The Ascent of George Washington: The Hidden Political Genius of an American Icon

ByJohn Ferling

464 Pages

Release date: May 26, 2009 – Bloomsbury Press

ISBN: 978-1596914650

Every American knows who George Washington was and even though few still believe Parson Weems’ story of his life (does anyone still believe he chopped down a cherry tree?) most Americans have an idealized portrait of Washington in their minds.  In The Ascent of George Washington: The Hidden Political Genius of an American Icon, John Ferling portrays a different and much more human version of Washington.

Ferling, who has written extensively about the American Revolutionary period, discovered a Washington who was, “Madly ambitious and obsessed with recognition and renown,” he emerged a hero from two wars, in which he achieved only insignificant individual success and committed dreadful blunders.   He was a genius at shifting the blame for defeat on to others and engaging in self-promotion.

In spite of these failings, Ferling maintains Washington was a great American icon and the country was extraordinarily fortunate to have had him as its first president.  For while much of the aura that surrounded Washington in life and death was mythological, legendary heroes and mythical tales are essential for the creation and maintenance of a new nation.

Political leaders of the past have often been made into mythological figures that can never be imitated.  The reader can never achieve the same greatness nor does he expect it from his current leaders.  The fact that these past leaders were great but human, with human flaws is lost.  This diminishes their accomplishments by making it appear they were something more then normal men.

The Ascent of George Washington serves as a reminder that we are all human, even George Washington.

I received this book from the Library Thing Early Reviewer Program.