1 George Washington
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Patriarch:George Washington and the new American Nation by Richard Norton Smith
General George Washington: a military life by Edward G Lengel
Washington: The Indispensable Man by James Thomas Flexner
George Washington: A Life by Willard Sterne Randall
His Excellency: George Washington by Joseph J. Ellis
Washington: A Biography by Douglas Southall Freeman
The World of George Washington
George Washington: A Life
George Washington by Paul Leicester Ford
Founding Father: Rediscovering George Washington - Richard Brookhiser
The Ascent of George Washington
Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow
Election 1789 Washington (69 electoral votes) vs. unopposed
Election 1792 Washington (132 electoral votes) vs. Adams (77)
George Washington had to borrow money to go to his own inauguration.
George Washington who commanded the Continental Army as a four-star general was promoted posthumously to the position of six-star "General of the Armies of Congress" by an order of Jimmy Carter, who felt America's first President should also be America's highest military official.
When George Washington was elected President, there was a king in France, a czarina in Russia, an emperor in China, and a shogun in Japan. Only the office of President remains.
Washington was one of two Presidents that signed the U.S. Constitution.
George Washington was a half first cousin twice removed of James Madison, a second cousin seven times removed of Queen Elizabeth II, a third cousin twice removed of Robert E. Lee, and an eighth cousin six times removed of Winston Churchill.
Washington was the only president elected unanimously, receiving all 69 of the electoral votes cast.
Washington carried a portable sundial.
Washington's inauguration speech was 183 words long and took 90 seconds to read. This was because of his false teeth.
Washington loved to help fight fires.
Washington's favorite sports were fishing and fox hunting.
Washington's face was scarred from smallpox.
Washington was the only president to die in the 1700s.
George Washington had two ice cream freezers installed at his home in Mount Vernon.
George Washington left no direct descendant. Though his wife Martha had four children by a previous marriage., Washington never sired a child to continue his line.
Washington once issued an order that forbade swearing throughout the U.S. Army.
Washington used to take a boat from Mount Vernon to Washington D.C. to get to work.
Washington's IQ was estimated to be about 125.
He was a very loud snorer.
Washington is such a tempting topic for biographers, I'm sure there are many good biographies out there. The one I really enjoyed was George Washington: A Life by Willard Sterne Randall http://www.librarything.com/work/148642
Engaging, comprehensive, and full of the history of the times admixed with the life of the man himself. As a good biography should be. I actually listened to it on audiotape in the car, and it was readily absorbed in that format.
Having lived in Alexandria, and in a house that actually stood on the site of one of George's 5 farms, I remember when they rebuilt the dock at Mt Vernon. I love these trivia bits...maybe we can get the correct answer from a reader of one of the hundreds of good biographies out there.
Decent wikipedia page, by the way.
12/18 I'm gettingthis book out and starting it today!
Should this be a discussion on the general tab instead so we can all pitch in?
I think each reader needs to determine what they want to "learn" from the challenge and each president. It may be something different from each guy.
One of the reasons I want to read them in order is to see if there is something that leads me to want to know more about the next guy because of what happened to the guy before him.
I think that this does need to be on the general thread so that everyone is included, I wil copy are comments and post them there.
Drneutron...Imperfect God looks like a great one for my ancillary list. I'm going to try to make the first book for each pres a true bio, but will be keeping a side list and definitely doing some side reading on specific issues. That sounds like a great one.
I think I'm going to start with the one volume Washington: The Indispensible Man by James Flexner. His original work is four volumes and highly acclaimed, and I'd like to read that, but with the 999 challenge going at the same time, I think I'll start with the single volume. Reserve the right to change my mind of course. And I'm waiting to see what others come up with in suggestions.
BOOK TITLE: Patriarch: George Washington and the New American nation
Author: Richard Norton Smith
Read: Dec 18 - Jan 1
WHAT AN AMAZING MAN!
I just finished this superb book! It was kind of hard to start but once the author got on a roll, it was great! There were so many things that I never knew that came out in this book. My review is kind of long (just click on the touchstone and you'll see it) but I wanted to do him justice. I would definitely recommend this book if you want to find out about the startup government and how it survived.
