Cover image for Washington on Washington
Title:
Washington on Washington
Author:
Washington, George, 1732-1799.
Publication Information:
Lexington : University Press of Kentucky, [2003]

©2003
Physical Description:
xxiv, 164 pages : illustrations ; 23 cm
Language:
English
Added Author:
ISBN:
9780813122694
Format :
Book

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E312.79 .W3175 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
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Summary

Summary

For most Americans, George Washington is more of a legend than a man -- a face on our currency or an austere figure standing in a rowboat crossing the icy Delaware River. He was equally revered in his own time. At the helm of a country born of idealism and revolution, Washington reluctantly played the role of demigod that the new nation required -- a role reconciling the rhetoric of democracy with the ritual of monarchy.

Washington quickly understood that every decision he made as president would be analyzed, criticized, and emulated. "There is scarcely any part of my conduct which may not hereafter be drawn into precedent," he said. In his own words, Washington describes himself as a poor orator and an uncomfortable leader, a man more at ease in his private gardens than at the center of America's trust and adoration. Plagued by doubts about his education and abilities, Washington developed self-discipline that to others seemed superhuman.

Washington on Washington offers a fresh and human perspective on this enigmatic figure in American history. Drawing on diary entries, journals, letters, and authentic interviews, Paul M. Zall presents the autobiography that Washington never lived to write, revealing new insights into his character, both personal and political.


Author Notes

George Washington was born in Westmoreland County, Va., on Feb. 22, 1732. His father died in 1743, and Washington went to live with his half brother Lawrence at Mount Vernon. He was appointed surveyor for Culpeper County in 1749. Washington's brother died in 1752 he ultimately inherited the Mount Vernon estate. Washington first gained public notice when, as adjutant of one of Virginia's four military districts, he was dispatched in October 1753 by Govenor Robert Dinwiddie on a fruitless mission to warn the French commander at Fort Le Boeuf against further encroachment on territory claimed by Britain. Discouraged by his defeat and angered by discrimination between British and colonial officers in rank and pay, he resigned his commission near the end of 1754. The next year, however, he volunteered to join British general Edward Braddock's expedition against the French.

In 1755, at the age of 23, he was promoted to colonel and appointed commander in chief of the Virginia militia, with responsibility for defending the frontier. In 1758 he took an active part in Gen. John Forbes's successful campaign against Fort Duquesne. Assured that the Virginia frontier was safe from French attack, Washington left the army in 1758 and returned to Mount Vernon, directing his attention toward restoring his neglected estate. With the support of an ever-growing circle of influential friends, he entered politics, serving from 1759 to 1774 in Virginia's House of Burgesses. After 1769, Washington became a leader in Virginia's opposition to Great Britain's colonial policies. As a delegate to the First and Second Continental Congress, Washington did not participate actively in the deliberations. In June 1775 he was Congress's unanimous choice as commander in chief of the Continental forces. Washington took command of the troops surrounding British-occupied Boston on July 3, 1775.

After the war, Washington returned to Mount Vernon. He became president of the Society of the Cincinnati, an organization of former Revolutionary War officersand in May 1787, Washington headed the Virginia delegation to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia and was unanimously elected presiding officer. After the new Constitution was submitted to the states for ratification and became legally operative, he was unanimously elected president in 1789. Washington was reelected president in 1792. By March 1797, when Washington left office, the country's financial system was well established; the Indian threat east of the Mississippi had been largely eliminated; and Jay's Treaty and Pinckney's Treaty with Spain had enlarged U.S. territory and removed serious diplomatic difficulties. Although Washington reluctantly accepted command of the army in 1798 when war with France seemed imminent, he did not assume an active role. He preferred to spend his last years in happy retirement at Mount Vernon. In mid-December, Washington contracted an illness; he declined rapidly and died at his estate on Dec. 14, 1799.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 1

Choice Review

Taking a cue from a contemporary, unfinished biography of George Washington (David Humphreys' Life of General Washington: With George Washington's "Remarks", ed. by Rosemarie Zagarri, 1991), Zall (emer., English, California State Univ., Los Angeles) sets out to present an "autobiography" of Washington in his own words. While drawing on the Diaries, some correspondence, public documents, and related materials, this venture, like Humphreys', has large gaps and skims the surface. Early frontier experiences and family life are the areas most fully treated. One wishes that some of the less admirable aspects of Washington's life, not the least being his no-holds-barred approach to local politics, had been included. The Revolutionary War period comes in for a dozen or so pages. Washington was quite outspoken regarding discipline in the ranks and behavior of officers. This book will be useful as a convenient reference for some of the better-known quotes from Washington and as a general outline of his life. Scholars and students are not likely to find much utility in this volume. ^BSumming Up: Optional. General readers. H. M. Ward emeritus, University of Richmond