Travels with George: In Search of Washington and His Legacy

Viking. Sept. 2021. 400p. ISBN 9780525562177. $30. HIST
Anxious about national unity and his leadership abilities as president, George Washington traversed the American colonies, using his celebrity to engage with people and deftly cultivate a common national identity. Best-selling author Philbrick (In the Hurricane’s Eye) was curious about Washington’s efforts to form an enduring, stable country, so he retraced Washington’s travels and took along his wife and their dog. Not intending to just connect the "Washington slept here" dots, Philbrick searched for what still binds the country, and discovered it was Washington, an imperfect man keenly driven to unify disparate states. Philbrick doesn't excuse Washington’s faults, and the contradictions are glaring: Washington was a larger-than-life hero as well as a flawed slave owner who recognized slavery’s injustices and its long-lasting effects on national economics, politics, and identity but upheld the practice anyway, with the stated intent of preserving the union. Philbrick says that Washington’s incongruity on slavery, combined with the ideals of the American Revolution, has continually challenged the nation. He intends to give readers a more complete understanding of Washington's efforts to sustain unity.
VERDICT This enjoyable read, as intensely researched as all of Philbrick's books, offers insight into the motivations and career of the author (a self-described history geek), and the vision, character, and impact of Washington. For history readers at all levels.
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