In the Washington book, it did make note that after he retired, he was still overseeing the "Federal City" construction and often took a boat from Alexandria port to the Georgetown port to review progress.
Flexner is a prominent Washington scholar who has also written a 4-volume biography of Washington.
I would definitely recommend this one.
Even though the book is focused on Hamilton, it is filled with information about Washington and Adams and their presidencies. Less information on Jefferson, and almost no information on Jefferson's first term (when Hamilton was still alive).
Quite detailed about the era, and the various "names" of that era. Interesting look at Madison, Jefferson, Aaron Burr, George Clinton, and other big names of the era.
General George Washington: a military life - this was an interesting account focusing on his military/military administrative career and goes back to his role in the French and Indian war before getting into Revolutionary times. I thought it interesting because it suggested he really grew into his own over his military careers, showing real growth.
1776 - who can resist McCullough? Though, I read this after reading Washington's Crossing and thought that 1776 was a little more cramped than McCullough's other writing due to both its brevity and its adherence to just examining this particular year in somewhat of a vacuum, rather than as the continuum of events that led up to and followed. Washington's Crossing was a great read and I found myself wishing there were more of it as I neared the end.
There aren't any quizzes at the end (unless Cheli is going to surprise us?)
I thought 1776 was just right. It had limited aims, and accomplished these with with a deft and picturesque brush. No substitute for a biography of Washington, but as a portrait of a crucial moment in America's founding, a satisfying dish indeed.
The Painter's Chair: George Washington and the Making of American Art by Hugh Howard
The first half or so, before Washington became president, did not hold my interest and it took me forever to slog through it. However, it picked up once Ellis reached Washington's presidency, I thought.
This book did refresh my memory as to many of the key issues of the revolutionary war era and so now I feel more comfortable moving on to John Adams.
Glad that you are getting a chance to get started. Be sure and let us know what you think about this bio.
I enjoyed Randall's book. Listened to it on audiotape. It did a nice job with GW's not-so-spectacular adventure in the French and Indian War, and how it made him one of the very few with military experience in 1775. Advance planning was not a bit part of the Revolution!
But it worked out in the end, depending on your point of view ;-D
That's a great point, because while GW may have showed promise before the opportunity for greatness was thrust upon him, no one could have predicted it from his military past. Perhaps from his bearing, from his personal rectitude, from his leadership skills, etc, but not as a military leader. Rare it is that just the right person was in the right place as the right time.
The other thing I liked about the book was that it actually said what Washington thought about the American Revolution. That is a major theme of the Jefferson books I read -- that Jefferson viewed it as not only a political revolution, but a social one also, doing away with both the class sytem and a strong federal government -- so I thought Ellis's discussion of Washington's views -- which were far more pragmatic than Jefferson's -- was very interesting. I wish McCullough would have gone more into what Adams thought the American Revolution actually meant in his book, like Ellis did in His Excellency.
However, I do want to gently correct what seems to be a perception that MV is a money-maker. It's not. While it takes in money, the balance sheet is precarious, and they are always looking for grants, for volunteers, doing special projects (one year we 'bought' a window so that those apertures could be upgraded/replaced to save heat/humidity, etc.) I'm sorry to hear that it needed cleaning, and you're right--there's no excuse for that unless it was after a major tourist event (the place gets very dirty very fast whenever large crowds traipse thru).
Let's hope they get it cleaned up and keep up the marvelous work. To any of the rest of you, if you've never visited, be sure to go if you get to the DC area. It is well worth the 1/2 hour drive down the Mt Vernon Parkway (in any season one of the most beautiful drives in the country).
ETA: here's a link to Mt Vernon's Homepage Enjoy...
We took the metro from DC and transferred to a bus out to the estate - a relaxing and easy trip that only cost a couple of bucks - and a chance to get some reading done!
I found the same thing.. he really was a dedicated patriot. He wanted on the best, even if it wasn't the best thing for him.
