First and Always: A New Portrait of George Washington

Univ. of Virginia. Sept. 2020. 208p. ISBN 9780813944807. $27.95. BIOG
George Washington (1732–99) has one of the most enduring legacies in America’s historical memory. Though many have tried, it’s still a challenge to separate the man from the myth. In this collection of essays, Henriques (history emeritus, George Mason Univ.; Realistic Visionary: A Portrait of George Washington) seeks to give a realistic assessment of the Founder’s character as revealed through his life. Based on his biography of Washington, Henriques addresses questions asked about Washington that have existed since his lifetime—for example, the relationship with his mother, his staunch and humorless manner, his relationship with his slaves, the unjust near execution of a British officer in the 1782 Asgill affair, his qualities of leadership, and his partisanship at career’s end. In the final essay, Henriques applies ideas of psychoanalyst Carl Jung to answer: What made Washington tick?
VERDICT For general readers interested in Washington as an individual, Henriques’s efforts should be lauded. Despite presenting his subject as flawed, one who succeeded in gaining fame across the ages in spite of them, the author’s high admiration of Washington is palpable. His analysis and narrative style, however, fall short of Joseph Ellis’s Founding Brothers.
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