Josh's Reviews > His Excellency: George Washington

His Excellency by Joseph J. Ellis
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Jun 06, 14

Read from June 29 to July 18, 2011

“His Excellency” is yet another biography about the foremost founding father George Washington. Author Joseph Ellis attempted to distinguish this work by focusing on the man’s illusive character. The book manages to entertainingly retell a story about a person known to everyone, while simultaneously describing a personality known to few. Ellis dug deep into the 18th century records and put some life back into a legendary individual who has been dead for over 200 years.

Its greatest strength is the character analysis Ellis strung together from historical fragments, letters, and events. He tears down myth and reveals a complex and amazingly ambitious individual with multiple character flaws, a troubled post-White House life, and a tortured personal journey towards the abolition of his slaves. “His Excellency” also goes the distance in demonstrating what made Washington so successful in his personal life, as Commander in Chief of the Continental Army, and as the first President.

To find fault with this book one must pause and consider if the analysis Ellis put forth is always correct. As Washington said and wrote little about his personal feelings and Martha destroyed their correspondence, many of the conclusions in the text appear to be based on loose guesswork and curious psychoanalysis. Yet another book about the topic of Washington’s life seems redundant and at times accounts of the Revolutionary War are so evident as to only require a quick scan. However, if you want to know more about the person behind DC’s towering stone monolith, the stoic face on the dollar bill, and the man who helped to shape our country at its beginning, this is definitely worth your time.
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