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Founding Father : Rediscovering G. Washington

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Modern opinion regards George Washington as a nonentity, a political figurehead of no real importance to the founding of the country. The stories of his early life and character popularized by Parson Weems--the little boy who could not tell a lie--are discounted as naive exaggerations suited to a time when Americans still thought our leaders should be better than the rest of us. His formal bearing and aloofness seem off-putting to an age that asks its leaders to experience ...
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Overview

Modern opinion regards George Washington as a nonentity, a political figurehead of no real importance to the founding of the country. The stories of his early life and character popularized by Parson Weems--the little boy who could not tell a lie--are discounted as naive exaggerations suited to a time when Americans still thought our leaders should be better than the rest of us. His formal bearing and aloofness seem off-putting to an age that asks its leaders to experience "compassion" and to "feel our pain."

It is hard for modern readers to appreciate the reverence and awe with which Americans viewed Washington 100 years ago, and still harder to believe that this literally boundless admiration could have really been deserved. Now Richard Brookhiser, his generation's premier essayist and political writer, goes in search of the real George Washington. What he discovers, under layers of both 19th century piety and 20th century cynicism, is a figure who can still evoke our deepest admiration.

Far from a one-dimensional figurehead who pales beside his brilliant contemporaries Jefferson, Madison, and Adams, Washington emerges from this against-the-grain revisionist biography as a complex, highly intelligent, and audacious individual. Brookhiser surveys Washington's astonishing career as a soldier, founder, and statesman--a quarter century of leadership in battle, constitution-making, and politics that remains unmatched by any modern leader; he next examines Washington's education, character, and interest in ideas; and finally he explores what fatherhood meant to the childless, slave-owning aristocrat who was called in his own lifetime the father of his country.

At a time when paternity, self-government, and the very idea of greatness are ignored or misunderstood, Founding Father recovers a figure who embodied all three--and challenges us to live up to the high standards that our founding father set for his political children.

Brookhiser recaptures the real George Washington in this against-the-grain biographical study that chronicles a remarkable quarter-century career in public life--a record of achievements that is virtually unmatched by any modern leader. Brookhiser recounts Washington's heroic deeds as general and president, his temperament and training, and reflects upon his legacy.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A slaveowner who had no children of his own, George Washington, the "father of our country,'' parented wife Martha's two children and treated his staff during the Revolutionary War as "surrogate children,'' according to Brookhiser. George seems to have had weak emotional ties to his own father, Augustine Washington, who died when his son was 11. Despite having the equivalent of a grade-school education, the first president, an avid theatergoer, read widely in politics and current affairs. His destiny as the nation's leader filled him with anxiety, and his aristocratic civility held in check a dangerous temper. Although this Founding Father, a rich plantation owner, hoped slavery would end, he acquiesced to the status quo and refused to sell any of his slaves over the last 20 years of his life. Born an Anglican, Washington, who joined the Freemasons in his early '20s, believed in the providential workings of a God who is an active agent. In this incisive biographical study, National Review senior editor Brookhiser (The Way of the WASP) assembles revealing personal details to help reconcile the public persona with the private man. (Feb.)
Library Journal
Contradicting the recent trend that denigrates Washington, Brookhiser, senior editor at the National Review and author of The Way of the WASP
Mary Carroll
National Review senior editor Brookhiser seeks to restore knowledge of and reverence for George Washington, who is today (the author's introduction asserts) "in our textbooks and our wallets, but not our hearts." Concepts like character, heroism, and fatherhood are also subject to rehabilitation here in what Brookhiser calls "a moral biography in the tradition of Plutarch of Washington as founder and father of his country." Brookhiser first analyzes Washington's performance as Revolutionary War general, in the move from Articles of Confederation to Constitution, and in domestic and foreign policy crises of his presidential years; then he examines Washington's "nature, his morals, and his ideas" ; and finally considers the details of Washington's political "fatherhood" and its consequences, suggesting that "the deepest source of our distance from him" may be "the resentment and puzzlement that come from being let go" by our fathers once we become adults. A Brookhiser article on Washington was a recent cover story for The Atlantic, so publication of his book-length study will likely generate requests.
From Barnes & Noble
Searching out the real George Washington, a premier essayist and political writer discovers, buried under layers of both 19th-century piety and 20th-century cynicism, a towering figure who can still evoke our respect and our deepest admiration. Brookhiser surveys Washington's astonishing career as a soldier, founder, and statesman, his education, character, and belief in ideas -- a legacy worth reflecting upon in our own times.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780684822914
  • Publisher: Free Press
  • Publication date: 2/22/1996
  • Pages: 230
  • Product dimensions: 6.44 (w) x 9.58 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
Introduction 1
Career
War 17
Constitution 47
President 75
Character
Nature 107
Morals 121
Ideas 137
Founding Father
Fathers 159
Patriarchs and Masters 169
Father of His Country 185
Death 195
Notes 201
Index 217
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2003

    Outstanding

    This is one of the best books on Washington or any founder I have read and I have read many. There is so much to this man that we as Americans dont know. He made this point in his book, and we overlook him today. "He's in our books, in our wallets, but not in our hearts" I think this is sadly true and I hope as Plutarch affected the founding generation that everyone young and old in the nation will read it and realize the greatness and humility our founders were. Also, one commenter quoted the book as saying " he has wooden teeth" The author never said "wooden" he said "false" which is true. Good work Mr. Brookhiser.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 18, 2000

    This is a awesome book

    This book has to deal with a different side of George Washington we never seen before. The other customer critic gave a bad comment on this book.Read this book if you want to know the real George Washington.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 30, 2000

    wooden teeth?

    A well written book. This is my second time around reading it. Maybe I read it wrong but in the introduction, page 5, ('we do know he had wooden teeth'). I don't think so! I thought it was a well know fact that he DIDN'T have wooden teeth!!

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