The Final Years and Forgotten Struggle
Popular historian and former White House speechwriter Jonathan Horn “provides a captivating and enlightening look at George Washington’s post-presidential life and the politically divided country that was part of his legacy” (New York Journal of Books).
Beginning where most biographies of George Washington leave off, Washington’s End opens with the first president exiting office after eight years and entering what would become the most bewildering stage of his life. Embittered by partisan criticism and eager to return to his farm, Washington assumed a role for which there was no precedent at a time when the kings across the ocean yielded their crowns only upon losing their heads. In a different sense, Washington would lose his head, too.
In this riveting read, bestselling author Jonathan Horn reveals that the quest to surrender power proved more difficult than Washington imagined and brought his life to an end he never expected. The statesman who had staked his legacy on withdrawing from public life would feud with his successors and find himself drawn back into military command. The patriarch who had dedicated his life to uniting his country would leave his name to a new capital city destined to become synonymous with political divisions.
A “movable feast of a book” (Jay Winik, New York Times bestselling author of 1944), immaculately researched, and powerfully told through the eyes not only of Washington but also of his family members, friends, and foes, Washington’s End is “an outstanding biographical work on one of America’s most prominent leaders (Library Journal).
Horn (The Man Who Would Not Be Washington), a former speechwriter for George W. Bush, chronicles George Washington's post-presidency years in this insightful if somewhat meandering biography. Beginning with the March 1797 transfer of power between Washington and his successor, John Adams, Horn follows the ex-president home to his Mount Vernon estate, where he planned to occupy himself with, in his words, "rural amusements," but instead was drawn into political squabbles between Republicans and Federalists and rising tensions between the U.S. and France. Asked by Adams to resume command of the armed forces in preparation for a French invasion that never happened, Washington agreed so long as he could select his own general staff. His decision to install Alexander Hamilton as his second-in-command infuriated Adams and led to a string of disputes between the current and former presidents that lasted until Washington's death in 1799. Quoting extensively from diaries, letters, newspaper accounts, and memoirs, Horn presents an intimate portrait of Washington's relationships with his wife, Martha; his nieces and nephews; his friend and rumored romantic interest, Sally Fairfax; and his political rivals and supporters. Though general interest readers may be disappointed by the book's lack of drama, presidential history buffs curious about this neglected chapter of Washington's life will savor this immersive account.