George Washington: The Political Rise of America’s Founding Father

Dutton. Feb. 2021. 576p. ISBN 9780451488985. $32. BIOG
Stewart (Impeached: The Trial of President Andrew Johnson) makes the case that though George Washington (1732–99) went out of his way to hide it, he was a masterful politician who used his talents to advance the priorities he thought necessary for the fledgling United States. While his record of success in the French and Indian War was uneven, he nevertheless managed to learn how to organize an army. Afterwards he rose swiftly to prominence in the Virginia House of Burgesses. During the Revolutionary War, as Stewart ably recounts, Washington held his army together through Valley Forge and later thwarted machinations to remove him from his post. Stewart argues that Washington was the only player at the Constitutional Convention who received both a strong executive branch and a permanent namesake capitol. As president, Washington supported Alexander Hamilton in establishing the national bank and assuming payment of the state’s war debts by the federal government. In this second term, he managed to keep the country out of potentially disastrous foreign involvement. Stewart concludes by discussing the politician’s late wrestling with the issue of slavery.
VERDICT In this lively and admirable study, Stewart offers a balanced and thoughtfully well-written appreciation of George Washington’s life and leadership. A must for fans of biographies.
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