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His Excellency: George Washington

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

8 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

Only the Best for th Best

'His Excellency' is a biography that allows the reader to visualize the life of George Washington as if they were experiencing his life right beside him. There isn't a better time than now to read about how our Presidency was shaped. This should be a recommended read fo...
'His Excellency' is a biography that allows the reader to visualize the life of George Washington as if they were experiencing his life right beside him. There isn't a better time than now to read about how our Presidency was shaped. This should be a recommended read for all who are running as well as the everyday American who wonders about the current political struggles.

posted by Anonymous on February 11, 2008

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Most Helpful Critical Review

3 out of 16 people found this review helpful.

Insightful, but was it truly truthful?

I've read this book by Joseph Ellis with the intent to learn more about our Founding Fathers and what they believed in to make the United States such a great country. To start, 'His Excellency' was a complete let-down to me. I don't like sounding like a Christian, but h...
I've read this book by Joseph Ellis with the intent to learn more about our Founding Fathers and what they believed in to make the United States such a great country. To start, 'His Excellency' was a complete let-down to me. I don't like sounding like a Christian, but historical documents prove that George Washington was a devout Christian and based the belief of God on everything he did from the time he lived on Mount Vernon till the moment he first saw blood. I am somewhat disgusted at how Ellis portrayed Washington in this 'biography'. He referred to him as a 'prideful man/slave-owner/blood-thirsty brigand' and other things. But what bewildered me was the little given information on Washington's religious background. The only time I saw mention on this topic was when, 'when Washington prayed, he stood up and was never seen bowing his head.' Thats it. The overall biography was insightful, but I have to remain skeptical at its validity. In post-modern America, biased people, and, to no offense, liberals and atheists, tend to swath American history with made-up lies and to tell incorrectly what made our founding fathers, and any given key character in our nations history, persist to act upon what they truly and spiritually believed. I find this book lacking in the latter. If you are looking for a more foundational approach on the life/or lives of our Founding Fathers, I recommend David McCullough's books on American Biographies. He, I find it more evident, strikes the truth more accurately than Ellis.

posted by Anonymous on January 21, 2007

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 11, 2008

    Only the Best for th Best

    'His Excellency' is a biography that allows the reader to visualize the life of George Washington as if they were experiencing his life right beside him. There isn't a better time than now to read about how our Presidency was shaped. This should be a recommended read for all who are running as well as the everyday American who wonders about the current political struggles.

    8 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 13, 2008

    Washington & Religion

    One reviewer lambasted Mr. Ellis¿ work because ¿historical documents prove that George Washington was a devout Christian and based the belief of God on everything he did.¿ Historical documents prove no such thing. And wishing doesn¿t make it so. Washington gives us little in his writings to indicate his personal religious beliefs and asserted no beliefs in any specific traditional religious dogma. His own writings never refer to Jesus Christ. Franklin Steiner in The Religious Beliefs Of Our Presidents '1936'¿highly recommended¿states that Washington commented on sermons only twice, joking that he had enjoyed a German Reformed service because he hadn¿t understood a single word. Washington was certainly not anti-religious and indeed spoke out against religious intolerance, banning in 1775 a Protestant celebration called Pope's Day 'mocking of the Catholic leader' by the Continental Army. In the Revolutionary War, Washington supported troops selecting their own chaplains. He reportedly did not take communion, though his wife did, and supported no particular theology, while complimenting all sorts of religious groups. He attended church irregularly but did attend and praise Quaker, German Reformed, and Roman Catholic services. In securing workmen in 1784 at Mount Vernon, Washington said he would welcome ¿Mohometans, Jews or Christians of any Sect, or they may be Atheists.¿ Washington rejected the notion that there should be any narrow religious test for officeholders, and he never advocated the superiority of one religious sect over another. In Washington's replies to messages from Jews and Swedenborgians, he demonstrates not a mere tolerance for those who had not chosen the ¿correct path,¿ but an endorsement of what Jefferson later called the 'wall of separation between church and state.¿ It might be best to read Washington¿s own words: ¿To the General Committee Representing the United Baptist Churches of Virginia¿ and ¿To the Hebrew Congregation of Savannah, May, 1790.' Some of the inaccuracies about Washington¿s religious piety come from the famously silly fabrications in The Life of Washington, 1800, by Mason Locke `Parson¿ Weems, the source of the invented tale about the cherry tree. Many writers have tried to project their own biases and agendas onto Washington's image. Perhaps this is where we get such phrases as ¿historical documents prove¿ without the understanding that ¿historical documents¿ need to be questioned for credibility and are indeed subject to scholarly review. If some of us want to believe in that the earth is flat, that the founders made this an exclusively Christian Nation, that the world is suspended on a stack of turtles, that due process is ¿quaint,¿ or that recognition of universal human rights did not have the historical context of the Enlightenment, we should just say so. But don¿t claim things that are not true. And don¿t criticize good scholarship simply because it¿s not bad scholarship. Which brings us back to Ellis¿ work. It is well researched, well written¿enjoyably so for this reader¿and provides valuable scholarship.

