His Excellency: George Washington

His Excellency: George Washington

by Joseph Ellis

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The author of seven highly acclaimed books, Joseph J. Ellis has crafted a landmark biography that brings to life in all his complexity the most important and perhaps least understood figure in American history, George Washington. With his careful attention to detail and his lyrical prose, Ellis has set a new standard for biography.

Drawing from the newly catalogued Washington papers at the University of Virginia, Joseph Ellis paints a full portrait of George Washington’s life and career—from his military years through his two terms as president. Ellis illuminates the difficulties the first executive confronted as he worked to keep the emerging country united in the face of adversarial factions. He richly details Washington’s private life and illustrates the ways in which it influenced his public persona. Through Ellis’s artful narration, we look inside Washington’s marriage and his subsequent entrance into the upper echelons of Virginia’s plantation society. We come to understand that it was by managing his own large debts to British merchants that he experienced firsthand the imperiousness of the British Empire. And we watch the evolution of his attitude toward slavery, which led to his emancipating his own slaves in his will. Throughout, Ellis peels back the layers of myth and uncovers for us Washington in the context of eighteenth-century America, allowing us to comprehend the magnitude of his accomplishments and the character of his spirit and mind.

When Washington died in 1799, Ellis tells us, he was eulogized as "first in the hearts of his countrymen." Since then,however, his image has been chisled onto Mount Rushmore and printed on the dollar bill. He is on our landscape and in our wallets but not, Ellis argues, in our hearts. Ellis strips away the ivy and legend that have grown up over the Washington statue and recovers the flesh-and-blood man in all his passionate and fully human prowess.

In the pantheon of our republic’s founders, there were many outstanding individuals. And yet each of them—Franklin, Hamilton, Adams, Jefferson, and Madison— acknowledged Washington to be his superior, the only indispensable figure, the one and only "His Excellency." Both physically and politically, Washington towered over his peers for reasons this book elucidates. His Excellency is a full, glorious, and multifaceted portrait of the man behind our country’s genesis, sure to become the authoritative biography of George Washington for many decades.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781428141018
Publisher: Recorded Books, LLC
Publication date: 02/19/2007
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 1.25(h) x 9.00(d)

