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The Ascent of George Washington: The Hidden Political Genius of an American Icon Kindle Edition

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Length: 461 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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And Then All Hell Broke Loose
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Based on two decades of reporting, a chief foreign correspondent’s riveting story of the Middle East revolutions, the Arab Spring, war, and terrorism seen up-close—sometimes dangerously so. Hardcover | Kindle book

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Editorial Reviews


“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

About the Author

John Ferling is a professor emeritus of history at the State University of West Georgia. A leading authority on American Revolutionary history, he is the author of seven books, including Adams vs. Jefferson: The Tumultuous Election of 1800, The First of Men: A Life of George Washington, and the award-winning A Leap in the Dark: The Struggle to Create the American Republic. His most recent work, Almost a Miracle, was a history bestseller.

Product Details

  • File Size: 4630 KB
  • Print Length: 461 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Press; 1 edition (July 1, 2009)
  • Publication Date: July 1, 2009
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004AE2TY2
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #324,539 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

John Ferling is a leading authority on late 18th and early 19th century American history. He is the author of many books, including Independence, The Ascent of George Washington, Almost a Miracle, Setting the World Ablaze, and A Leap in the Dark. To learn more, please visit his website:

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The thesis of this volume is straightforward (Page xix): "This book, however, takes issue with [many historians'] portrayal of Washington as nonpolitical and steadfastly seeking to stay above politics." The author, John Ferling, also notes Washington's vaulting ambition and his willingness to use a variety of tactics to achieve his goals. Thus, this book can be deemed a political biography of George Washington.

The basic approach is laid out early. Washington did not have much of an education and was acutely aware of this shortcoming. Using his older brother from their father's first marriage as a model (Lawrence Washington), he set out to create a military success and use that as a steppingstone to wealth and success. To his advantage, Washington had a number of powerful patrons, who helped him in his ascent.

The book chronicles his up and down military career during the 1750s, his inveterate lobbying for military advancement, his "fights" with governors and military personnel to get the recognition that he desired. And, indeed, this represents one of my questions about the book. Ferling notes that others see Washington as "disinterested," but Ellis, in his excellent biography called "His Excellency," makes some of the same points, although in more nuanced terms. In that, it sometimes seems to me that Ferling is understating points made in other biographies to make his appear the more unique.

His ambitions were also supported by a marriage into wealth and an eminent family. From there, the arc of his well know life is traced--from the state legislature and his plantation to his role in the Revolutionary War to his accession to the presidency. Through all these stages of his life, Ferling notes his ambition.
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Format: Hardcover
Historians enjoy trying to knock icons off their pedestals.
Sometimes they try too hard. This book is surprisingly bad and demands rebuttal.
Professor Ferling is correct in saying that Washington was political and ambitious and that he was not a military genius. Unfortunately, in his effort to prove that Washington was politically astute, Professor Ferling tries to demonstrate that Washington was a military dunce who spent the Revolutionary War trying to find scapegoats for his failures. To do so, he view everything that Washington did on the battlefield in the worst possible light, damning with left-handed compliments everything that Washington did right and attributing every failure or partial success to Washington's ineptitude and character flaws.
Suddenly, every military absurdity that Washington opposed, such as a mid-winter invasion of Canada without a supply line or hard money to pay the Canadians, become a far-sighted opportunity that Washington squandered to avoid giving alleged rivals a chance to shine. Suddenly, every officer that Washington let go, from Charles Lee for his feeble and half-hearted performance at Monmouth to Adam Stephens for his drunken folly at Germantown, becomes a misunderstood military genius that Washington scapegoated. Even Horatio Gates's utterly contemptible mismanagement of the Camden campaign receives a short but vigorous whitewashing simply to denigrate Washington's military reputation. Washington kept a poorly fed, poorly clad, poorly shod, unpaid army full of quarrelsome officers in the field for years and dreamed of coordinating with the French Navy to trap and destroy a British army as he had nearly been trapped and destroyed on Long Island.
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8 Comments 97 of 112 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
My disclaimer;
I am not a history scholar in any sense of the word. I thought "The Ascent of George Washington , The hidden Political Genius of an American Icon" would be an interesting read and I might glean some insight from this American Hero to help me in my life.

I went to school in the late `60s through the mid `70s, so I had my share of disaffected "Hippy" teachers who had their share of anti-establishment views about government and venerated leaders of the past, so the information in this political biography about George Washington didn't come as a complete surprise. What did come as a surprise was the depth and breadth of "humanizing" the icon that is known as the "Father of our Country".

The author John Ferling is a well written scholar on the time period, so I assume he knows the veracity of what he states, but sourcing so many enemies of Washington as the fount of information on the character flaws of Washington as well as other "Founding Fathers" such as Thomas Jefferson as self interested profiteers made me a bit uncomfortable.

If the author is to be believed, Washington was an ambitious and foolish narcissist, who lacked any military skills and only led men to their foolish deaths. A man who's vanity and political machinations ruined the careers and reputations of more able and responsible military officers, and nearly scuttled the revolutionary war through his bungling of tactics, and only through luck and "Divine Providence" did America prevail.

I didn't care much for the majority of the book, which at least to me, defamed great men "with new insight" gleaned over 200 years after the fact. What I did enjoy however, was the covering of the early years of the new republic during Washington's "Presidential Years".
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28 Comments 121 of 141 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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