    7 out of 19 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 3, 2006

    The man behind the monument

    This is an interesting insight into the life of one of the most important figures in American history. The book attempts to show you the human side of the myth and monument that is Washington to modern America. He is shown not as the perfect, honest, legend but as the human man trying to make a name for himself in his early adulthood. The mistakes of his life are laid out before you and the lessons he learned from them. How his great judgment lead history to select him for the roles he would play as the Commander in Chief for the Continental Army, Chair of the Constitutional convention, and ultimately First President. Each time he reluctantly at first, then with an enthusiastic sense of fate, returned to public life, all the time yearning to return to his beloved Mount Vernon. The Washington monument does represent a human being and here he is. There is not a lot of military information in the book which I like it is more an insight into the man and his thinking processes as a biography should be. The book is recommended if you have an interest in learning about Washington and the founding of the nation but the language can be a bit tangled and high brow at times. I found myself more than once wishing I had a dictionary handy.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 21, 2007

    Insightful, but was it truly truthful?

    I've read this book by Joseph Ellis with the intent to learn more about our Founding Fathers and what they believed in to make the United States such a great country. To start, 'His Excellency' was a complete let-down to me. I don't like sounding like a Christian, but historical documents prove that George Washington was a devout Christian and based the belief of God on everything he did from the time he lived on Mount Vernon till the moment he first saw blood. I am somewhat disgusted at how Ellis portrayed Washington in this 'biography'. He referred to him as a 'prideful man/slave-owner/blood-thirsty brigand' and other things. But what bewildered me was the little given information on Washington's religious background. The only time I saw mention on this topic was when, 'when Washington prayed, he stood up and was never seen bowing his head.' Thats it. The overall biography was insightful, but I have to remain skeptical at its validity. In post-modern America, biased people, and, to no offense, liberals and atheists, tend to swath American history with made-up lies and to tell incorrectly what made our founding fathers, and any given key character in our nations history, persist to act upon what they truly and spiritually believed. I find this book lacking in the latter. If you are looking for a more foundational approach on the life/or lives of our Founding Fathers, I recommend David McCullough's books on American Biographies. He, I find it more evident, strikes the truth more accurately than Ellis.

    3 out of 16 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 20, 2012

    Great read

    Very well written book. It was very enjoyable.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2011

    Recommend it to all my friends..

    This book is a great read. Not only is it an in depth picture of our first President, but it is an entertaining read, which can not be said about most historical non-fiction books. I recommend this book to anyone interested in history.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 22, 2011

    An excellent biography

    I just finished reading this last night and am thrilled with it. I have read many biographies on Washington and am in fact a collector of his portraits, etc. This is the best yet! Here is Washington as he was, not, perhaps, how we might wish him to be. (Hear that, the reviewer who criticized Ellis for not showing a more fervently Christian side of Washington.) Through it all, I remain a staunch Washington supporter and in awe of all he was able to accomplish. His ability and willingness (and, more than once, sheer luck) to persevere despite odds stacked high against him is mind-boggling. No, he wasn't a perfect man, but he said what he meant and did what he said. Whether you agree with all his actions or not, his personal integrity is rock solid - a model that will continue to serve for future generations.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 21, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    A superb insight into the Father of Our Country.

    Joseph Ellis wrote an excellent book that will give you a superb insight into the Father of Our Country. There can only be one man to fit those shoes and George Washington is that man. Mr. Ellis enlightens the story of Washington in an engaging, easily understanding way, that non-historians will appreciate. He doesn't get bogged down in trivial details, but gives the reader amble details to get a thorough understanding of George Washington.

