Washington: How Slaves, Idealists, and Scoundrels Created the Nation's Capital

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Harper Collins, May 6, 2008 - History - 384 pages

Washington, D.C., is home to the most influential power brokers in the world. But how did we come to call D.C.—a place one contemporary observer called a mere swamp "producing nothing except myriads of toads and frogs (of enormous size)," a district that was strategically indefensible, captive to the politics of slavery, and a target of unbridled land speculation—our nation's capital? In Washington, acclaimed and award-winning author Fergus M. Bordewich turns his eye to the backroom deal making and shifting alliances between our Founding Fathers and in doing so pulls back the curtain on the lives of slaves who actually built the city. The answers revealed in this eye-opening book are not only surprising and exciting but also illuminate a story of unexpected triumph over a multitude of political and financial obstacles, including fraudulent real estate speculation, overextended financiers, and management more apt for a "banana republic" than an emerging world power.

In this page-turning work that reveals the hidden and somewhat unsavory side of the nation's beginnings, Bordewich, once again, brings his novelist's sensibility to a little-known chapter in American history.


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User Review  - mjgrogan - LibraryThing

Bordewich’s narrative about the “making” of Washington DC is quite an engaging read. Evidencing a strong critical demeanor – occasionally bordering on angst – the author covers the agendas and foibles ... Read full review

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User Review  - jclark88 - LibraryThing

If you've ever wondered how and why some very improbable and unwelcoming terrain on the Potomac came to be chosen in 1790 as the site for the nation's capital, this is the book for you. I approached ... Read full review


Prologue The Question of the Capital
The New Machine of Government
Dinner at Jeffersons
Potomac Fever
A Cloudy Business
Chapter5 The Metropolis of America
An Alarming and Serious Time
Irresistible Temptations
A Scene of Distress
The Generals Last Campaign
The Capital of a Great Nation
Epilogue Summer 1814
Selected Bibliography

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About the author (2008)

Fergus M. Bordewich is the author of several books, including Bound for Canaan, Killing the White Man's Indian, and My Mother's Ghost, a memoir. The son of a national civil rights leader for Native Americans, he was introduced early in life to racial politics. As a journalist, he has written widely on political and cultural subjects in Europe, the Middle East, and East Asia. His articles have appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Smithsonian, American Heritage, Atlantic Monthly, Harper's, Reader's Digest, and many other publications. He was born in New York City, and now lives in New York's Hudson River Valley with his wife and daughter.

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