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His Excellency: George Washington by Joseph…
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His Excellency: George Washington (2004)

by Joseph J. Ellis

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A concise biography of the great man, exactly what I sought. Survived the French and Indian war through luck and sheer force of character. In fact you can't read his story without realizing how much fortune's wheel determines things. Received no higher education, yet retained pockets of wisdom that helped temper his exceptional selfassuredness. Certainly the American Revolution could not have been carried off without him. And his dismissal of royal privelege avoided our own flirtation with monarchy. ( )
  JamesMScott | May 30, 2015 |
Drawing from the newly catalogued Washington papers at the University of Virginia, Joseph Ellis paints a full portrait of George Washington's life and career -- from his military years through his two terms as president. Ellis illuminates the difficulties the first executive confronted as he worked to keep the emerging country united in the face of adversarial factions. He richly details Washington's private life and illustrates the ways in which... ( )
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  Tutter | Feb 21, 2015 |
What makes this biography of Washington stand out for me is Ellis' attempt to look into the psychology of the man. What formational events made him into a leader, cognizant of his own place in history, yet able to surrender power gracefully? What made him into the man who was idolized in his own time? The emphasis on Washington's commitment to civilian leadership of government was made several times, as was his recognition of the necessity of a strong central government, in opposition to "Spirit of 76" ideals. Would we have been a very different nation (or nations?) without Washington's role in the 1790s? I loved the attempt to see into the mind of Washington. However, without more documentation of his personal life and thoughts, at times the writing devolved into conjecture--interesting to read but surely open to disagreement by others. If your knowledge of the early years of American nationhood has been formed by high school classes and watching "1776" this book will bring a new perspective on many of the events and personalities of the time. ( )
  TerriBooks | Jan 6, 2015 |
"Benjamin Franklin was wiser than Washington; Alexander Hamilton was more brilliant; John Adams was better read; Thomas Jefferson was more intellectually sophisticated; James Madison was more politically astute. Yet each and all of these prominent figures acknowledged that Washington was their unquestioned superior." (pg xiv) And in this "modest-sized book about a massive historical subject," Joseph Ellis looks at why Washington was so highly regarded, both by his contemporaries and by history.

Ellis astutely points out that many others (such as Cromwell, Napoleon, Lenin, Mao, and Castro) were pivotal in orchestrating successful revolutions but only Washington declined to assume power in a military dictatorship (pg 139). And perhaps Washington's greatest trait was understanding that stepping aside would enhance the way he was viewed by posterity far greater than simply assuming power. He was always ambitious, looking for ways to integrate himself into Virginia society as a younger man, but he also knew when to exercise restraint and keep himself above the fray.

As the key figure of the American Revolution he kept up the struggle even when all odds were against him - flagging support among the populace, poor condition of the Continental Army, lack of support from Congress, the supremacy of British strategy and control of the seas, French reluctance to provide assistance. And yet such experience taught him the importance of a strong federal government and guided his role as President of the new nation. There were no prior examples to draw from or precedent to follow, and although his own lack of a formal education was a constant embarrassment to him, he intuitively knew how to utilize the strengths of others and manage the competing ambitions of those around him in setting the nation on a path to stability.

Ellis hasn't exactly written a biography in the classic sense, although he does chronicle Washington's life, but it's enhanced by a deep character study of this important man. And few are as adept at bringing history's characters to life in such an insightful way and putting the reader into their shoes. It was in strong contrast to John Ferling's The Ascent of George Washington. Where Ferling looks at a events with a critical eye enhanced with 200 years of historical hindsight, Ellis sees beyond the failings to the motivations and greater social customs of the day and makes the history personal in a way no one else does. Although the book was a little slow starting it was so packed with valuable insight that it merits a close reading. I highly recommend it. ( )
1 vote J.Green | Aug 26, 2014 |
"Benjamin Franklin was wiser than Washington; Alexander Hamilton was more brilliant; John Adams was better read; Thomas Jefferson was more intellectually sophisticated; James Madison was more politically astute. Yet each and all of these prominent figures acknowledged that Washington was their unquestioned superior." (pg xiv) And in this "modest-sized book about a massive historical subject," Joseph Ellis looks at why Washington was so highly regarded, both by his contemporaries and by history.

Ellis astutely points out that many others (such as Cromwell, Napoleon, Lenin, Mao, and Castro) were pivotal in orchestrating successful revolutions but only Washington declined to assume power in a military dictatorship (pg 139). And perhaps Washington's greatest trait was understanding that stepping aside would enhance the way he was viewed by posterity far greater than simply assuming power. He was always ambitious, looking for ways to integrate himself into Virginia society as a younger man, but he also knew when to exercise restraint and keep himself above the fray.

As the key figure of the American Revolution he kept up the struggle even when all odds were against him - flagging support among the populace, poor condition of the Continental Army, lack of support from Congress, the supremacy of British strategy and control of the seas, French reluctance to provide assistance. And yet such experience taught him the importance of a strong federal government and guided his role as President of the new nation. There were no prior examples to draw from or precedent to follow, and although his own lack of a formal education was a constant embarrassment to him, he intuitively knew how to utilize the strengths of others and manage the competing ambitions of those around him in setting the nation on a path to stability.

Ellis hasn't exactly written a biography in the classic sense, although he does chronicle Washington's life, but it's enhanced by a deep character study of this important man. And few are as adept at bringing history's characters to life in such an insightful way and putting the reader into their shoes. It was in strong contrast to John Ferling's The Ascent of George Washington. Where Ferling looks at a events with a critical eye enhanced with 200 years of historical hindsight, Ellis sees beyond the failings to the motivations and greater social customs of the day and makes the history personal in a way no one else does. Although the book was a little slow starting it was so packed with valuable insight that it merits a close reading. I highly recommend it. ( )
  J.Green | Aug 26, 2014 |
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My own relationship with George Washington began early. (Preface: The Man in the Moon)
History first noticed George Washington in 1753, as a daring and resourceful twenty-one-year-old messenger sent on a dangerous mission into the American wilderness.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0739451537, Paperback)

softcover book

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:05 -0400)

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Drawing from the newly catalogued Washington papers at the University of Virginia, the author paints a full portrait of Washington's life and career in the context of eighteenth-century America, richly detailing his private life and illustrating the ways in which it influenced his public persona.… (more)

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