Other Sellers on Amazon
Enter your mobile phone or email address
By pressing "Send link," you agree to Amazon's Conditions of Use.
You consent to receive an automated text message from or on behalf of Amazon about the Kindle App at your mobile number above. Consent is not a condition of any purchase. Message & data rates may apply.
Follow the Author
Founding Father: Rediscovering George Washington Paperback – February 22, 1997
The Amazon Book Review
Book recommendations, author interviews, editors' picks, and more. Read it now
Frequently bought together
- Publisher : Free Press; Reprint edition (February 22, 1997)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 240 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0684831422
- ISBN-13 : 978-0684831428
- Item Weight : 7.8 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.44 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #412,455 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
Some of the things I enjoyed most about this book were learning that in spite of a very basic education, George continued to self-educate, reading many books on widely ranging topics, and then often writing to the authors for further discussion. Even after retirement, he subscribed to ten newspapers.
Washington had a temper, and learned at a young age to control it. As he was not good at small talk, he kept his mouth closed, and said nothing. He realized that people hung on his every word, and took great care about what he permitted himself to say.
His manners were impeccable. The wife of the British Ambassador wrote that, "Washington had perfect good breeding, and the correct knowledge of even the etiquette of a court, though HOW he had acquired it, heaven knows." The answer was that he had been practicing his manners for half a century since the age of 15.
He was spiritual, rather than overtly religious. He was a great believer in divine providence, as well as good morals. He looked to the ancient Romans for inspiration, as well as to Shakespeare. He was also a Freemason. After some outside reading on Freemasonry, my own conclusion about it was that it was a widespread men's organisation of the the time, populated by rational, intellectual, educated men of good character, professing a belief in God (but less so in miracles and divine revelation), sharing discussion of ideas, and doing charitable good works. I don't see a problem with belonging to such an organization.
I enjoyed seeing Washington's behavior during the Constitutional Convention, and a detailed discussion of the issues during the Convention. I enjoyed learning the details of the problems Washington faced in his presidencies.These included too many visitors, which he solved with weekly receptions for whoever chose to come. The two big problems in his second term included the Whiskey Rebellion, and the fight over Jay's Treaty. I had heard of these, but only learned about them in detail reading this book.
This book was packed full of information, so I read it slowly, and took lots of notes. For this reason, it took me quite some time to read it. I appreciated that it was only 200 pages, yet contained nearly all I needed to make me feel like I really knew Washington and why he was so admired. I highly recommend this book for anyone who is looking to know George Washington and his presidency better. I found Brookhiser a good writer. Every sentence in the book was meaningful and interesting.
More of a collection of insightful essays than a full-scale treatment of Washington's life, Brookhiser's succinct moral biography of George Washington accomplishes both of these objectives in a little over 200 pages of exceptionally readable, at times lyrical, prose.
Washington had surprisingly little formal education, at least compared to most of the other founding fathers, but he read voraciously and was very close at various times to other founding intellectuals such as George Mason, James Madison, and Alexander Hamilton. He supported the foundation of a national university and had over 900 books in his library at the time of his death in 1799.
Being an exceptionally large, well-built man for his day, George Washington appeared to have been genetically destined for greatness, but his naturally volatile temper was something that he always had to keep in check. Courtesy and reputation, "the medium and the stimulus of Washington's morality" states Brookhiser, were the means and objective by which he did so.
As a very young man, Washington appreciated "Seneca's Morals", a collection of moral essays by the first-century Roman philosopher and playwright Seneca, and quoted maxims from Joseph Addison's play "Cato" all of his life. The maintenance of his reputation, to Washington a measure of one's character, was a lifelong concern.
One of the most persistent influences on Washington's character were the "Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation", a set of guidelines for dealing with others, a collection of rules for living one's life in a courteous manner.
One of the great surprises in the book was the fact that Washington loved the theater, attending available performances whenever possible. Washington quoted extensively from favorite plays and Shakespeare, and even had Addison's "Cato" performed at Valley Forge while encamped there. The language of the theater is readily visible in many of his speeches.
In the book's last section, a collection of three thoughtful essays exploring Washington's role as founding father, Brookhiser considers three potential sources of Washington's ideas regarding political fatherhood: Bolingbroke's idea of the Patriot King; Sir Robert Filmer's concept of rights and privileges originating from a patriarch/prince; and finally Washington's own uneasy experience with the institution of slavery and his role as a slave master.
Washington was a "reticent" slaveholder at best, at least according to Brookhiser. He quietly freed slaves while he was president by simply leaving them behind when he returned to Virginia, and he refused to sell slaves without their consent. In 1793 he conceived a plan to divide Mount Vernon into four separate farms, each one being rented out and the slaves being hired out as wage-earning laborers. In his will Washington decreed that all of his slaves should be freed upon the death of this wife Martha, something that she actually did before her death in December of 1800.
Near the end of the book, Brookhiser examines Washington's first Farewell Address, "one of the most sobering moments in any major American speech" according to Brookhiser. The occasion is sobering to Brookhiser because in leaving office as commander-in-chief, Washington recognizes that the success of the American experiment is unclear, problematic. The future success of that experiment would reside with each American citizen.
Washington's decisions to step down, first in 1783 and then later at the conclusion of his second term, were not easy decisions for him to make. Much of Richard Brookhiser's fine book deals with reasons why Washington made those decisions, why his life still has the power to inspire.
I bought this book because it occured to me that with all the titles available these days on Jefferson and Franklin, I hadn't seen much proffered on Washington. I suspected, and still do, that the reason is that liberal academians prefer to write about those Founders more dear to their hearts.
Brookhiser spends very little time on the intimate details of Washington's life. Martha, his wife, is barely mentioned. This book dwells on the highlights of Washington's careers in service to this country. It makes for a good primer to more in depth biography that I plan to pursue down the road. It could serve that purpose for you too.