The Ascent of George Washington
The Hidden Political Genius of an American Icon
By John Ferling
(Bloomsbury Press, Hardcover, 9781596914650, 464pp.)
Publication Date: May 26, 2009
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Bestselling historian John Ferling draws on his unsurpassed knowledge of the Founding Fathers to provide a fresh and provocative new portrait of the greatest of them all, George Washington.Even compared to his fellow founders, George Washington stands tall. Our first president has long been considered a stoic hero, holding himself above the rough-and-tumble politics of his day. Now John Ferling peers behind that image, carefully burnished by Washington himself, to show us a leader who was not only not above politics, but a canny infighter—a master of persuasion, manipulation, and deniability. In the War of Independence, Washington used his skills to steer the Continental Army through crises that would have broken less determined men; he squeezed out rival generals and defused dissent from those below him. Ending the war as a national hero, Washington “allowed” himself to be pressed into the presidency, guiding the nation with the same brilliantly maintained pose of selfless public interest. In short, Washington deftly screened a burning ambition behind his image of republican virtue—but that image, maintained not without cost, made him just the leader the overmatched army, and then the shaky young nation, desperately needed. Ferling argues that not only was Washington one of America’s most adroit politicians—the proof of his genius is that he is no longer thought of as a politician at all.
John Ferling is a professor emeritus of history at the State University of West Georgia. A leading authority on American Revolutionary history, he is the author of seven books, including Adams vs. Jefferson: The Tumultuous Election of 1800, The First of Men: A Life of George Washington, and the award-winning A Leap in the Dark: The Struggle to Create the American Republic. His most recent work, Almost a Miracle, was a history bestseller.
“Sensing that such biographers as James Flexner and Joseph Ellis have accepted the above-politics thesis, Ferling inspects the evidence of Washington’s political activities…while illustrating the substance behind Washington’s image as the indispensable man, Ferling pointedly grounds that image in the political soil from which it sprang.” –Booklist
“Ferling has done his research and offers some new insights…recommended for readers interested in taking a fresh look at Washington's political life” –Library Journal
“Never questioning Washington’s greatness, Ferling insists that seeing him as an artful self-promoter and master politician only enhances his reputation as an adept leader who knew exactly what he was doing…a fresh take on a monumental American.” –Kirkus
“Once in a while a book comes along to remind us that history has no gods, that the past is less fossil than textbooks suggest and America more vibrant than a mere list of principles. John Ferling's Ascent of George Washington is just such a book: a fresh, clear-eyed portrait of the full-blooded political animal that was George Washington…In John Ferling’s eminently readable, landmark interpretation, we cannot help but marvel at the man.” –Marie Arana, Washington Post