Minister's Study

Ministering, writing, and wrestling in a land flowing with sweet tea and deep-fried food

Thursday, March 02, 2006

His Excellency

December 20th, 2005

I just finished reading this brief biography of George Washington. The title of the book, His Excellency, was taken from the wartime title used by Washington. This may have been the most balanced and objective look at Washington I have ever seen. Although the prose was at times dry and could have certainly benefited from collaboration with someone who writes for the purpose of entertaining, it never reached that scholarly impenetrability that many seem to associate with good history. The book was clear, and accomplished its purpose of giving an overview of Washington as a man and of his career from the French and Indian War until his death.

The author resisted the recent trend of iconoclastic bashing of Washington, as well as the older tendency to deify him, instead presenting a remarkable portriat of a man who was all the more remarkable because of the flaws with which he dealt. This book is certainly a product of our times, and so it focused on isues of importance today, particularly that of slavery (which Washington privately opposed, but realized that fighting it publicly would tear the infant country apart even before it came together). This was a fascinating read, and all the better because it avoided extremes and remained pretty balanced throughout. Although it is entirely possible that the author is wrong in some of his conclusions (I think that he probably downplayed the importance of God in Washington's life, mostly because Washington didn't use the word "God" a great deal when referring to God -- he frequently referred to providence or "the Almighty"), this book was a refreshing and informative read.


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