I am almost finished with The World of George Washington by Richard M. Ketchum. It isn't a very good (as in indepth) look at Washington but it had maps and pictures. I just love maps and pictures. :) Ketchum seemed to skim over Washington's life but that is OK with me. I'm not up on my history the way I should be. This book seemed to give me direction and an easy history lesson. I have George Washington:A Life by Willard Sterne Randall waiting in the wings.
I've read and listened to a number of presidential biographies in the past, but won't be counting them since I've decided to start this project like my country anew.
Title: His Excellency : George Washington
Author: Joseph J. Ellis
I'm reading in order and have just finished my first of the three by Joseph J. Ellis which I intend to read. I thought that it was very good, though not quite great.
What I found most interesting was (1) how much unlikeable stuff is actually known about GW; (2) how he really IS the father of our country; (3) and how little I'm liking Jefferson at the moment, looking at him from the perspective given by Ellis. (I've got Ellis' American Sphinx for my Jefferson book, so that should be an interesting juxtaposition.)
The interesting thing about Washington is that it was as if fate put him on a path to play the role that he played.
He inadvertently bumbled into almost single-handedly starting the Seven Years War (the French & Indian War), which is THE event and its aftermath that led to the Revolution. He shows up in uniform -- twice the size of every other man in attendance -- at the Continental Convention and becomes commanding general. Earlier in his life, he had contracted smallpox in the West Indies, so during a smallpox epidemic that claimed perhaps thousands during the war, Washington is immune. He also seems immune to bullets, cold, deprivation, and other disease. He loses almost every battle hut manages to claim victory simply by avoiding losing. Then he does the unthinkable and relinquishes power. Later, when the nascent democracy is struggling, he re-emerges and is the first President, and then he relinquishes power again. He is vain, he is not too bright, he is prideful, he is arrogant in his own way, he is thin-skinned, but yet he is great because at the end of it all he puts his state, his country, his countrymen before him.
There is little to like about Washington when you get to know him, but there is enough to admire that you want to bow to him as he passes you in the historical pantheon of great men.
Washington was a complex character and perhaps the most difficult of the founders to get to know. He was aloof in his life and carried with him a kind of almost impenetrable dignity. There is a story -- I don't know if it is true or not -- about a lawmaker who dared another to simply touch Washington's sleeve. The story has it that the man took up the dare but mostly wilted at the icy glare that he provoked from the great man.
But Washington had many flaws and all of the current historical studies underscore these as well as the elements of his character that we otherwise celebrate.
He was a very vain man, very thin-skinned to real or perceived rebuke and he was highly ambitious for wealth, power and prestige. It has been suggested by more than one biographer that had the British granted him the military commission in the English army that he most coveted, the course of the Revolution might have been very different. (The same argument has been made about Franklin, who was denied the position of chief postmaster he so wanted.)
Of course, without Washington it is dubious that the American Revolution or the foundation of the new government would have followed the courses they did.
Any way you look ai it, we who enjoy the fruits of their labors are very lucky people .
Next up is Patricia Brady's biography of Martha Washington. I'll post in the First Ladies thread when I'm done with that one.
Founding Father: Rediscovering George Washington - Richard Brookhiser
I read this probably about 5 years ago, I checked it out of the library. Good book, enjoyed it a lot. Also liked Brookhiser's "Alexander Hamilton: American" which I read around the same time.
The American Presidents Series has a George Washington bio written by James MacGregor Burns and Susan Dunn. It's a good overview, but leans a little toward worship.
Forrest MacDonald's The Presidency of George Washington is an outstanding academic look at Washington's Presidency which casts the man as a conduit for the ambitions of Jefferson and Hamilton. It looks at some of the political criticism he received, and how it really got to him. The book is 186 pages, and is part of the Kansas University series on JUST the presidencies, although some biographical info is given as background. As someone who just finished student teaching US History in HS, I really have enjoyed the series, although a couple of the books have been stinkers. There's a lot to be said for a cogent writing style. Ellis is good at that.
Another detraction I had, while not saying the books was compromised or saying anything truly negative about Ellis, I believe his own personal bias/feelings/politics/views may have crept into the book, causing Washington to get a little lost along the way. I'm reading American Sphinx for Thomas Jefferson, so I'm hoping I don't get the same feeling there as well.
