George Washington, the first president of the United States, had been written about perhaps more than any other person in American history. Despite this, much of what we know about the man is, in fact, pure myth. The stories we were raised on; the cherry tree incident, Washington praying at Valley Forge; were fictions created by historians long after his death, writers like Parson Weems in the 1800s, who created not Washington the man, but Washington the monument.
In George Washington: Man and Monument, Marcus Cunliffe offers a nuanced of Washington’s life and history that lays bare many of the myths, and attempts to reach the real man who lies beneath. The history of the Washington family, from its origins in England to its establishment of a planter society in Virginia, Washington’s early years, living in the shadow of his older half-brothers, his early military adventures, his command of the continental forces in the revolution, and his taxing years as president.
After reading this book, I can’t say that my understanding of Washington the man is improved, but, I did come away with a better understanding of the milieu that shaped that man.
An extremely well-written and exhaustively researched tome, this should be required reading for every American. Not only will it give a better understanding of where we as a nation have come from, but will aid in understanding some of the confusing political events of the present day.
I received a free copy of this book. I give it four stars.