James Thomas Flexner’s masterful four-volume biography of America’s first president, which received a special Pulitzer Prize citation and a National Book Award for its concluding installment, is the definitive chronicle of Washington’s life and a classic work of American history. In this single-volume edition, Flexner brilliantly distills his sweeping study to offer readers “the most convincing evocation of the man and his deeds written within the compass of one book” (Los Angeles Times).
In graceful and dramatic prose, Flexner peels back the myths surrounding Washington to reveal the true complexity of his character. The only founding father from Virginia to free all his slaves, Washington was a faithful husband who harbored deep romantic feelings for his best friend’s wife. An amateur soldier, he prepared for his role as commander in chief of the Continental army by sending out to Philadelphia bookshops for treatises on military strategy. As president, he set many democratic precedents—including the two-term limit and the appointment of an advisory cabinet—yet routinely excluded his vice president, John Adams, from important decisions.
The George Washington that emerges in these pages is a shrewd statesman, a wise commander, a brave patriot, and above all, “an ordinary man pushed to greatness by the extraordinary times in which he lived” (The Christian Science Monitor). In tracing Washington’s evolution from privileged son of the landed gentry to “the indispensable man” without whom the United States as we know it would not exist, Flexner presents a hero worthy of admiration not only for his remarkable strengths, but also for his all-too-human weaknesses.
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