Washington

Washington

A Life

Large Print - 2010
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In this work, the author, a biographer provides a portrait of the father of our nation, dashing forever the stereotype of a stolid, unemotional man, and revealing an astute and surprising portrait of a canny political genius who knew how to inspire people.
Publisher: Waterville, Me. :, Thorndike Press,, 2010.
Edition: Large print edition.
ISBN: 9781410431172
1410431177
Branch Call Number: LT 973.41092 W318C
Characteristics: 1471 pages (large print) ; 24 cm
large print,rdafs,http://rdaregistry.info/termList/RDAfontSize/1002

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dgiard
Dec 19, 2020

The Founding Fathers of the United States hold a special place in my country's history. Centuries after they lived, people still speak with reverence of men like Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Alexander Hamilton. Yet one man of this era stands above even these giants. George Washington cemented his place in history by leading the American army that defeated the British in the Revolution War; then, serving as the first President of the United States.

Ron Chernow's biography "Washington: A Life" details the General/President's rise and how handled the power he was given.

Washington was born into an upper-middle class family; but rose to become one of the landed gentry by a series of fortuitous events: his widowed mother married a wealthy farmer and George inherited the large estate at Mount Vernon by outliving all other possible heirs; then, George married wealthy widow Martha Custis.

When the American Revolution began, Washington led a poorly-equipped, ill-trained army to victory over one of the great powers in the world. He did so despite infighting among his officers and the young country's lawmakers.

After the war, Washington was the most popular man in America and the logical choice to serve as its first leader. He won the Presidency unanimously and served two terms despite his desire to return to his Virginia estate and manage the farms there.

In his first term, George Washington attempted to unite the factions of the young country - surrounding himself with people of varying opinions. His cabinet and advisors included Northerners and southerners; slaveholders and abolitionists; those who favored a centralized government and those suspicious of concentrated power. Fierce debates arose as to whether the US should align itself more closely with England or France - two countries at war with one another. By his second term, Washington had tired of the infighting among his advisors and those that criticized him publicly. Quarrels between Jefferson, Adams, Hamilton, and Madison left him weary and disillusioned, so he retained a more homogeneous cabinet for his final four years in office.

As with Chernow's earlier biography of Alexander Hamilton, "Washington: A Life" goes beyond the historical facts and gives the reader a taste for Washington's character and personality. Washington was arrogant, stoic, and aloof; he was not given to long speeches, but he was eloquent in his writing; he rejected the idea of a British-style monarchy for America and was hurt that some thought he had ambitions of becoming king; he desperately wanted to leave public life and return to managing Mount Vernon (during the War, he corresponded frequently with the managers of his estate); he was unwavering in his honesty and integrity; he was highly conscious of his public image; he enjoyed the luxuries that came with wealth; he had a difficult relationship with his overly-demanding mother.

In this book, we see a complex man, who held together a nation during arguably its most vulnerable time. Few people had the universal respect to pull off this miracle.

Washington had a strong sense of duty that drove him to server in public office, despite his cash flow problems, which could have been better addressed by staying home and managing his estate. Ultimately, he was the unifying force that the young republic needed. His actions strengthened the central government and the country and defined the office of presidency.

But Washington had his faults.

As a general, he was not a great strategist - he lost more battles than he won - but held together a ragtag, underfunded army for years until the British forces committed a blunder he could exploit.

The most controversial aspect of Washington's life is his status as a slave owner. : or note that he appeared to treat his slaves better than his peers (Washington forbade beatings and refused to separate families).