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His Excellency 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 123 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
'His Excellency' is a biography that allows the reader to visualize the life of George Washington as if they were experiencing his life right beside him. There isn't a better time than now to read about how our Presidency was shaped. This should be a recommended read for all who are running as well as the everyday American who wonders about the current political struggles.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is an interesting insight into the life of one of the most important figures in American history. The book attempts to show you the human side of the myth and monument that is Washington to modern America. He is shown not as the perfect, honest, legend but as the human man trying to make a name for himself in his early adulthood. The mistakes of his life are laid out before you and the lessons he learned from them. How his great judgment lead history to select him for the roles he would play as the Commander in Chief for the Continental Army, Chair of the Constitutional convention, and ultimately First President. Each time he reluctantly at first, then with an enthusiastic sense of fate, returned to public life, all the time yearning to return to his beloved Mount Vernon. The Washington monument does represent a human being and here he is. There is not a lot of military information in the book which I like it is more an insight into the man and his thinking processes as a biography should be. The book is recommended if you have an interest in learning about Washington and the founding of the nation but the language can be a bit tangled and high brow at times. I found myself more than once wishing I had a dictionary handy.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I recommend Ellis's book, though feel it is important to understand that this is less of an account of Washington's life and more of 1) a rexamination of other biogrophies 2) a correcting of false but popular myths 3) and an effective presentation of Ellis's own interpretation of Washington's Actions and Motives. While I enjoyed this book, and went through it rather quickly, I was disopointed in a few respects. Firstly, although I had read Ellis before (being aware of his essayist style), I was still expecting a fuller presentation of the facts of Washington's life, in the narrative style of David McCullough (An admittedly unfair expectation on my part). This is less of an Authoritative Biography in that, as a previous reviewer has indicated, it leavs out much detail and breezes through the parts of the Founder's life with which Ellis does not choose to make a point. I also was disapointed that Ellis used this biography to make comparisons to future, and even current events--drawing his own political conclusions instead of allowing the reader to make their own conclusions based on the facts in full. There is much to praise in this book, it excells in scholarship and review. It gives insightful interpretation and is well worth reading. But this is not a detailed narrative biography which covers all the events of Washington's life.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is a great read. Not only is it an in depth picture of our first President, but it is an entertaining read, which can not be said about most historical non-fiction books. I recommend this book to anyone interested in history.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I just finished reading this last night and am thrilled with it. I have read many biographies on Washington and am in fact a collector of his portraits, etc. This is the best yet! Here is Washington as he was, not, perhaps, how we might wish him to be. (Hear that, the reviewer who criticized Ellis for not showing a more fervently Christian side of Washington.) Through it all, I remain a staunch Washington supporter and in awe of all he was able to accomplish. His ability and willingness (and, more than once, sheer luck) to persevere despite odds stacked high against him is mind-boggling. No, he wasn't a perfect man, but he said what he meant and did what he said. Whether you agree with all his actions or not, his personal integrity is rock solid - a model that will continue to serve for future generations.
Guest More than 1 year ago
As much as I admire Mr. Ellis' knowledge and love hearing him speak, his writing style is not the most compelling. That said, this is a very worthwhile book and it is certainly worth anyone's time to learn more about General Washington. Buy it, read it, enjoy it, just don't expect the world.
carterchristian1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The author is not afraid to show has George Washington manipulated his story himself, beginning with his encounters with the French at the beginning of his career.
elizabeth_s on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was a very enjoyable biography. Washington comes across as an ambitious, but not self-serving, man. Not a particularly good general, and sometimes too slow to realize he could no longer trust former friends.Ellis writes in an easygoing style that brings Washington and his world to life.
weakley on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Biography of the year for me. Ellis has produced a historical, thoughful, indepth, and yet readable story of one of the truly great men we have been given. While not an American, I am still allowed to have a respectful interest in some of the founders of your state. Washington, Adams, and Jefferson make a powerful triumvirate. These 300 odd pages about Washington left me wanting a little bit more depth about his early years, but that is my sole complaint about the book. This is a suggested read for anyone interested in the tale of a man who strove to live up to his principles.
dvf1976 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An excellent biography of an excellent man.I really admire George Washington's ability to be able to walk away from power as well as his feelings about negotiating with nations (Nations cannot be counted on to act morally. They will only do that if it coincidentally in their best interest)I don't know if Joe Ellis intentionally characterizes Thomas Jefferson as a jerk or whether that's historical fact...
ksmyth on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
My first Joseph Ellis book was simply wonderful. Ellis avoids the sin of trying to tell us everything about Washington, and paints an understandable portrait of this most important founding father.
SeriousGrace on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Ellis writes in an easy, flowing style. Almost conversational in tone, Washington's life comes alive as the pages turn. While not a great deal of evidence of Washington's personal life has survived, Ellis does a fantastic job filling in the gaps with Washington's military career and political rise to power. The text is supplemented by a few pages of photographs - mostly portraits Washington had commissioned of himself
charrod on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A good read about the first and best American President. And a test for Facebook app......
TooBusyReading on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Right off the bat, I learned a word new to me: hegemony. That's always a plus. Of course, if I were better read, especially in history, I probably would have learned it years ago, but hey, I'm not above admitting my ignorance.Overall, I enjoyed this biography of the first U. S. president. While there is inevitably quite a bit of history in it, the book is more about the man than about the history he shaped. Occasionally, it seemed a bit dry to me and once in awhile, the sentences seemed unnecessarily convoluted, but maybe that's just me. I especially was interested by Washington's personal and political views towards slavery and displacement of Native Americans and appreciated Mr. Ellis's insight into the subject. I only wish Martha Washington hadn't destroyed the correspondence between George and her because it would have been wonderful to know more about his private life and thoughts.
