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His Excellency: George Washington by Joseph…

His Excellency: George Washington (2004)

by Joseph J. Ellis

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I enjoyed reading other books by Ellis, but this one disappointed me a bit. It was not what I expected. The author looks through the wartime accomplishments and failures of Washington beginning with his time in the French and Indian War. He never gets deeply into the mind of Washington and it felt like what I was reading was simply surface material. I got the impression that Ellis simply wanted to pump out another book and wrote one with nothing really new to add. Disappointing when comparing to his other books, but still a book I am glad I read. ( )
  msaucier818 | Apr 9, 2018 |
A great, if somewhat short, book on the elusive George Washington.

Ellis' main objective is to find the man beneath the myth, to clear the vines from the statue. He does this well, the only problem being that Washington was so calm, so self-controlled, that his image and his person are often hard to distinguish from one another. Either way, its hard to draw any conclusions regarding accuracy, since this is the only book on this era that I've read; I have no real point of reference.

As to the writing, Ellis can write a great sentence, and make a great point. He writes in a scholarly manner, but not so much that it becomes tedious to read. Every now and then a sentence baffled me, and I truly had to read it a few times before I could understand it, but besides such small incidents Ellis' writing is marvelously clear.

The book gives a brief, if somewhat clipped, picture of Washington's life, first as an officer, then as the commander-in-chief of the Continental Army, leader of the constitutional convention, and finally, as the first president of the United States. He was practical where most Founding Fathers were idealistic, and had a life so incredibly stacked with activity that I find it impressive that he didn't drop dead at 50 like most of the males in his family. He managed to stand above everything, as a sort of overseer of his age. Perhaps that's why even though the book was about George himself, it read more like an overview of the times; sometimes it is hard to remember that he was a person, since so much of what we know of him comes through formal letters, bizarre rumors, and idealized images. What a pity that his wife burned all their correspondence; the letters would have probably helped us paint a more human portrait of Washington. Regardless of all this, he truly was a visionary, with an at times (not always) stunningly clear judgement, and without him the U.S. would have probably never been formed, lacking the necessary unifier that people loved and revered regardless of ideology or partisanship.
  bartt95 | Jan 15, 2017 |
His Excellency is a near perfect introduction to the life and times of President George Washington. Joseph J. Ellis masterfully condenses the life of an extraordinary revolutionary leader in under 300 pages. This book provides an overview of the life and times of George Washington without getting too bogged down in the details. The only issue is that if you are not a student of the revolutionary period in American History you may need to exercise your search skills in order to remind yourself of various battles, treaties and historical figures that did not stick to your brain pan after high school.

One of the interesting points I did not remember from earlier study of this period in history was that political corruption was already in full swing at the genesis of our democracy. Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton were both playing the system, the people and the president to further their personal agendas. This may not be news to others, but for some reason I thought our founding fathers were a bit more honorable. The topic of slavery is a prevailing topic throughout the book. There is much discussion of emancipation and dissolving slavery, but my takeaway here is that though morally wrong, slavery was economically important and would have to be dealt with by future leaders. It is very difficult to comprehend this type of thinking in this day and age.

This was a great re-introduction to the Revolutionary period and Ellis has sparked my interest enough to dive deeper and learn more about the enigmatic General Washington. I highly recommend His Excellency for those looking to learn more about our founding fathers. ( )
1 vote JechtShot | Aug 8, 2016 |
An excellent introduction to Washington, providing a decent look at his entire life and an understanding of his legacy. Washington is a huge subject in American history and in this case, the author veers away from thoroughness and details to offer an easy to read, concise look at Washington's life. Focusing on broad themes, this book serves as a good introduction for those new to the subject and I hope to follow this book with more on Washington. ( )
  wagner.sarah35 | Jul 9, 2016 |
Great biography. It does a great job of going over George Washington's life. And helping to understand him. ( )
  nx74defiant | Jun 4, 2016 |
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My own relationship with George Washington began early. (Preface: The Man in the Moon)
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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. When Washington died in 1799, Ellis tells us, he was eulogized as "first in the hearts of his countrymen." Since then, however, his image has been chiseled onto Mount Rushmore and printed on the dollar bill. He is on our landscape and in our wallets but not, Ellis argues, in our hearts. Ellis strips away the ivy and legend that have grown up over the Washington statue and recovers the flesh-and-blood man in all his passionate and fully human prowess. In the pantheon of our republic ?s founders, there were many outstanding individuals. And yet each of them, Franklin, Hamilton, Adams, Jefferson, and Madison, acknowledged Washington to be his superior, the only indispensable figure, the one and only: His Excellency." Both physically and politically, Washington towered over his peers for reasons this book elucidates.… (more)

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