This “perceptive” and “satisfying” biography of George Washington by an award-winning historian “deserves a place on every American’s bookshelf” (The New York Times Book Review).
James Thomas Flexner’s masterful four-volume biography of America’s first president, which received a special Pulitzer Prize citation and a National Book Award for its concluding installment, is the definitive chronicle of Washington’s life and a classic work of American history. In this single-volume edition, Flexner brilliantly distills his sweeping study to offer readers “the most convincing evocation of the man and his deeds written within the compass of one book” (Los Angeles Times).
In graceful and dramatic prose, Flexner peels back the myths surrounding Washington to reveal the true complexity of his character. The only founding father from Virginia to free all his slaves, Washington was a faithful husband who harbored deep romantic feelings for his best friend’s wife. An amateur soldier, he prepared for his role as commander in chief of the Continental army by sending out to Philadelphia bookshops for treatises on military strategy. As president, he set many democratic precedents—including the two-term limit and the appointment of an advisory cabinet—yet routinely excluded his vice president, John Adams, from important decisions.
The George Washington that emerges in these pages is a shrewd statesman, a wise commander, a brave patriot, and above all, “an ordinary man pushed to greatness by the extraordinary times in which he lived” (The Christian Science Monitor). In tracing Washington’s evolution from privileged son of the landed gentry to “the indispensable man” without whom the United States as we know it would not exist, Flexner presents a hero worthy of admiration not only for his remarkable strengths, but also for his all-too-human weaknesses.
Originally published two years before America s bicentennial, this substantially illustrated biography (an abridged version of the late author s National Book Award winning four-volume account of George Washington s life) tracks the multitalented man from his humble beginnings as a surveyor through his role as a founding father to the newly created presidency, and beyond. Flexner deftly rescue Washington from the grip of mythologies that showed him as merely a truth-telling tree-cutter or a procession of mirrors reflecting people s political attitudes, and situates him as a fallible human being made of flesh and blood and spirit. Flexner shows him to be a man both burdened and blessed by his innate inability to separate theory from practice, a condition of his character that coaxed him to posthumously free all his slaves. With casual readers in mind, the author addresses crucial historical events, revolutionary personalities, key battles, and pressing political issues (while elucidating their contemporary contexts) in consistently crisp and lively language. Featuring numerous portraits, maps, facsimiles, and transcripts (e.g., of Washington s farewell address), this gorgeous volume solidifies the multitude of living ghosts that make up Washington in the popular mind. Illus.