From the Publisher
“Sensing that such biographers as James Flexner and Joseph Ellis have accepted the above-politics thesis, Ferling inspects the evidence of Washington's political activities…while illustrating the substance behind Washington's image as the indispensable man, Ferling pointedly grounds that image in the political soil from which it sprang.” Booklist
“Ferling has done his research and offers some new insights…recommended for readers interested in taking a fresh look at Washington's political life” Library Journal
“Never questioning Washington's greatness, Ferling insists that seeing him as an artful self-promoter and master politician only enhances his reputation as an adept leader who knew exactly what he was doing…a fresh take on a monumental American.” Kirkus
“Once in a while a book comes along to remind us that history has no gods, that the past is less fossil than textbooks suggest and America more vibrant than a mere list of principles. John Ferling's Ascent of George Washington is just such a book: a fresh, clear-eyed portrait of the full-blooded political animal that was George Washington…In John Ferling's eminently readable, landmark interpretation, we cannot help but marvel at the man.” Marie Arana, Washington Post
Ferling (history, emeritus, Univ. of West Georgia; Almost a Miracle) attempts to shed new light on the myth that George Washington was above partisan politics, instead showing that Washington was not only very partisan but probably one of America's best politicians. In fact, Ferling argues, he was so skilled at portraying himself as the impartial "father of the country" that most historians have overlooked his political savvy. Ferling seeks to remedy the situation with this "political biography." He traces Washington's evolution from a self-serving and insecure young man driven by a quest for recognition and wealth into a seasoned political veteran who could maneuver, cajole, and cut backroom deals as adroitly as any modern politician. One example is his handling of the Hamilton-Jefferson battles over the country's economic structure. Although Washington showed sympathy toward both sides and urged conciliation, it becomes clear by studying his behavior and writings at the time that he supported Hamilton's vision of a strong central government. Ferling has done his research and offers some new insights, but ultimately most of the history he presents is familiar. Recommended for readers interested in taking a fresh look at Washington's political life.
Historian Ferling (Almost a Miracle: The American Victory in the War of Independence, 2007, etc.) unveils the canny politician behind America's first president. In a revisionist view, the author argues that Washington, generally thought of as a selfless Olympian figure who was above politics, was actually "a master of political infighting . . . one of the very best politicians in American history." Reminding readers of the president's godlike status at his death in 1799-people wore black armbands for 30 days-Ferling examines the career of this soldier, legislator and president, finding him burned with ambition for renown and success from an early age. Born with a meager inheritance and determined to enter the planter aristocracy, Washington kowtowed to the rich and powerful for a chance at winning glory as commander of Virginia's army in the French and Indian War, laying the groundwork for his postwar political ambitions. After 16 years in Virginia's House of Burgesses, where he cultivated other assemblyman as supporters, he took command of the Continental Army at no salary, burnishing his reputation as a self-denying warrior and emerging after the War for Independence as America's most powerful man. Ferling's bright narrative offers considerable evidence of Washington's savvy politicking in these later years. He sought a canal linking the Atlantic to the Ohio country that would cause his own lands to soar in value; after 1783 he twice declined to hold public office, knowing full well that the nation would demand that he leave the quiet of Mount Vernon to assume the presidency; as president he argued for locating the nation's capital in an area where he owned property. Never questioningWashington's greatness, Ferling insists that seeing him as an artful self-promoter and master politician only enhances his reputation as an adept leader who knew exactly what he was doing. In fact, writes the author, Washington "was so good at politics that he alone of all of America's public officials in the past two centuries succeeded in convincing others that he was not a politician."A fresh take on a monumental American.