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The Unexpected George Washington: His…
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The Unexpected George Washington: His Private Life

by Harlow Giles Unger

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Not a gripping book, but definitely of interest to flesh out the plethora of mostly political portraits of Washington. In Washington’s private life, he was extremely conscious of appearances, obsessed with details, driven by land acquisition, and was a caring if smothering parent to the many “strays” he and Martha accumulated. He made up for never having children of his own; some of his “adopted boys” included the Marquis de Lafayette (and later his son), Alexander Hamilton, John Laurens, Tobias Lear, and the many nieces and nephews of both his and Martha’s families. He and Martha both loved acquiring and displaying the trappings of elegance; often his political forays were preceded by shopping trips. Washington also was a first-rate innovator in agricultural technology, and frequently bonded with others on the basis of shared interests in animal breeding and/or plant cultivation.

A very few political stories are included, but they are notable, such as Washington’s institution of decision-making by agreement of the whole cabinet rather than allowing various department heads to exercise their portfolios; Unger points out how this came about from Washington’s frustration over the infighting between Hamilton and Jefferson. Unger also argues (following John Adams) that it was mainly the outbreak of yellow fever in New York that prevented a French-inspired revolution against the new nation. (Jay Winik in his book “The Great Upheaval“ also noted the very strong effect the French Revolution had on this country.)

I wouldn’t make this the only book one reads about Washington, but if you’re into details about the daily lives of the Founding Fathers, this book fills the bill.

(JAF) ( )
  nbmars | Mar 10, 2008 |
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To my good friends Hana Umluaf Lane and Edward W. Knappman
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0471744964, Hardcover)

Advance Praise for The Unexpected George Washington

"This is a biography that unquestionably lives up to its title. Readers will discover numerous, often touching traits that they never knew about the Father of the Country. Harlow Unger has written a one-of-a-kind book that will please and fascinate everyone."
—Thomas Fleming, author Washington's Secret War: The Hidden History of Valley Forge

"It's hard to imagine George Washington as playful, tender, or funny. But Harlow Unger searches to find these seldom-seen aspects of the private man, and the result is a far more complete and believable founding father."
— James C. Rees, Executive Director, Historic Mount Vernon

Acclaim for Lafayette

"Harlow Unger has cornered the market on muses to emerge as America's most readable historian. His new biography of the Marquis de Lafayette combines a thoroughgoing account of the age of revolution, a probing psychological study of a complex man, and a literary style that goes down like cream."
—Florence King, contributing editor, National Review

"To American readers Unger's biography will provide a stark reminder of just how near run a thing was our War of Independence and the degree to which our forefathers' victory hinged on the help of our French allies, marshalled for George Washington by his 'adopted' son, Lafayette."
—Larry Collins, coauthor, Is Paris Burning? and O Jerusalem!

"An admirable account of his [Lafayette's] life and extraordinary career on both sides of the Atlantic."
The Sunday Telegraph (London)

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:38 -0400)

Through personal letters, diaries, and other primary sources, describes the life of America's first president.

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