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Justin Fox

George Washington Had Business Interests, Too

The first president was a little more conflicted about it than Trump seems to be.
His land holdings were huge.

His land holdings were huge.

Photographer: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

When he was elected president in 1789, George Washington was one of the nation’s largest landowners. Most of his holdings were on the wrong (western) side of the Appalachian Mountains, though, and thus of dubious financial value.

Washington had been working to remedy that. In 1785, he had gotten the Virginia House of Delegates to charter the Patowmack Company to build canals and otherwise improve navigation on the waterway (you know it as the Potomac River) that Washington was convinced could eventually, with a short portage or two, link the Ohio River to the Atlantic. This connection would knit East and West together and make the country stronger, Washington believed. It would also, not entirely coincidentally, make both his Western landholdings and his home base at Mount Vernon more valuable.