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Founding Father: Rediscovering George Washington Paperback – February 22, 1997

3.9 out of 5 stars 55 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers 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.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Contradicting the recent trend that denigrates Washington, Brookhiser, senior editor at the National Review and author of The Way of the WASP (LJ 11/1/90), offers this "moral biography" of the first president. He explores Washington's role as a general, his part in the writing of the Constitution, and his years as president. Brookhiser then turns to Washington's private life, examining his character, his strong sense of duty, and his constant struggle to hold his temper in check so he could be an effective leader. Finally, the author describes Washington's role as the father of his country. Washington's concern was not only for his current problems but also for future ones he saw facing his developing country. This readable, revisionist biography offers a new slant on Washington and is highly recommended for academic and public libraries.?Grant A.
Copyright 1996 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: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; Reprint edition (February 22, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684831422
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684831428
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #29,538 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I read this after reading Brookhiser's book on Alexander Hamilton, which I also enjoyed immensely. I do not find many books that I am uncritical about, but this is one of them. First, it must be understood, in light of other reviews, that Brookhiser disclaims up front that this is NOT a biography on George Washington. It does not go into detail about any portion of his life. Rather, it is a terrific examination of Washington's life contribution, and our historical understanding of it, from a particular perspective. As with Alexander Hamilton, Brookhiser isolates this perspective with incredible acumen, and then presents it to the reader with great eloquence and sparkling prose. While the first and second parts of the work are at times seemingly rambled and undirected, the patient reader will be rewarded in the end when this skillful author pulls all his points together and presents a wonderful close that fills you with a profound admiration, both for our own fathers and for the father of our country.
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Format: Paperback
"Founding Father" is not a long biography (199 pages), but it is an interesting piece of writing. It is split into 3 areas - about one-half of the book is straight biography, about one-third is an analysis of the character of our first president and the balance is an analysis of what it means to be a founding father, how Washington measures up to that ideal and what kind of "father" he was.

The biography section is great - straightforward and written in an engaging and lively style. The character portion bogs down quite a bit and the founding father section is interesting (it asserts that he was the kind of father who was most concerned with preparing his children for life outside of his home - life on their own. He encourage other people to step into leadership roles to fill the vacuum that would be there when he walked away from the national spotlight.)

One quote, above all, highlights the best parts of Washington. It comes from Napoleon, who comments in a moment of self-pity after Waterloo, "They wanted me to be another Washington." Think of it - Washington was handed the power to be a dictator and he turned it down. In fact, this book mentions that in all of Washington's letters, he only gets truly angry at one man, and immediately writes a rough letter to a colleague who suggests that Washington make himself king when the Articles of Confederation government begins to founder.

Brookhiser makes an interesting observation about Washington's impact on American politics by pointing out the length of time he was nationally prominent in comparison with other American leaders.
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By A Customer on May 13, 2002
Format: Paperback
Brookhiser has done two things here. First, he has contributed to our understanding of our first president, who for so many has become just a face on a quarter, or a hairdo on a one dollar bill. George Washington was so big, that his legacy can handle many more books. This book serves as an incisive thematic essay, grounded in the perspective of fathering, and fathering a whole country. The fact that Washington never fathered any of his own children makes this more interesting.
Second, we have here a new, more serious Brookhiser, shown by his subsequent biography of Alexander Hamilton. Brookhiser cut his teeth writing for National Review, and wrote some incredibly perceptive essays on the Republican primary contestants in 1980. The good news is that he has deepened as a writer, and now shows that he can also research back in time.
This book reads fast, but sinks deep. Buy it, read it.
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Format: Hardcover
I don't profess to be an expert on George Washington, but I have read some (Flexner, Angel in a Whirlwind) and, though I thoroughly enjoyed this rather thin book, would not recommend it to someone who didn't already have some familiarity with GW. The book includes a number of thought provoking commentaries, but I think assumes that the reader is fairly well-versed in the basic life and times of its subject. In reading this book (and other biographies), you can't help but admire the man and marvel at our good fortune in having men of his character when we needed them most. (You also can't help but cringe (or weep) when comparing him to the latest gentleman to hold the office.)
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Format: Paperback
This is more a collection of essays following a thesis that Brookhiser lays out and follows. I liked the retelling of things I already knew, and really enjoyed the themes and bits that I didn't know already. Washington is in sore need of rediscovery and this book meets those challenges by keeping the chosen topics to the point and brief enough to finish.
I would read this after reading a biography of Washington, as I can imagine a person with no knowledge of him may find the necessary jumping of time to follow the themes confusing.
It's one of the top 3 books on Washington in it's readability.
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Format: Paperback
Richard Brookhiser specializes in concise character studies of our founding fathers. He did a fine job with Alexander Hamilton which followed this very nice biography of George Washington. The book justly identifies George Washington as the central Founding Father and goes on to explain how his character was essential to holding the revolution together and the enduring example he set as our first President.

The subtitle of the book is "rediscovering Washington". I like this approach a great deal because Washington is one of those names that everyone has an image of and thinks they know. However, when you probe that surface picture you begin to realize how little real knowledge and understanding is there. This book hits the important points of essential nature of Washington to our founding, his life, his character, and how he relates to our country today.

The book is not exhaustive and there is much about Washington to search out after you have read this book. However, it is short enough for everyone to enjoy and yet offers enough depth of insight to satisfy those with prior knowledge of Washington.

Fine job!
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