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His Excellency: George Washington - Joseph J. Ellis

Few names conjure up a vision of American history like that of George Washington. His personage is so well known that his personal history has beef fraught with myth and folklore. Who hasn't heard the story of a young George and the cherry tree? In [b]His Excellency[/b] biographer and historian Joseph J. Ellis attempts to shed the myth and tell us the truth about the most famous man in American history.


I found this book to be very readable, it provided all the facts without become dry, but nor did it ever stray to the narrative as has become popular recently. The emphasis was very clearly placed on his time fighting in first The French and Indian War and second as the Commander in Chief if the American forces throughout the Revolution. We are provided copious details of his life as both a private and public man during this time, complete with excerpts from his personal communications. Another strong point of the biography was the details regarding his evolving opinions regarding slavery from a man who had no concerns about the institution to a man who granted them their freedom following his and his wife's deaths. 


Where I felt the book was lacking was in regards to his two terms as President following the failure of the Articles of Confederation and the establishment of the federal government under the Constitution. I felt more attention could have been played to his accomplishments and failures during this time. I would say a full two thirds of the book was devoted to his life and military career before he took office. While I have read other books that fully detail Washington's Presidency, I think a complete biography really should pay equal attention to both stages of his life.


Overall this is a very good biography and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to anyone interested in learning more about George Washington. For those who wish to expand their knowledge base after completing this book, Ellis complied a very thorough collection of notes and citations at the end of the book.