This is the fourteenth entry for this meme, suggested by Sheila@ One Persons Journey Through A World of Books.
My latest read is The Ascent of George Washington: The Hidden Political Genius of an American Icon, by John Ferling, professor emeritus of history at the University of West Georgia, a leading authority on American Revolutionary history.
Ferling's earlier works include biographies of Washington and Adams, the election of 1800 between Adams and Jefferson, and a book on Washington, Adams and Jefferson, among others. So, I was especially interested in the new book (in 2009 - got as last Christmas gift) which focuses solely on the issue of Washington as a politician. Most historians skip over this role as, basically, non-existent. I have been anxious to examine this set of insights (after having read several Washington biographies, myself).
From the front cover flap:
Our first president has long been painted as a stoic figure who rose above the rough-and-tumble politics of his era. The Ascent of George Washington peers behind that image - one carefully burnished by Washington himself - to reveal a leader who was not only not above politics, but a master manipulator adept in the arts of persuasion, leverage, and deniability.
During the Revolution, Washington used his skills to steer the Continental Army through crises that would have broken less determined men; at the same time, he ruthlessly froze out rival generals and shrewdly defused dissent from those below him. Ending the war as a national hero, Washington "allowed" himself to be pressed into service as chief executive, and guided the nation with the same brilliantly maintained pose of selfless public interest.
In short, Washington deftly screened burning ambition behind an image of republican virtue - but that image made him just the leader that an over-matched army, and a shaky young nation, desperately needed. As Ferling reveals, the proof of Washington's political genius lies in the fact that he is no longer thought of as a politician at all. The Ascent of George Washington gives us Washington as we have never seen him before.