ZoharLaor on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I felt the book is a fair portrayal of Washington as a human and gives the reader a new insight into the person. Mr. Ellis tries to take a man which has become a myth in his own time and deconstruct him to see what makes him tick. What did he find; Washington was a man like any of us, making his decisions based on what's good for his bank account, and putting in strategic moves for the future. We must remember that in that time people put in work to collect decades later, unlike today.This is an overview of Washington's life, the important decisions he made and why did he make them. Mr. Ellis' research is well founded; his speculations and premises make logical sense and put a new light on old tales.Are Mr. Ellis' assumptions correct?Who know, but isn't that half the fun or reading history books, to make your own assumptions, theories and hypothesis and see if the author agrees with you.Don't be afraid to read this book, you will come away with a great appreciation and admiration to Washington because, not despite, he was a human being and not a super-man.
ggarfield on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Outstanding!Joseph Ellis has done a wonderful job giving real life to the man who won American independence in the Revolutionary War and who then went on to invent and sustain America¿s emerging nationhood. George Washington¿s early years on the Virginia frontier, to his role in the French and Indian War are fascinating enough. However, this early part of the book (and his life) serve to illustrate the crucible that these early days were to the creation of his iron will and the leadership qualities that brought him to lead the Continental Army throughout the Revolutionary War. His role as General convinced him of the need for Federal power to raise money for, among other things, an army. The details of the Continental Army¿s condition during the war further illustrate the amazing nature of America¿s defeat of what was then the world¿s preeminent military power. For example, during the winter of 1776-1777, many soldiers went without shoes and fought a well equipped British Army. It is interesting to learn more about the relationship between Washington and his chief aid in the war and as President; Alexander Hamilton. Moreover, Ellis draws some interesting contrasts between Washington and Jefferson (both of whom he has now devoted a book each) and their personal relationship. Washington emerges from this the more influential character.Galvanized by these prior experiences, Washington¿s influence on moving the confederation of states to the Constitutional Convention and ultimately the Constitution itself is crystal clear. No other Founding Father had such a realistic view of how to implement the new American ideals and, indeed, as Henry Lee expressed in Washington¿s eulogy; ¿First in war, first in peace and first in the hearts of his countrymen.¿His Excellency does an outstanding job of giving the reader a perspective on Washington, the person and, thus, takes a little bit of the stone like statue away from his persona. Here we also learn of Washington¿s obsession with managing the affairs of Mt Vernon and his considerable real estate empire while also being a General and a President. We get a sense that Washington¿s famous aloofness and ability to remain silent in a storm were as Ellis puts it ¿protective tactics developed to prevent detection of the combustible materials simmering inside.¿This is an outstanding book. I¿d read it again and likely will someday.
mcelhonec on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I learned many things about George Washington and his contmeporaries. Mr. Washington is not deified in this book and the author makes our first President seem human.
sgerbic on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Reviewed Dec. 2005 Wow, what a man! I knew so very little about this man or time, it was overwhelming at every page I would turn to held something new. I purchased and scanned sereval books on the American Revolution which helped clear up many areas for me. My visit to Mt. Vernon this summer really helped for me to visualize this time period. I had never really thought much about America¿s beginnings, never thought about the time before. It seemed like people threw tea into the bay, they fought for awhile and became a Nation. History is so much more than that. Without knowing the results gives way more insight into history. I was also amazed to know how much Caspian knew about this time, and I have so much more to learn. I made many notes and underlined much in this book. I know I will be using this for reference. I need to know read about some of the other players, Hamilton, Franklin, Adams ect.... From the beginning I was puzzled why Martha burned all the letters between her and George. Until the end is she barely mentioned and only then barely. How much more interesting this would have been if her thoughts and ideas could be included. Alas! 21-2005
david7466 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really found this book to more about the war activities of the good general than about the person. Just my opinion.
MichaelDeavers on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Mr. Ellis does an exceptionally good job of introducing George Washington. He connects George Washington¿s formative years then on to his growth as plantation owner in Virginia, through the years as a Commander of the Continental Army, ending with his years a President of the United States.The author portrays Washington as a man with all the human traits that you would expect from any man. With Washington¿s personal papers, Mr. Ellis reveals new and interesting discoveries into Washington¿s life that are supported by referenced documents. In several cases the author makes it clear that the evidence supporting Washington¿s life is vague and the readers need to draw their own conclusions.In my opinion, this book was well written and a worthy biography of Washington. It¿s a bit short on particulars, i.e., the crossing of the Delaware, Valley Forge, etc., but it was still informative and I highly recommend this book to all history buffs.
DavidCrawford on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A superb insight into the Father of Our Country.Joseph Ellis wrote an excellent book that will give you a superb insight into the Father of Our Country. There can only be one man to fit those shoes and George Washington is that man. Mr. Ellis enlightens the story of Washington in an engaging, easily understanding way, that non-historians will appreciate. He doesn¿t get bogged down in trivial details, but gives the reader amble details to get a thorough understanding of George Washington.In his book you will learn a great deal about Washington; his greatness and how he had to overcome so many criticisms and failures to become the sole beacon for the fledging United States. Ellis lets you know that Washington was not perfect by any means. In fact he wasn¿t a great general. But, what he did have was persistence, courage and the ability to take advice from his staff of officers and even the French.Highly recommend.
adribabe on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
What an interesting man. At times he is a very frustrating character but at others times you understand why. His stand was always somewhere in the middle even though he kept very strong ideas himself. He was always very careful not to be an extremist on any view or policy. He was the ultimate politician with heart who hated confrontation. Not being able to fully know the man behind the myth is what makes him a legend. This book explains why we are not able to know more about him as well as his strained relationship with Jefferson. The two men could not be more opposite in everything. Fantastic biographical book. Also recommended would be 1776, it goes more in depth as to his decisions or lack thereof on the battlefield during the revolutionary war. I unfortunately read 1776 first and then this one, i would recommend it the other way around.
JBD1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A well-done, short bio of Washington.
CritEER on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
- I was emotionally moved with the chapters regarding GW's retirement from the military and then from the Presidency- With the slew of good books on GW (Adopted Son, Washington's Secret War, GW and Benedict Arnold, and Washington's Crossing) this is a must read to fully gain a understanding of the breath and depth of GW leadership and life experience- All the important figures of the revolutionaly war, Franklin, Hamilton, Adams, Jefferson and Madison, recognized GW was the most critical and oustanding hero in support of our new nation
TZYuhas on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Ellis composes a very succinct biography of the man and the myth that was and is George Washington. He gently coaxes Geo. Washington from the annals of history to adeptly illustrate a man who was driven by his ambition yet cloaked the said ambition in modesty. Which stemmed from his desire and belief that he would be judged by posterity.