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Washington on Washington

Washington on Washington

Edited by Paul M. Zall
Copyright Date: 2003
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    Washington on Washington
    Book Description:

    For most Americans, George Washington is more of a legend than a man -- a face on our currency or an austere figure standing in a rowboat crossing the icy Delaware River. He was equally revered in his own time. At the helm of a country born of idealism and revolution, Washington reluctantly played the role of demigod that the new nation required -- a role reconciling the rhetoric of democracy with the ritual of monarchy.

    Washington quickly understood that every decision he made as president would be analyzed, criticized, and emulated. "There is scarcely any part of my conduct which may not hereafter be drawn into precedent," he said. In his own words, Washington describes himself as a poor orator and an uncomfortable leader, a man more at ease in his private gardens than at the center of America's trust and adoration. Plagued by doubts about his education and abilities, Washington developed self-discipline that to others seemed superhuman.

    Washington on Washingtonoffers a fresh and human perspective on this enigmatic figure in American history. Drawing on diary entries, journals, letters, and authentic interviews, Paul M. Zall presents the autobiography that Washington never lived to write, revealing new insights into his character, both personal and political.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-5761-0
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Introduction: George Washington’s Socratic Style
    (pp. ix-xxiii)

    In trying to assess George Washington’s personality, the difficulty is distinguishing between the way we see him and the way he saw himself. The difference may be inferred from passages that talk about himself in his own writings, both public and private. The public statements fit the Olympian image of Washington in the national memory. The private statements in his journals and letters sometimes reveal a different person—the privacy of a diary.

    A quintessential private person, Washington had a natural reluctance to express his feelings at all, a reluctance that was reinforced when his words were published to public...

  4. Note on the Text
    (pp. xxiv-xxiv)
  5. 1 Growing up Virginian 1738–1752
    (pp. 1-12)

    [Genealogy] is a subject to which I confess I have paid very little attention Very few cases, I believe, occur where a recurrence to pedigree for any considerable distance back has been found necessary to establish such points as may frequently arise in older Countries.¹

    My father Augustine married Jane Butler by whom he had my half-brothers Lawrence and Augustine. He then married Mary Ball with whom he had George, Betty, Samuel, John Augustine, Charles, and Mildred. My father died when I was only 10 years old.² He departed this life 1743, aged 49 years.³

    Father Augustine, widowed at thirty-five,...

  6. 2 Confronting Human Nature in the Wild October 1753–January 1754
    (pp. 13-23)

    At a most inclement Season, for [Washington] travelled over the Apalachean Mountains, and passed 250 Miles thro an uninhabited wilderness country (except by a few tribes of Indians settled on the Banks of the Ohio) to Presque Isle within 15 miles of Lake Erie in the depth of the winter when the whole face of the Earth was covered with snow and the waters covered with Ice;—The whole distance from Williamsburg the then seat of Government at least 500 miles. It was on this occasion he was named by the half-King (as he was called) and the tribes of...

  7. 3 Finding Fame on the Frontier May 1754–December 1758
    (pp. 24-36)

    May 27.I did not fail to let the young Indians who were in our Camp know, that the French wanted to kill the Half King; and that had its desired effect. They thereupon offered to accompany our People to go after the French.... About eight at Night, received an Express from the Half King, which informed me, that, as he was coming to join us, he had seen along the Road the Tracks of two Men, which he had followed, till he was brought thereby to a low obscure Place that he was of Opinion the whole Party of...

  8. 4 Planting Rebellion January 1759–April 1775
    (pp. 37-51)

    I profess myself a Votary to Love—I acknowledge that a Lady is in the Case—and further I confess, that this Lady is known to you.—Yes Madam, as well as she is to one, who is too sensible of her Charms to deny the Power, whose Influence he feels and must ever Submit to. I feel the force of her amiable beauties in the recollection of a thousand tender passages that I coud wish to obliterate, till I am bid to revive them.—but experience alas! sadly reminds me how Impossible this is.—and evinces an Opinion which...

