George Washington is by far the most important figure in the history of the United States. Against all military odds, he liberated the thirteen colonies from the superior forces of the British Empire and presided over the process to produce and ratify a Constitution that (suitably amended) has lasted for more than two hundred years. In two terms as president, he set that Constitution to work with such success that, by the time he finally retired, America was well on its way to becoming the richest and most powerful nation on earth.
Despite his importance, Washington remains today a distant figure to many Americans. Previous books about him are immensely long, multivolume, and complicated. Paul Johnson has now produced a brief life that presents a vivid portrait of the great man as young warrior, masterly commander-in-chief, patient Constitution maker, and exceptionally wise president. He also shows Washington as a farmer of unusual skill and an entrepreneur of foresight, patriarch of an extended family, and proprietor of one of the most beautiful homes in America, which he largely built and adorned.
Trenchant and original as ever, Johnson has given us a brilliant, sharply etched portrait of this iconic figureboth as a hero and as a man.
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From Publishers Weekly
In this masterful addition to the Eminent Lives series, acclaimed historian Johnson (A History of the Jews; Art: A New History) concisely yet vividly portrays the life and legacy of our first president. Johnson traces Washington's life from his early manhood as a surveyor falling in love with the uncharted territory west of Virginia to his later, cunning military exploits. More than anything, according to Johnson, Washington loved property and sought to expand the boundaries not only of the colonies but also of his own land holdings. Washington's skills as a surveyor and a manager established him as a military leader in the French and Indian Wars and the Revolution, and helped him establish a strong executive office and an enduring constitution for the new republic. Johnson points out that Washington's deep moral conviction about the rightness of the war helped him to defeat King George III, who lacked any moral passion about the lands he was supposed to protect. While books like Joseph Ellis's His Excellency offer more detail, Johnson captures the key images of Washington's life and work in this sharply focused snapshot. (June 2)
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