"No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you a father of many nations." -- Genesis 17:5 (NKJV)
This is the best Washington biography I've read.
We are fortunate to live in a time when more can be known about George Washington than during most of the last 200 years as large quantities of his papers have been recently published. This book makes good use of these documents.
If you find it hard to perceive a human being within the patriotic stories about George Washington, Ron Chernow's Washington: A Life will add lots of human perspective for you. Unlike many biographies of the founders of the United States, this one attempts to portray the warts along with the sources of praise. I especially liked the way that Mr. Chernow carefully described Washington's private views and actions, publicly expressed opinions, and inactions to show inconsistencies in his thinking and life concerning slavery and Native Americans.
Many biographies tend to describe a fixed character, while we all know that people often change and mature in unexpected ways. Mr. Chernow describes an extremely ambitious young man who aggressively sought advantage . . . and was concerned about making a good impression. As a result, Washington learned to restrain himself in public in ways that made his leadership more acceptable, including not giving away his inner thoughts. Having perceived that he was rarely a quick study, he worked hard to find good solutions and learned the patience of taking the time to do so. In the process, he developed a maturity in decision making that put him ahead of his peers. Above all, he was a patient man who stayed focused on the right goals in serving others. As such, he was an ideal person to draw together those with less vision and commitment . . . especially during difficult times.
I came away with a heightened appreciation for Washington as a principled leader, something we don't see very often in today's world. I also learned a lot about things I should teach those who want to improve as leaders. That's something I can rarely say about a biography of a statesman.
Bravo, Mr. Chernow!
on September 30, 2013
I've just finished "Washington, a life". Ron Chernow presents a vivid image of the former commander in chief/President. Washington, much like the Great Abraham Lincoln, was a man who could adapt and evolve into something better and different. For instance, even abusive to a certain extend towards his slaves, he did questionned his views and method; see, analyse, understand and finally act upon his reflexions in his will about the cruelty of the institution of slavery, freeing all his personal slaves.
However,one of the most interesting aspect of this tremendous work is the relation between Federalist and Republicans, and most especially the ideologic duel between Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson. That angle alone is worth you time and reading.
I've read books about John Adams and Washington, and let me tell you that Thomas Jefferson doesn't look to good...
In conclusion, "Washington; a life: is about one the finest biography that you can lay your eyes upon, and I could not recommend it enough.
A superb one volume biography, this book makes good use of the historical information available about George Washington to provide a detailed picture of the man, both good and bad. We also see how he matured from an ambitious young man into an older man who knew how to control himself. The writing flows brilliantly - this is an 800 page book that justifies it's length. In short, this is a life-size biographical portrait of George Washington, just the way he would have wanted.