  9. 5 Waging War 1775–1781
    (pp. 52-66)

    Tho’ I am truly sensible of the high Honour done me in this Appointment, yet I feel great distress from a consciousness that my abilities and Military experience may not be equal to the extensive and important Trust: However, as the Congress desire I will enter upon the momentous duty, and exert every power I Possess In their Service for the Support of the glorious Cause....

    But lest some unlucky event should happen unfavourable to my reputation, I beg it may be remembered by every Gentleman in the room, that I this day declare with the utmost sincerity, I do...

  10. 6 A Farewell to Arms 1781–1784
    (pp. 67-73)

    It really appears, from the conduct of the States, that they do not conceive it necessary for the Army to receive any thing but hard knocks; to give them pay is a matter which has been long out of the question and we were upon the very point of trying our hand at how we could live without subsistence. . . . Our Horses have long been without every thing their own thriftiness could not supply. Let any Man, who will allow reason fair play, ask himself what must be the inevitable consequences of such policy.¹

    His own patience had...

  11. 7 Seeking Retirement 1784–1786
    (pp. 74-86)

    At length I am now become a private citizen on the banks of the Potomac, and under the shadow of my own Vine and my own Fig tree, free from the bustle of a camp and the busy scenes of public life I am not only retired from all public employments, but I am retireing within myself; and shall be able to view the solitary walk, and tread the paths of private life with heartfelt satisfaction. Envious of none, I am determined to be pleased with all, and this being the order for my march, I will move gently down...

  12. 8 Becoming President 1787–1789
    (pp. 87-97)

    Attendance in Convention—morning business, receiving, and returning visits—and Dining late with the numberless etc—which are not avoided in so large a City as Philadelphia.¹

    General Washington presents his respectful compliments to Mrs Powell, and would, with great pleasure, have made one of a party for theSchool for Scandallthis evening; had not every thing been arranged, and Mr Gouverneur Morris and himself on the point of stepping into the Carriage for a fishing expedition... The General can but regret that matters have turned out so unluckily, after waiting so long to receive a lesson in...

  13. 9 Creating the Presidency 1789–1793
    (pp. 98-113)

    Since I left Mount Vernon she has given out four dozen and eight bottles of wine. Whether they are used or not she does not say; but I am led by it to observe, that it is not my intention that it should be given to every one who may incline to make a convenience of the house in travelling; or who maybe induced to visit it from motives of curiosity.... The duty upon Madeira wine makes it one of the most expensive liquors that is now used; while my stock of it is small and old wine (of which...

  14. 10 Preserving the Presidency 1793–1797
    (pp. 114-131)

    To say I feel pleasure from the prospect ofcommencinganother tour of duty, would be a departure from truth; for however it might savour of affectation in the opinion of the world (who by the bye can only guess at my sentiments as it never has been troubled with them) my particular and confidential friends well know, that it was after a long and painful conflict in my own breast, that I was withheld (by considerations which are not necessary to mention) from requesting,in time,that no vote might be thrown away upon me; it being my fixed...

  15. 11 Finding Peace 4 March 1797–14 December 1799
    (pp. 132-142)

    [March]9. Left Philadelphia on my return to Mt. Vernon.

    12. Dined and lodged in Baltimore. Met and escorted into town by a great concourse of people.

    14. Dined at Mr. [Thomas] Laws and lodged at Mr. Thomas Peters [both Mrs Washington’s grandsons-in-law]. Day warm. 15. Received the Compliments of the Citizens of George Town as I had done the day before those of the City of Washington. Stopped in Alexandria and got to Mt Vernon to dinner.²

    We got home without accident, and found the Roads drier, and better than I ever travelled them at that Season of the...

  16. Notes
    (pp. 143-152)
  17. Sources
    (pp. 153-158)
  18. INDEX
    (pp. 159-166)