George Washington is one of the most, if not the most, important men involved in the creation of our great nation. His hand is upon many of the events that were instrumental in the birth of the United States of America: as commander in chief of the Continental Army and as first President of our fledgling nation. Nearly to a man, his contemporaries considered themselves inferior to the man, lending credence to Washington’s legendary role in the Revolutionary War and his subsequent unanimous election to be the first President.
In “His Excellency: George Washington“, Joseph J. Ellis delves more deeply into the experiences and influences that made George Washington the man that he was, including the flaws.
Like so many biographers before him, Mr. Ellis points to Washington’s self-control and stoicism as his primary traits, but he is not content to simply cite familiar anecdotes commemorating these virtues. He argues that Washington “was an intensely passionate man whose powers of self-control eventually became massive because of the interior urges they were required to master.”
Indeed many of the central events in Washington’s life, in Mr. Ellis’s view, involved renunciation: the rejection of his love for Sally Fairfax to marry the wealthy widow Martha Dandridge Custis (whose fortune catapulted him to the top tier of Virginia’s planter class); his adoption of a defensive, “Fabian strategy” against the British despite his own more aggressive instincts; the symbolic surrender of his sword at Annapolis; his refusal to serve a third term as president; and the dispersal of his estate (including the freeing of his slaves) in his will.Michiko Kakutani, New York Times
For those looking for an insightful and (relatively) compact biography of George Washington, this book is a great choice.