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George Washington is by far the most important figure in the history of the United States. Against all military odds, he liberated the thirteen colonies from the superior forces of the British Empire and presided over the process to produce and ratify a Constitution that (suitably amended) has lasted for more than two hundred years. In two terms as president, he set that Constitution to work with such success that, by the time he finally retired, America was well on its way to becoming the richest and most powerful nation on earth.
Despite his importance, Washington remains today a distant figure to many Americans. Previous books about him are immensely long, multivolume, and complicated. Paul Johnson has now produced a brief life that presents a vivid portrait of the great man as young warrior, masterly commander-in-chief, patient Constitution maker, and exceptionally wise president. He also shows Washington as a farmer of unusual skill and an entrepreneur of foresight, patriarch of an extended family, and proprietor of one of the most beautiful homes in America, which he largely built and adorned.
Trenchant and original as ever, Johnson has given us a brilliant, sharply etched portrait of this iconic figure—both as a hero and as a man.
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Paul Johnson is a historian whose work ranges across the millennia and the whole gamut of human activities. He contributes a weekly essay to The Spectator and a monthly column to Forbes, and lectures around the world. He lives in London.From Booklist:
*Starred Review* This slim but resonant volume is the latest installment in the Eminent Lives series, which presents brief biographies of famous figures throughout history and from all walks of life, written by distinguished contemporary writers. Johnson, a noted British historian, submits a beautifully cogent, enthrallingly perceptive, and, given the vast accumulation of published material on his subject, startlingly fresh take on the ultimate American icon, our first president. Johnson compromises neither the subtlety of his comprehension nor the immaculateness of his prose style as he, rather than standing up close, steps back to view Washington in perfect perspective. Unsparing in his praise ("Washington's genius," "one of the most important figures in world history") but also offering balance to the equation in his more qualified estimation of Washington as a military tactician and a slaveholder, Johnson serves not only to introduce but also to summarize Washington's life, his career (including the path his thinking took to finally deciding that only independence of the colonies would do), and his impact on the fledgling nation. The question so trenchantly answered here is, What was it about Washington that made the man such a commanding figure? A breathtaking treatment in its clarity and sheerness. Brad Hooper
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