    In his book you will learn a great deal about Washington; his greatness and how he had to overcome so many criticisms and failures to become the sole beacon for the fledging United States. Ellis lets you know that Washington was not perfect by any means. In fact he wasn't a great general. But, what he did have was persistence, courage and the ability to take advice from his staff of officers and even the French. Highly recommend.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 25, 2008

    An Enjoyable Read

    As much as I admire Mr. Ellis' knowledge and love hearing him speak, his writing style is not the most compelling. That said, this is a very worthwhile book and it is certainly worth anyone's time to learn more about General Washington. Buy it, read it, enjoy it, just don't expect the world.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 9, 2005

    A Great Extened Essay, But Not a Narrative

    I recommend Ellis's book, though feel it is important to understand that this is less of an account of Washington's life and more of 1) a rexamination of other biogrophies 2) a correcting of false but popular myths 3) and an effective presentation of Ellis's own interpretation of Washington's Actions and Motives. While I enjoyed this book, and went through it rather quickly, I was disopointed in a few respects. Firstly, although I had read Ellis before (being aware of his essayist style), I was still expecting a fuller presentation of the facts of Washington's life, in the narrative style of David McCullough (An admittedly unfair expectation on my part). This is less of an Authoritative Biography in that, as a previous reviewer has indicated, it leavs out much detail and breezes through the parts of the Founder's life with which Ellis does not choose to make a point. I also was disapointed that Ellis used this biography to make comparisons to future, and even current events--drawing his own political conclusions instead of allowing the reader to make their own conclusions based on the facts in full. There is much to praise in this book, it excells in scholarship and review. It gives insightful interpretation and is well worth reading. But this is not a detailed narrative biography which covers all the events of Washington's life.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 23, 2014

    Ellis is a superb biographer. An excellent, concise analysis of

    Ellis is a superb biographer. An excellent, concise analysis of one of America's most important founding fathers.

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  • Posted September 26, 2014

    Reads like a textbook

    While the author has a great deal of information, it is not written smoothly. I got the impression the author had all this information he dumped on his dek, put in chronological order, then tried to figure out how to string it together.

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  • Posted December 15, 2013

    Enlightening

    Most everyone knows the historical George Washington but this book goes deeper. Washington though doesn't cooperate. He saw himself as a man for posterity so he and his wife took grain care to hide their real selves from the world. However, that Washington comes across as a self centered control freak is as bold as the light of day. He calculated and made moves throughout his life to enhance his stature and create a demi deity persona. Yet even he was not immune to the poison pens of the day. Washington saw himself first as a military hero, a Virginian of the planter class and a political leader last. His foresight and strength as a political leader helped hold the country together during the transition from the Articles of Confederation to the US Constitution. He saw first hand that a weak federal government was unworkable. Those who supported it wanted all the benefits yet didn't share in the support. His continental army was ill fed, ill equipped and mostly unpaid because the states failed to do their part. Only unification through a strong Federal government could keep out European powers from playing the divide and conquer game. Also, of interest to me was his foresight in the future of American lay not in the 13 colonies but in westward expansion.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 16, 2013

    Not Ellis's best, but still a strong biography. The book convey

    Not Ellis's best, but still a strong biography. The book conveys numerous aspects of our first president, but he still comes off as a bit stiff.

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  • Posted September 13, 2013

    Things I didn't know about George Washington

    A very enlightening read to say the least. Ellis' approach to writing is excellent as he sets out at the beginning what he hopes to accomplish in the book. He also researched the book and lets the reader know what is fact and what is supposition. This is the first Ellis book that I've read as I've relied on other notable historians to fill me in on the history of our country, but it will not be my last as he scribes an easily readable look at history.

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  • Posted August 22, 2013

    I Also Recommend:

    Excellent overview of our first president!

    Dr. Ellis is one of the best historians I have read. He combines factual and anecdotal information to present the life of General Washington in a clear, succinct and entertaining way. I have read most of his books and have thoroughly enjoyed every one. This book is a "must read" for both the history novice as well the devout scholar.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 3, 2012

    What a intresting man :abraham lincoln!

    If you was abraham lincoln you would be 3things like:intrested,smart,and defently proud. Like in1763 he went to a mind and found gold in the mind then his friends help him carry the gold back home but some thiefs took it and they threw the pacth of gold into the river. So when he went back home for dinner her wife was sad people took all the heavy gold because that family was poor and they had to work for money and all they get is $1 a day and that's is half of what I lean in the story

    0 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 14, 2011

    His Excellency is the Man!!

    A fantastic example of what we should all aspire to be like.

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  • Posted June 4, 2011

    Best of Ellis' works

    Although pretty much anything this US Historian writes is gold, this work of our greatest President is a great read. Without the need to write 1000 page works of history, Ellis again proves why he is Gordon Wood are the best at what they do.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 25, 2010

    Awesome

    Joseph J. Ellis presents the "foundingest father of them all" in a way that we can understand and almost relate to him .
    Instead of holding Washington to the litmus tests of todays political correctness Ellis shows a man living in his time who rose to the occaion and helped forge the most unique republic in history.

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