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Thursday, May 26, 2005

Reading List: Founding Father

Brookhiser, Richard. Founding Father. New York: Free Press, 1996. ISBN 0-684-83142-2.
This thin (less than 200 pages of main text) volume is an enlightening biography of George Washington. It is very much a moral biography in the tradition of Plutarch's Lives; the focus is on Washington's life in the public arena and the events in his life which formed his extraordinary character. Reading Washington's prose, one might assume that he, like many other framers of the U.S. Constitution, had an extensive education in the classics, but in fact his formal education ended at age 15, when he became an apprentice surveyor--among U.S. presidents, only Andrew Johnson had less formal schooling. Washington's intelligence and voracious reading--his library numbered more than 900 books at his death--made him the intellectual peer of his just sprouting Ivy League contemporaries. One historical footnote I'd never before encountered is the tremendous luck the young U.S. republic had in escaping the risk of dynasty--among the first five U.S. presidents, only John Adams had a son who survived to adulthood (and his eldest son, John Quincy Adams, became the sixth president).

Posted at May 26, 2005 00:54