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George Washington : Writings (Library of America) Hardcover – February 22, 1997

4.4 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

The Library of America was red hot this year. In addition to this collection of Washington's most important papers, the publisher also produced volumes of Nathaniel West, Wallace Stevens, John Muir, and a gangbusters, two-volume collection of American crime fiction. (Classic Returns, LJ 4/1/97)
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From the Back Cover

This one-volume collection - the most extensive and authoritative ever published - covers five decades of Washington's astonishingly active life and brings together over 440 letters, orders, addresses, and other writings. Among the early writings included are the journal Washington kept at age 16 while surveying the Shenandoah Valley frontier and his dramatic account of the winter journey he made through the Pennsylvania wilderness in 1753 while on a diplomatic mission. Some two dozen letters written during the French and Indian War, including first-hand accounts of the controversial forest skirmish that began hostilities and of Braddock's bloody defeat, record Washington's early encounters with the harsh challenges of military command. An extensive selection of letters, orders, and addresses from the Revolutionary War record Washington's determined leadership of the Continental Army through years of defeat and deprivation. Letters from the Confederation period (1783-1789) show Washington's pleasure at returning to Mount Vernon, his continued interest in Western land speculation and river navigation, his growing concern with the weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation, and his role in the framing and ratification of the Constitution. The writings from his two terms as president show how Washington strove to establish enduring republican institutions, to build public trust in the new government, to avoid the divisions of party and faction, and to maintain American neutrality during the war between Britain and Revolutionary France. Also included in the volume are letters revealing his close and careful management of Mount Vernon and his evolving attitudes toward slavery.
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Product Details

  • Series: Library of America (Book 91)
  • Hardcover: 1184 pages
  • Publisher: Library of America (February 22, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 188301123X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1883011239
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1.4 x 8.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #73,160 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
George Washington is far more revered than known; but, as this splendid book proves, when you come to know him you feel even more admiration for him. This installment in the indispensable LIBRARY OF AMERICA series gathers hundreds of Washington's letters, as well as his more formal public statements as Virginia legislator and revolutionary leader, Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army, advocate of federal constitutional reform, and First President of the United States. The formal public statements display the heavy style that Washington fell into when consciously speaking to posterity. It is in his letters that Washington's vigorous mind, strong emotions, and sound judgment emerge most cleary -- and that portray his humanity and his nobility most clearly and accessibly. Readers of this volume would be well-advised to read John Rhodehamel's superb chronology (appearing at the back of the book) first, and then turning to the text. If they do this, they will have! a sound chronological and historical basis for setting Washington's writings, public and private, in context and for seeing the critical founding decades of the American republic as he saw and experienced them.
-- Richard B. Bernstein, Adjunct Professor of Law, New York Law School; Daniel M. Lyons Visiting Professor in American History, Brooklyn College/CUNY; Book Review Editor for Constitutional Books, H-LAW; and Senior Research Fellow, Council on Citizenship Education, Russell Sage College
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Format: Hardcover
All too often, George Washington comes across as a monument rather than a person. As the victorious general of the American Revolution and as our nation's first president, he is often depicted as the indispensable figure in the struggle to establish America as a nation, with his decisions and actions almost providential in nature. Yet Washington the man is lost amidst the adulation, leaving the reader with an incomplete picture of who he really was.

This collection of Washington's writings is an indispensable aid in the process of understanding the man behind the legend. The editor, John Rhodehamel, has selected 446 key documents from Washington's life, including letters, addresses, and general orders issued to his men. Written in the strictly formal style of the Virginia planter seeking to maintain the dignity of his position in society, his prose often cloaks the anxiety he felt about his status, the revolutionary cause, and the survival of the new republic. Together they convey a distinctly human figure, one whose stature only grows with a better understanding of the difficulties he surmounted. This is the book for anyone seeking to supplement other works on Washington with the original sources, or for those who simply want to read about Washington's life in his own words.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Washington's earlier writings reveal how his character developed, and show aspects of his personality and activities more private (though rarely intimate) than his public writings. John Rhodehamel has made an excellent selection of these writings. These Writings should be read carefully, and after having read a biography.

Washington reveals himself as incredibly goal-oriented: not just one goal; all of them. The Rules for Living he copied and studied as a young man were his lifelong guide to behavior. Almost all of his writings show him as a most considerate person. When his goal required the physical courage and endurance of his first mission to the French, he was almost superhuman. When his goal required years of perseverance, he persevered.

He shows a sense of his own worth, but is nevertheless modest in describing his accomplishments.

Washington's letters come from a mind not only solid, but also brilliant. He was capable of making decisions: instantly if the situation demanded speed; or after deep and thoughtful examination. His letters display his command of a wide range of endeavors: from farming, to experimenting with soils, political commentary and participation, public works and their financing; even the right path for his young stepson to pursue.

When he was the colonel of the Virginia Regiment in the French-Indian War, a study of his writings shows that although his rank was colonel, he was responsible for every aspect of their military efforts -- except for political decisions. In other words, he functioned as a general. Not only a general, but the commanding general, answering only to the government. There, his writings show how he learned to build an army, officers and men who, under his leadership, became effective veterans.
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Format: Hardcover
Like Robert E. Lee, George Washington might be considered the marble man of his time, a revolutionary whose passion doesn't burn as bright on the pages of history as, say, Thomas Paine, or as clear as Thomas Jefferson. He may be admired and revered, but not necessarily loved, certainly not in the way as old Marse Lee.
Whether Washington the man can be reclaimed from Washington the statue is a task left up to biographers and fiction writers, because after thumbing through this collection of his writings, it is with some certainty that the man from Mount Vernon can't do it himself.
Once gets the impression that Washington was a man who believed in duty, to himself as an eighteenth-century man of means, and to his country, whether it be England (for whom he participated on several expeditions against the French in Pennsylvania), or his newly created United States. The man who, in 1755, volunteered to join the British commander in chief, General Edward Braddock, on what became a disasterous expedition into western Pennsylvania, became by 1775 the man who would write to his wife announcing his appointment to head the rebel army, that, "I have used every endeavour in my power to avoid it [command]."
Even his ascention to the presidency was performed in very reluctant steps. In a letter to Henry Knox, he wrote, "I can assure you . . . that my movements to the chair of Government will be accompanied with feelings not unlike those of a culprit who is going to the place of his execution."
So why serve? "It was utterly out of my power to refuse this appointment without exposing my Character to such censures as would have reflected dishonour upon myself, and given pain to my friends," he wrote Martha Washington.
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