After reading Courting Cate, I became inspired to read a biography on each of our Presidents. I’m kind of embarrassed that I don’t know a majority of the Presidents who have served our nation. But that shall change! So here’s the first review in a series that will take probably two years to complete, but I’m ready for the challenge!
First thought: Who know George Washington was tall and buff? And apparently kinda handsome or “physically majestic” as the book quoted. Say wha??? I’m just sayin the pictures I remember from grade school don’t scream Henry Cavill status.
Yes, I retain all the important facts from history books.
The author kicked off with this intro (and one that definitely grabbed my interest).
It seemed to me that Benjamin Franklin was wiser than Washington; Alexander Hamilton was more brilliant; John Adams was better read; Thomas Jefferson was more intellectually sophisticated; James Madison was more politically astute. Yet each and all of these prominent figures acknowledged that Washington was their unquestioned superior. Within the gallery of greats so often mythologized and capitalized as Founding Fathers, Washington was recognized as primus inter pares, the Foundingest Father of them all. Why was that? In the pages that follow I have looked for an answer, which lies buried within the folds of the most ambitious, determined and potent personality of an age not lacking for worthy rivals. How he became that way, and what he then did with it, is the story I try to tell.
First, here’s debbie downers I learned: He was supposedly in love with his BFF’s wife before her married Martha. Oh the drama! He had no descendants or children of his own. And both his step children died young :(. I also feel it necessary to inform you that he never admitted to a cherry tree chop to his Dad (instead he didn’t really have a relationship with his dad, who died relatively young). So rude to lie to young children in school ;)!
It’s interesting to read his thoughts on slavery (he did eventually free his slaves), his reluctance in taking the Presidency, but even with his legitimate doubts, he agreed to be “the chosen instrument of history” and he also knew that “Unlike Julius Caesar and Oliver Cromwell before him, and Napoleon, Lenin and Mao after him, he understood that the greater glory resided in posterity’s judgment” not falling to the “illusion that he transcended his human nature.”
I will admit, these books take me a bit longer to finish and depending how long the book is, I’ll “break” halfway through and read a quick fiction piece. But that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy them. Ellis researched well (of course I know no history book is completely objective), is enthusiastic and loves history, all of which are evident throughout the pages of the book.
Without sounding too much like a National Treasure cheese ball, men like Washington spoke with a passion that is rare these days. Take one of his earliest Revolutionary pieces: “At a time when our Lordly masters in Great Britain will be satisfied with nothing less than the deprivation of American freedom, It seems highly necessary that something should be done to avert the stroke and maintain the liberty which we have derived from our ancestors.”
Holler for history, folks!