Sunday, April 19, 2020

You Never Forget Your First: A Biography of George Washington

The author acknowledges that there are very few biographies of George Washington written by women - and that these often focus on "female issues". Many of the biographies are big thick tomes written by men that go through all the details of Washington's life. There are also others that try to rip apart the "myth" of Washington. She has attempted to provide something different - a short, balanced history of his life. She goes through his entire life. However, the focus is primarily on his "public" life - as a military man and president. She provides context on some easy-to-shatter myths. (Wooden teeth would just not be practical; however, he did have really bad teeth.) Washington had no biological children, thus helping prevent dynastic succession. He was quite wealthy (in part through a familial pattern of marrying in to money.) However, his wealth was primarily tied up into land. He was a slave-holder. However, he advocated abolition of slavery in a "gradual" fashion. A sudden loss of property would devastate the economy. However, a slow freeing seemed feasible. (Personally, he didn't think he could afford to free his slaves during his life. He did grant slaves freedom in his will.)
As a military man, Washington was a rather poor leader at first. Though he gained experience as a British military leader. This probably helped him as he would eventually lead the rebels. As a president, he had wide-spread support among the people and founding fathers. However, his presidency would eventually strain his relations with many of the other founding fathers. And speaking of fathers, he is not known to have fathered any children. Perhaps this was an impact of the many times that he had been sick in his life.

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