When I picked up this book, I didn't know whether to expect a paean to an American demigod or an expose on the shortcomings of the rich and famous. Mr. Randall did a good job of keeping the middle ground. I really got a good impression of Washington as a human being, not just some guy who sprung from the Earth full grown in military uniform and spent all his time chopping down cherry trees and posing for paintings.
My first reaction to the book, as Mr. Randall started recounting George Washington's ancestry, was "Gee, maybe I should have started with some British or colonial history." Of course, following that road would just keep sending me back further and further back to the history of ancient Egypt. So I stuck to my guns and let Mr. Randall guide me through Washington's ancestry and life. Since I was never much interested in the colonial era, it was a voyage of discovery for me. Washington was presented as a real man, doing things like learning a trade, struggling with financial matters and dancing with the ladies. And despite his presented shortcomings, Washington also came across as a noble man. I think I would vote for him without hesitation. Not something I often do. Regarding the milieu of his life, I also enjoyed learning more about the history of the mideastern states. I was a bit surprised, having my preconceptions shattered as I read of the vast wilderness of western Virginia and the Ohio Valley. It blew my mind to think that Washington saw the site of Pittsburgh--always a big industrial city in my mind--back when it was simply a river junction out in the woods.
But as much as reading George Washington: A Life was a voyage of discovery, it also was a voyage of contemplation. As I was reading about Washington's life and times and the birth of my country, my thoughts were pulled to consider how they compared with our world today. I already alluded to the point that Washington comes across as far more noble than today's politicians. (And there is no doubt that Washington, too, was a politician.) It was also surprising that modern America seemed a lot more like the Great Britain of that era than its nascent self.
All in all, I found George Washington: A Life to be quite enjoyable and informative. Mr. Randall does an excellent job of cataloguing Washington's life, though the material on his military career during the Revolution and the French and Indian War is slightly more predominate. The only drawback from my perspective is that he didn't give a full account of the events happening outside of Washington's direct experience. But it isn't a general history book, after all. Besides, I'll be getting more of that as I read the biographies of Adams, Jefferson and the rest. I'll probably be sick of the Revolution by the time I get to Madison. Anyway, if I ever attempt to amass a collection of U.S. history books, I'll be sure to put George Washington: A Life on my shelf.
(1) Two diary entries for Oct 24, 1774, while each author was serving as a delegate to the Continental Congress:
George Washington: Dined with Mr. Mease & Spent the Evening at the New Tavern.
John Adams: In Congress, nibbling and and quibbling, as usual.
There is no greater mortification than to sit with half a dozen Witts, deliberating upon a Petition, Address, or Memorial. These great Witts, these subtle Criticks, these refined Genius's, these learned Lawyers, these wise Statesmen, are so fond of shewing their Parts and Powers, as to make their Consultations very tedius.
Young Ned Rutledge is a perfect Bob o' 'Lincoln - a Swallow - a Sparrow - a Peacock - excessively vain, excessively weak, and excessively variable and unsteady - jejune, inane, and puerile.
Mr. Dickinson is very modest, delicate, and timid.
(2) re: Washington's physical condition: The mar to his beauty was his terrible teeth, which were replaced by unsuccessful transplant surgery and by dentures made from ivory and from teeth pulled from the mouths of his slaves. I've reached a new level of disgust for slaveowners, something I didn't think possible.
Garp, I forgot to report on the "Founding Brothers". I liked it but I thought that more might have been made of the inter-personal relationships they all had with each other. Perhaps I read it too lightly but I don't remember much discussion of how some of them grew to detest each other because of their differences in political belief - except perhaps the Adams/Jefferson thing that got reversed when they became old men. It's always interesting to find out who felt strongly about what and when. Some biographers miss that bit out in their efforts to present "their guy" from the base of their own personal feelings. "In The Name Of The Father" by Francois Furstenberg tried to do something like that but I found the book really hard going.
