the Harry Truman Foundation, the Calvin Coolidge Memorial Foundation, and the George McGovern Library and Center for Public Service. Professor Watson has also served as a visiting scholar with many organizations including the Truman Presidential Library, Gerald Ford Presidential Museum, Illinois Holocaust Museum, and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

Now let’s hear from Robert Watson. Thank you for joining us today.