Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Ascent of George Washington” as Want to Read:
The Ascent of George Washington
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Ascent of George Washington

3.88  ·  Rating Details  ·  615 Ratings  ·  71 Reviews
Perhaps the most revered American of all, George Washington has long been considered a stoic leader who held himself above the fray of political infighting. What has gone unnoticed about the much-researched life of Washington is that he was in fact a consummate politician, as historian John Ferling shows in this revealing and provocative new book. As leader of the Continen ...more
ebook, 464 pages
Published July 1st 2009 by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (first published May 1st 2009)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Ascent of George Washington, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Ascent of George Washington

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,435)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Jul 19, 2014 Jeff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When we were little, we were told George Washington chopped down a cherry tree; had wooden teeth; beat the British at Valley Forge; and magically our country was born! This book is an engrossing and fascinating interpretation of Washington's mythology from contemporary accounts of his peers and a wider narrative of who and what in the world helped forge our great nation.
Having just finished slogging through the huge amount of facts and stories in this book, I found it most interesting learning a
Steven Peterson
Jul 31, 2009 Steven Peterson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The thesis of this volume is straightforward (Page xix): "This book, however, takes issue with [many historians':] portrayal of Washington as nonpolitical and steadfastly seeking to stay above politics." The author, John Ferling, also notes Washington's vaulting ambition and his willingness to use a variety of tactics to achieve his goals. Thus, this book can be deemed a political biography of George Washington.

The basic approach is laid out early. Washington did not have much of an education a
Craig J.
"As I am late to the battle of these reviews, let me add more of a footnote than a full review. [return][return]The previous reviewers are correct in pointing out the focus of this book - the political aspect of Washington's life, rather than a broader focus that would include more details of his private life and military leadership. However, one should interpret the term ""political"" broadly, as Ferling has much to say about the politics of Washington's rise as a military leader and how he ear ...more
Gary Hoggatt
George Washington has been the subject of countless books, from multi-volume biographies to books that focus in on a single aspect of his life. John Ferling's 2009 The Ascent of George Washington: The Hidden Political Genius of an American Icon falls into the later camp, looking at the father of our country through the lens of his political career. Overall, it's an interesting book with a fresh - if often cynical - perspective, though I wouldn't recommend it as anyone's first venture into readin ...more
Joy H.
Mar 09, 2012 Joy H. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Added 3/9/12.
I listened to the audio version of this book. Below is a copy of a post I made at my group about this book and another book about GW:
Jim wrote: "Joy, did you see a big difference between Ellis' view of Washington & Ferling's? One of the more interesting things about history is how much it changes depending on the author. ..."

Jim, I would say that, as far as I can remember, Ferling's book, The Ascent of George Washington: The Hidden Political
Sep 09, 2012 Susanclouse rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ok I will shorten this review since I did a review earlier and then lost it due to some computer boo boo.
I really enjoyed reading this book about the Father of our nation. No where is mentioned the cutting down of the cherry tree or the infamous false wooden teeth. I was taught these stories in grade school and I now really don't understand the significance of these facts.
This book describes a Washington that is very self-serving,blaming others for his failures, unable to make a decision and cau
Bob H
Dec 04, 2014 Bob H rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Even after all the books about George Washington, this author finds a new perspective on Washington's career. Readers should not be put off by the sometimes-startling insights, by a Washington who owed as much to political favor and self-promotion as to his military successes, such that they were. The very fact that Washington served as colonial officer, revolutionary general and President was important, as was his symbolic value as early as 1775, and all this was the result of his political con ...more
Every American knows who George Washington was and even though few still believe Parson Weems’ story of his life (does anyone still believe he chopped down a cherry tree?) most Americans have an idealized portrait of Washington in their minds. In The Ascent of George Washington: The Hidden Political Genius of an American Icon, John Ferling portrays a different and much more human version of Washington. [return][return]Ferling, who has written extensively about the American Revolutionary period, ...more
William C. Montgomery
This book was a fairly quick read, lacking the density of other biographies and histories I have read in recent years by Edmund Morris, David McCullough and Richard Lyman Bushman. I have wanted to find a good book on Washington since reading 1776 by McCullough and this book has proved credible in this regard.

I could not determine whether Ferling likes or dislikes his subject, which is part of the book's intrigue. The book is generally well written and well sourced. Most of Ferling’s arguments ar
An ARC from the GoodReads FirstReads program

This was a concise review of American history, although I'm not sure how reliable it is. The author clearly intends to portray a different side to George Washington, the 'hidden political' side.