Arguably the most conflicted aspect Washington was his dealin

olwils21 Dec 07, 2020

Ron Chernow won a Pulitzer Prize for a reason. Even though his books routinely clock in at over 800 pages, they are so engaging and easy to read that it doesn't feel like you're reading a book that long. This comprehensive look at George Washington humanizes him in a way that history classes don't. He was more than the stoic figure we all learn about; he was an outdoorsman, loved to dance, and enjoyed naughty jokes. But Chernow also doesn't shy away from the one blind spot that made GW a giant hypocrite: his position as a slave owner while fighting for America's freedom. After reading Chernow's Hamilton, this closer look at his number one patron is a must read.

k
kwylie04
Oct 03, 2020

Chernow's writing is as effective as it always is in keeping the reader interested and invested in the narrative he crafts. I was never bored. From beginning to end, I thoroughly enjoyed what he had to tell me about the man who became the Father of His Country While Also Keeping Many Of His Metaphorical Children In Chains. Washington's journey is in many ways the journey of the United States - complex, flawed, but full of potential - if we have the guts to go the distance. Washington believed in the ideals of the Revolution and the Constitution, and yet for years blinded himself about the realities of holding fellow human beings in bondage. In the end, he sought to do as his conscience demanded, both because it was right and because he hoped to set a good example to his fellow slaveholders (which, really, was him just whistling in the wind for all the impact it had).

Chernow knows what he is about, and is very good at what he does. This biography is no exception in being an excellent, educational, and entertaining read.

JCLMartyJ Dec 08, 2016

Well researched and well written. At times I had to work a little to get through the 817 pages of the book and the 33 discs in the CD audio set, but it was well worth it. Chernow brings George Washington and the period of history in which he lived to life. The author points out that because Washington was so good about keeping a diary and other records and because his life has been so well research and documented, we now more about him this did his contemporaries. I came away with a heightened appreciation of George Washington - it was his unique character and leadership that allowed the colonies to perservere and win the Revolutionary War and then to come together as united states. He played a vital role in establishing the foundation of the democracy that we enjoy today.

s
SmartyJo
Dec 08, 2016

Well researched and well written. At times I had to work a little to get through the 817 pages of the book and the 33 discs in the CD audio set, but it was well worth it. Chernow brings George Washington and the period of history in which he lived to life. The author points out that because Washington was so good about keeping a diary and other records and because his life has been so well research and documented, we now more about him this did his contemporaries. I came away with a heightened appreciation of George Washington - it was his unique character and leadership that allowed the colonies to perservere and win the Revolutionary War and then to come together as united states. He played a vital role in establishing the foundation of the democracy that we enjoy today.

s
sethescope
Jun 01, 2016

If you want to learn about George Washington, this is the book to read. If you want to learn about the American Revolution, this is also a great book centered around Washington's life and achievements. It did more than inform - it dispelled a great many myths that I had internalized throughout my education. Washington? Not that great of a general. He made a lot of mistakes. He was complicated; he believed in freedom and yet didn't free his slaves before or after his death. This book, above all else, humanizes the man. It removes the god-like status he's given in the American collective memory and returns him to what he was -- just a man who made mistakes and did some incredible things during his lifetime.

c
charab
Dec 11, 2015

It has 800 pages and looked a bit daunting. But I started, and eventually fell in love with George Washington. I own the book and go back to it sometimes. I wish everybody would read it.

r
Rainman
Nov 03, 2015

This book leads to a greater understanding of the sacrifices George Washington made for this country, while his health and finances suffered. Yet his human faults are highlighted, too -- his inability to step out of the spotlight or to reduce unnecessary spending, and the blemish of slavery on his record until the very end--in fact, beyond the very end.

p
pokano
Apr 21, 2013

Chernow's LONG book attempts--mostly successfully--to put flesh and blood on the guy on the dollar bill. The reader learns that Washington was a very fastidious man, but enjoyed such things as dancing, flirting with attractive women,and living beyond his means. He was courageous but could not come to grips with slavery until shortly before his death. The book destroys the illusion that the founding fathers were in agreement as to what the new nation should look like and how it should operate. Washington and Jefferson were bitterly opposed to one another. The reader also wonders how it is possible that American forces were able to win the Revolutionary War, being grossly underclothed and underfed. All in all a very worthwhile and informative book,which could have benefited by more judicious editing to cut the length.

b
bigreader69
Jan 04, 2013

Title for February 2013.

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