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Patriarch: George Washington and the New American Nation Paperback – February 17, 1997

4.3 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The triumph of George Washington's presidency (1789-1796), according to biographer Smith ( Thomas E. Dewey and His Times ), was Washington's success in holding the new nation together, despite warring political factions, because he held an objective view in foreign affairs and refused to let himself be corrupted by power. Relying heavily on the Donald Jackson-Dorothy Twohig edition of Washington's diaries, as well as on other primary sources, Smith describes the political intrigues of Washington's Cabinet--which included Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson; the foreign policy crisis that arose in 1793 during the war between France and England; and the domestic upheaval precipitated by the 1794 Whisky Rebellion. This is a lively, well-written study of Washington's presidency and subsequent retirement to Mount Vernon; the first U.S. president emerges as a dedicated and politically astute manager who had a tart sense of humor--and who could swear a blue streak, on occasion. BOMC main selection.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

George Washington's ascent to the presidency of the new republic was at once a personal triumph and a great gamble with something he held most dear--his reputation. Smith (director, Hoover Library) captures well the bittersweet presidential years, when Washington used the vast capital of his personal prestige to cement the bands of a shaky union. With wonderful use of detail and anecdote, Smith argues that Washington was not the mere figurehead that other historians have portrayed but a canny politician who mastered and controlled his brilliant subordinates, Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson. In a lively and engaging style, the author describes Washington's world in New York, Philadelphia, and Mt. Vernon and the major policy issues of the 1790s, especially the vituperative politics of the era. If Norton is not always careful with detail and his chronology is sometimes confusing, this is, nonetheless, history painted in broad strokes with vivid characterization, sure to attract a general readership. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 10/15/92.
- David B. Mattern, Univ. of Virginia, Charlottesville
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books (February 17, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0395855128
  • ISBN-13: 978-0395855126
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #716,255 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Wayne A. Smith VINE VOICE on May 7, 2001
Format: Paperback
Smith has written a good book that rightly focuses on Washington's building of our national government through careful consideration of precedent and the ability to balance factions through the force of his dignity and integrity.
Our new American government need not have stuck by its Constitutional structure. Indeed, that document was a plan on paper that could arguably have been observed more in the breech had Washington had anything like Napolean's thirst for personal power.
Yet that marvelous document was strengthened by Washington's desire to observe its structure and strictures. Smith details how our first president was keenly aware that his organization of the government and almost every action were setting the precedents that would determine whether his successors would be preside in his spirit or in a vein more threatening to the liberties he had helped purchase during the Revolution.
He also had the help of very intelligent men in his cabinet -- principally Hamilton and Jefferson -- who had opposing views as to the nature of the federal government and its goals and desired relationship to the individual, states and the economy. That Washington was able to keep them both in his employ during the critical period of his first term reveals him to be a very good politician who was adept at balancing interests, using his prestige, and satisfying the egos of men who thought they were destined to design the nation in this first presidency.
I would have liked a little more detail on the actual organization of the government and it's establishment. Smith focuses more on the personal and relationships of Washington and his key subordinates -- somewhat of a style over substance analysis of his two terms. Yet at this period, style and nuance were critical to setting a positive tone for the presidency and Smith's focus is certainly a good lense through which to shed more light on this important historical era.
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Format: Paperback
Richard Norton Smith's book about Washington's importance to the new nation is an excellent example of the way history should be written. It provides insight into the importance of George Washington to the young United States, and it demonstrates the impact that one person of character can have on history.
While its treatment of Hamilton is at times too harsh, this book is an important revision to the idea that Washington was anyone's puppet.
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Format: Hardcover
I bought Richard N. Smith's "Patriarch" at an airport gift shop because I was looking at two long boring flights and there wasn't any book that looked better. The situation was grim because I am no learned scholar or erudite student with 200 other books about Washington on the shelves.

But once I started "Patriarch" I simply could barely put it down. Somehow, Richard Smith was coaxing that cheerless Washington out of that stodgy old painting we've all seen and bringing GW to life. The "Founding Father" was - surprise - a real life person and, truth is, as a person and a statesman, he was positively jam up!

Before "Patriarch", it never occured to me what a real-time, online chore he had launchinig this country during his first Presidency. He, and mostly he alone, was the cool forge water that quenched Hamilton's fire and tempered Jefferson's steel to save the new country from a virtual "crib death". Washington's shepherding of the Constitution from damp and dangerous footing to solid ground was a feat nothing short of Incredible. And as the pages of "Patriarch" flew by for this jaded 60s-era non-Historian Washington's stature rose again like a Phoenix, and for the first time I understood why that glum old guy in that drab old picture was, and is, so venerated even 200 years after his death.

This book, "Patriarch", is George Washinton - The Man - at his Best, and thanks to Richard Norton Smith, you will actually enjoy meeting him this time around.
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Format: Paperback
Smith's book does a great service to those of us interested in a remarkable figure who is often overlooked in today's historical studies. This is a study of Washington's role as our first chief executive in our fledgling republic. From the beginning we learn of the rock solid character Washington possessed and how it shaped his life in everthing he did.
Washington always accepted the call to service, not for fortune and fame, but because he felt it was his duty. A trait that astonished such world leaders like King George III and Napoleon. After we learn more about Washington in this wonderfully detailed account of Washington and his presidency, we or at least I come away feeling sympathetic to Washington and his desire for a peaceful retirement. But alas, it wasn't meant to be for the father of our country.
Washington's disdain for political factions and his ability to be apolitical is amazing considering his diverse cabinet which included two very ideological polar opposites in Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson. Perhaps only Washington could have kept these two talented men in his cabinet for any reasonable length of time.
But Washington was always the Federalist who believed in a strong central government that could hold the Union together. And this was necessary for a republic in its infant stage. This view on government's role was not that popular in his own native Virginia and other states south. Jefferson, on trying to persuade Washington to accept a second term, aptly put it when he said North and South would hang together so long as they had Washington to hang on to. An ominous portent of sectional conflicts to come.
Washington enjoyed successes and failures during his presidency.
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