In the preface, I came across a word I wasn't familiar with - hagiography. Turns out, this is the study of holy people. Ferling contends that most biographers treat George Washington as something of a saint, allowing some myths about his life to linger. He conte
Stan Lanier
Sep 02, 2015 Stan Lanier rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really liked this book. If non-scholarly readers were to read only, say, Chernow's biography of GW, this would be a great supplement. In a way, it is a study of how Washington "got ahead," showing some particularly less than stellar characteristics of this man of whom much mythological thinking persists. Ferling is, I think, both a good historian and a good historiographer.
Wow did I have a hard time with this book. They could easily change the title of this book to "George Washington Never Made a Good or Selfless Decision in His Life" by John Ferling. In the introduction of the book, Ferling explains that he disagreed with most historians that Washington was generally a selfless leader, and that the purpose of this book was to show that Washington was usually politically motivated with his decisions. I think that is a fair argument and one I looked forward to read ...more
Robin Friedman
Mar 11, 2015 Robin Friedman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Early in this new book, "The Ascent of George Washington", John Ferling quotes the famous two lines offered by Henry "Light Horse" Lee in his eulogy for George Washington offered on December 26, 1799 in Philadelphia. Lee declared that Washington was "first in war - first in peace - and first in the hearts of his countrymen." Lee proceeded to observe that in his long public life, Washington had acted in a selfless manner. Washington's intentions and actions had been motivated solely "from obedien ...more
Tom Schulte
Jan 14, 2015 Tom Schulte rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a rather sober assessment of Washington who had political, materialistic and possibly even craven aspects to his human character. Some things I thought listening to this is, would we have had a Washington if the
Feb 26, 2015 Erwin rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
this is nothing like Machiavelli's "The Prince".
if you believe that George Washington, or any other political leader of any significant population on the planet at any point in history would be "apolitical", then I don't think you've thought critically about the situation... apparently some people think that Washington was apolitical or "above politics" and it's shocking to them to learn about the details.

the really is that history tends towards mythology in the bit that gets passed down
Riley Gardner
Dec 21, 2015 Riley Gardner rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Finally finished this bad boy and I have to say I liked it. Didn't love it, but I liked it. It was kind of my fault. Let me say if you're looking for a general history of GWash this isn't it. It's a political biography and a good one, but I wouldn't recommend it for people who know little of the man (like me) and wanted a different bio (like me).

That being said I learned a lot, but the book was surprisingly negative towards him and everything he did. It attempts to be positive, of course, but I
After reading about some particularly shameful scandals in our nation's history, I commented to a friend that I needed something about a more heroic and upstanding character, like maybe George Washington. This book soon came to my attention, although it doesn't portray him in an especially positive light.

This is not a biography, but rather a study of Washington's politics. Professor Ferling says Washington was "madly ambitious and obsessed with recognition and renown." He explains that although
Jeni Enjaian
The two words that describe this book best are "revisionist history." Even without having read the introduction, I would know that this guy had something to prove.
With a sub title like "the political genius..." I expected the book to be more about Washington's political maneuvers and/or his understanding of the evolving political system. That is not what this book is.
First, do not read this book as an audiobook because the narrator is so boring he almost put me to sleep.
Second, Ferling resort
It was clear from the beginning that Ferling was taking a different approach to his biography on George Washington than most other historians. He wanted to knock Washington off the pedestal Americans have placed him upon and attempt to humanize a man that has been made into a hero and idol in the eyes of most Americans. I understand that mindset, but there was a lot of negativity in his writing and at times, to me, it took away the objectivity in this biography. Sometimes it was as if we weren’t ...more
Jeremy Perron
Oct 29, 2013 Jeremy Perron rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It can be said that there are two people for every person, the person who we are perceived to be and the person who we really are. This is extra true for public personalities, there is the identity that the public knows and who the person actually is. From any reality T.V. star to the President of the United States, who the person really is maybe far different from the public perception. For those who have graced the public stage the public persona continues to live on long after the real person ...more
Brett Provance
Jan 18, 2013 Brett Provance rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ferling's book is an important corrective to the ever-accruing yet ever-oversimplifying hagiographies that pass for historical work these days in the popular, middle-brow media. As George Washington is practically the Jesus Christ of the American civic religion (he ascends to heaven at the interior apex of the dome of the nation's Capitol), Ferling's work is even courageous. Indeed, Ferling is unflinching in his frank assessment of Washington's perennial preoccupation with land-grabbing and the ...more
Apr 18, 2012 Heather rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review is actually coming from reading the advanced reading copy. I know there were maps to be included in the final copy, which I think would greatly enhance the book. I really loved this book from start to finish. Mainly because it is not just another book on George Washington. The author, John Ferling, takes a new approach to this famous man by arguing that he was actually very political and highly partisan, which goes against what other historians have said. John Ferling takes the reade ...more
Mar 20, 2011 Christine rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anybody more willing than I to take semi-harsh criticism.
While I myself do have an elevated view of George Washington and do find myself placing him in a realm of otherworldliness where he seems to have no faults, it is hard to read about his shortcomings. I am however able to accept his faults because I know that no one is perfect. I feel like Ferling portrays too harsh a view of George Washington, playing up all of his shortcomings, which seems to me, an alarming degree. While no one likes to read negative things about a person they really admire, I ...more
Dec 06, 2013 Steve rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition

“The Ascent of George Washington” is prolific author John Ferling’s tenth book (of eleven thus far) and was published in 2009. He is a professor emeritus of history and has written extensively on the revolutionary era as well as many of those who figured so prominently in its history.