2. Owned up: "I cannot tell a lie."
3. Crossed the Delaware
4. Isn't he the guy on the dollar bill?
Mason Weems wrote the first biography about Washington that looked at the personal instead of the purely professional side of the man. It's a collection of intimate vignettes, especially those concerning Washington's childhood. Stories like the chopping down of the cherry tree, and planting seeds in the form of his name with his father as a demonstration of God's design in the universe come from that book. Unfortunately, Weems made them up, since very little is known about Washington's education or his father. (As paraphrased from Founding Father page 6)
Of course, that means that the only thing I knew about Washington - the cherry tree story - is false... Ah well, guess I've got a lot to learn in reading this book!
For George Washington I read His Excellency, George Washington by Joseph Ellis
Also read Founding Gardners by Andrea Wulf
This was a book about Washington, Adams and Jefferson and how they were really farmers at heart and how they handled their estates while leading the country.
After I finished the book, I looked at the back cover where he wrote,
"George Washington is the best-documented figure in the entire eighteenth century. But he remains remote and mysterious. He puzzled those who knew and worked with him, and who often disagreed violently about his merits and abilities. He puzzles us. No man's mind is so hard to enter and swell within. Everyone agreed, and agreees, he was a paragon. But a rich or empty one? A titan of flesh and blood or a clockwork figure programmed to do wisely? Let us inquire." (emphasis added)
Johnson established a difficult task for himself in such a short work, and he didn't accomplish it. He didn't even begin to answer the questions he asked as, purportedly, the purpose of the book. I give it 3 stars.
Washington is a fascinating character in that he lived a kind of Forrest Gump or Barry Lyndon existence much of the time in that his presence provoked major events around him that he later came to dominate. Washington's Virginia militia's attack on the French while they were eating dinner was one of the key powder-kegs to ignite the French and Indian War, which nearly bankrupted Britain and led it to seek new revenues from its American colonies after the war, which sparked the American Revolution and the birth of the new nation, both of which saw Washington as the most consequential figure.
Bizarre but true ...
In the course of his lecture, Ellis raised the "what if" question -- what if Washington had been killed or captured on Long Island early in the war? Apparently -- and I had never heard this before -- the question was once asked of John Adams, who claimed that the war would not have been lost, that they would have replaced Washington and gone forward. I wonder about that. In the Q & A that followed the lecture, I asked Ellis his opinion on that. I argued that Washington the general was potentially replaceable (he wasn't really a very good general, after all!) but that Washington the unifying figure for the embryonic republic was irreplaceable, citing Flexner's assertion that he was "the indispensable man." Ellis seemed to agree, noting that if Washington wasn't irreplaceable, he was as close as you could get in to a figure that was irreplaceable.
I found the topic quite stimulating. To my mind, Washington was the only one of the Founders who truly was irreplaceable. I bring it to this thread to see if any of the rest of you had thoughts to add to this subject.
Yes, have already read a book about Washington, but most of my reading is target of opportunity, and as someone bought me the book for my birthday in July, I read it.
Very good complete biography of Washington. Chernow's goal in writing this book was to be able to understand who George Washington was, not just recite his deeds. He wanted to try and discover how he thought and what kind of man he really was, not just the fictionalized myth from the history books. I enjoyed this book a lot.
Since I don't start teaching American History until post Civil War--I am enjoying learning about some of earlier presidents. Here a just a few things I found interesting that will stick with me:
Washington was anti-foreign policy, meaning that he did not believe in any type of entanglements at all. He believed each country was unique and had their own set of special circumstances and should not compare themselves with others.
Washington was also very anti political parties. He refused to join either the Federalists or Democratic-Republicans. In fact, he said a 2 party system would be the ruination of the republic, a sentiment also shared by Franklin. He wrote letters to both Adams and Jefferson, political foes, asking them to end their feud for the good of the country.
Washington supported a revision of the Articles of Confederation--he was unsure that they needed to be trashed and a new document needed to be written (constitution). He was opposed to the bickering that was going on over this debate and outright stated in a letter to John Jay that he did not feel that the motives for writing a new document were purely for the good of the country, but perhaps more nefarious.
George and Martha liked to attend dances/parties/balls. George loved to dance. He was also critical in his diary entries of what he considered to be poor food at these events. He called one such ball "Bread and butter" ball as that was the only fit thing to eat.
Since I've already read John Adams previously I'm off to find something on Jefferson.