“In his bibliography in the back, Flexner divides published biographies of Washington into "three major categories--the historically sound, the goody-goody, and the debunking." Flexner's four volume biography of George Washington won a Pulitzer Prize citation and a National Book Award. This one...”see full review » see other reviews »
“Perhaps Washington was not necessary. Perhaps we would have muddled through without him but it is hard to see how.”jerry-book wrote this review 11 days ago. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“In his bibliography in the back, Flexner divides published biographies of Washington into "three major categories--the historically sound, the goody-goody, and the debunking." Flexner's four volume biography of George Washington won a Pulitzer Prize citation and a National Book Award. This one volume version of that work seems to strike a good balance between the critical and admiring and, based on primary sources, from what I can tell, deserves to be put among those "historically sound." It's certainly well-written, fascinating and made me appreciate why Flexner subtitled this biography of Washington "The Indispensable Man" and why he claimed in his Introduction Washington was a "great and good man."
I thought I knew fairly well the basic outline of George Washington's life and of the Revolutionary and Federal period, but this book gave me a new appreciation of all that is owed to Washington--not just by Americans, but by all who support a republican form of government. I had known that people urged Washington to become America's king and he refused. I knew he had defused an officers' rebellion that could have "groomed and saddled the horses of fascism" and I knew his refusal to accept a third term of office meant he ensured an orderly transition and republican form of succession rather than dying in office and creating a kind of elective monarchy--and that ever after his example of staying only two terms in office was followed by every American president thereafter until breached by Franklin Roosevelt--and that the limitation was then grafted unto the US Constitution so Washington's precedent couldn't again be violated. Presented here again and again are traps Washington avoided that could have destroyed the embryo republic. Among the things I didn't know was just how turbulent were Washington's two terms of office as he set precedents that put flesh onto the skeleton of the Constitution. Certainly Flexner's account doesn't reflect well on either Alexander Hamilton or Thomas Jefferson, each of whom formed around him the first nascent political parties.
From time to time you can tell this book's origins as a more succinct account gathered from Flexner's expansive four-volume biography. For instance, Flexner calls Washington's stepson John Parke Custis a "monster" but doesn't really give us the details to justify that statement. Some of the chapters definitely feel sketchy. As he says in his introduction, in this one-volume work he just wanted to hit the highlights, although this book is far more than an outline, and Washington's character and personality does come through, especially in frequent quotes from letters and diaries and other first-hand accounts. Although admiring on the whole, Flexner doesn't pass over the man's flaws. There is an entire chapter dealing with "Washington and Slavery" and Flexner depicts both Washington's foolish youthful mistakes and sad mental decline in his old age. My next reads are biographies of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson and it will be interesting to see how those books complicate the picture.”
“Interesting, realistic overview of his youth and presidency although rather depressing. All the more reason to admire his tenacity in the face of adversity. Written by an older historical biographer from the the 60's/70's - I'll probably read a more recent other. You might find the style of this one outmoded and disinteresting.”Tammy Misenheimer wrote this review Tuesday, February 12, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“2nd book in my Presindential bio series. This is a compliation from the author's four volume work. At 402 pages, it's was just the size I'm looking for. Good work with about half on Revolutionary War and half on being President.”MRC 58 wrote this review Tuesday, January 22, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“I read this book years ago, and I'm reading it again. Great book!”Carolyn Veatch wrote this review Sunday, February 20, 2011. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“I have rated it five because it is all about history and I love history”Michaela B wrote this review Monday, January 10, 2011. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Excellent biography of George Washington. I enjoyed it more than "His Excellency".”Eric G wrote this review Friday, November 5, 2010. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Excellent one volume biography of our first president. The man was a giant whose main motivation was service to the nation. Where are his like today? This is a re-reading of the book that I first read back in the 1970s.”Tom Miller wrote this review Friday, January 29, 2010. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“An authoritative and well rounded look at the father of the American way, this book is something that any serious student of American history should consider reading. It shows Washington as human and does address his weaknesses, but does not descend into an overly critical book. It also shows Washington's many virtues as well as his unshakable faith in God, and how that allowed him to become America's first president, instead of America's first king. ”Austin M wrote this review Wednesday, September 16, 2009. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No