The somewhat contentious tone of his book is quickly established when Ferling points out that he fundamentally disagrees with the prevailing view of our first president as a “
George Washington is as big a secular saint as any in America's history. Here, John Ferling is decidedly iconoclastic. The popular image of Washington as an unassuming public servant is the target; Ferling paints Washington as a shrewd politician, if not self-absorbed, then certainly self-interested.

This critical history begins with Washington's military career and eventual generalship. Deep and detailed, the account of this period serves as the basis from which, Ferling claims, Washington would
Nov 30, 2012 Kevin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Not your average history book.

Also not quite a flattering portrayal. While it didn't neglect all of GW's accomplishments, by any means, it told what seemed to be a very frank and candid assessment of the hows and whys of the man. Not just his ascent, either, unless referring to his ascent into the history books, as the author covered from childhood to a death, even including a brief post-mortem analysis on the immediate aftermath (several years worth) of affects on the country.

I came away from
David Buhler
Apr 17, 2014 David Buhler rated it really liked it
I am very glad to have found and read this book. It is an eye-opener, as they say; and a peek into the character and personality of the "founder of our country." He had a huge ego which compensated for feelings of inadequacy. And in truth he WAS inadequate as a warrior; but he was hugely lucky!

He had no qualms about embellishing the truth if it would hide his shortcomings and advance his career. He was reserved, quiet, speaking but little; maintaining a air of kingly dignity! In spite of all hi
Eric Owens
Nov 22, 2014 Eric Owens rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. Excellently written and very historically accurate. I learned a lot of things about our first President that I never knew and is not taught in schools.

The Battle of Fort Necessity, or the Battle of the Great Meadows took place on July 3, 1754 in what is now the mountaintop hamlet of Farmington in Fayette County, Pennsylvania. The engagement was one of the first battles of the French and Indian War and George Washington's only military surrender. The then L
This book is built around proving that George Washington while a person of great import and impact was not as good as most have portrayed him. The message at the soul of the book is that George Washington was a politician driven by ambition.

I'll grant that Washington was not some sort of perfect saint and no doubt he did have ambition(s). However, I felt the author overstated his case. The descriptions of his character by his peers that knew him in real life do not match the picture the author
Paul Lunger
Aug 24, 2012 Paul Lunger rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There are a lot of words, phrases & stories that are associated with George Washington. John Ferling's biography of our nation's first commander in chief does a very good job of explaining just exactly how Washington went from surveyor in Virginia to failed military commander at Ft. Necessity to Revolutionary War hero to President of the US. Each chapter shows the growing confidence of Mr. Washington along with the growing pains that our new nation goes through from the French & Indian W ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 47 48 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Flight from Monticello: Thomas Jefferson at War
  • An Imperfect God: George Washington, His Slaves, and the Creation of America
  • President James Buchanan: A Biography
  • The Birth of Modern Politics: Andrew Jackson, John Quincy Adams, and the Election of 1828
  • Andrew Jackson: The Course of American Empire, 1767-1821
  • Blood of Tyrants: George Washington & the Forging of the Presidency
  • General George Washington: A Military Life
  • Patriarch: George Washington and the New American Nation
  • James Madison and the Struggle for the Bill of Rights
  • In Pursuit of Reason: The Life of Thomas Jefferson
  • George Washington
  • Abraham Lincoln and the Second American Revolution
  • President Lincoln: The Duty of a Statesman
  • Robert Morris: Financier of the American Revolution
  • For Liberty and Glory: Washington, Lafayette, and Their Revolutions
  • Negro President: Jefferson and the Slave Power
  • Jefferson the President: Second Term, 1805-1809
  • The Road to Monticello: The Life and Mind of Thomas Jefferson
John E. Ferling is a professor emeritus of history at the University of West Georgia. A leading authority on American Revolutionary history, he is the author of several books, including "A Leap in the Dark: The Struggle to Create the American Republic", "Almost a Miracle: The American Victory in the War of Independence", and his most recent work, "The Ascent of George Washington: The Hidden Politi ...more
More about John Ferling...

Share This Book