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The Grand Idea: George Washington's Potomac & the Race to the West
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The Grand Idea: George Washington's Potomac & the Race to the West

3.83 of 5 stars 3.83  ·  rating details  ·  84 ratings  ·  14 reviews
Chronicles retired general George Washington's adventurous 680-mile trek down the Potomac River, a journey during which he endeavored to prevent disunion, collected key frontier data, and inspired engineering achievements.
Hardcover, 367 pages
Published June 1st 2004 by Simon & Schuster
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Theo Logos
`The Grand Idea' is a book with a very loose central theme - George Washington's vision (share by many others) of the westward expansion of the young United States, and his idea to use the Potomac River as the crucial tie that would bind the trans-Appalachian western frontier to the coastal population center. The book meanders, (much like the undisciplined and changeable river in its subtitle), all over from that center, covering much of the history of the republic from the end of The Revolution ...more
Moose
A smooth and very readable account of Washington's failed plan to develop the Potomac into the primary trade hub for the East. I am generally leery of histories written by journalists, but Achenbach has done an admirable job condensing the story into a format which the majority of the reading public and the casual history buff will enjoy.
A great read if you want to learn about a lesser-known facet of Washington's personality and life.
Ken
This is interesting portrait of Washington. It covers more of the man and his business then politics and government. Those topics get touched since so much of his life was in government It is a good example of how western expansion was on people's mode before the LA purchase and that alternatives to expansion were possible and a completely different US might have evolved.
Becky
Felt like it took me a long time to finish this one, but it was a really interesting glimpse at the history of the Potomac. I loved the author's funny asides and slighty snarky comments. It could have been dry and difficult, but instead it was a good look at an aspect of Washington's personality and life that seems to be generally disregarded in most biographies.
Nica  Noelle
Brings George Washington down to human proportions -- not an easy task. Joel Achenbach is so masterful at taking bigger than life topics and making them accessible to the layperson. He's one of my favorite science writers, and here he does a great job at analyzing Washington's steadfast dream to utilize the Potomac River for travel and trade.
Suzanne Wheatley
Awesome book by Joel Achenbach, humor writer for the Washington Post. A surprisingly sober and insightful look at an odd topic -- George Washington's relationship with the Potomac River. Achenbach channels Washington and makes him human better than any of the historians out there, and I've read quite a few.
Peter
A great introduction to Washington's early years and exploits before the Revolutionary War and his compulsion with exploring and establishing the Potomac region as the gateway to the West. Can be a bit dull when it discusses geography in parts, but overall really interesting.
Sharon
Sep 09, 2011 Sharon added it
Shelves: history
Took me a long time to get into it. But, it was an interesting look at an important time in our country's history, and it made George Washington come to life.
Bob Daugherty
A great recording of George Washingtons activities between being commander of the Revolutionary war and being elected president. Great for history buffs!
Patricia
One of my many Founding Fathers reads. Very interesting insight into our First President's civilian life. Achenbach is an entertaining story teller.
Murray
Lots of good information that I never got in school (I was raised in El Paso). Very well written.
Ksirby
Good historical view of George Washington's life away from the White House. (a long read though)
Brad
Boring, but still a good book on a part of Washington's life that is often forgotten.
Brendan
Less boring than expected.
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“But perhaps we see a different set of sins in our own time: a reluctance to take on any new Great National Projects, a general self-indulgence, a culture built on consumption, whole generations raised in an environment where dreams are purchased at the mall. If we could somehow select the virtues of early Americans from amid their failings, we might choose their optimism, their endurance, their inventiveness, their willingness to do something big and difficult--like dig a canal across the mountains or build a new kind of road on rails. These people took on challenges that a more sober and settled population might consider too ambitious, if not downright insane.” 1 likes
“Geologists think the mountains were formed by several distinct tectonic events over the course of 500 million years, a span of time that represents a thick slice of the planet's geological record. The Appalachians once soared as high as the Rockies or even higher. They were most recently thrust upward about 290 million years ago, which makes these mountains older than the bones of the first dinosaurs. They predate the appearance of deciduous trees. They are older than flowers. There were mountains here before the Earth had ever seen anything as fantastic as grass. Some of the rocks were formed in the Precambrian Era, in that gray epoch when life was pondering a wholesale leap from one cell to many.” 1 likes
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