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His Excellency
Cover of His Excellency
His Excellency
George Washington
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National Bestseller

To this landmark biography of our first president, Joseph J. Ellis brings the exacting scholarship, shrewd analysis, and lyric prose that have made him one of the premier historians of the Revolutionary era. Training his lens on a figure who sometimes seems as remote as his effigy on Mount Rushmore, Ellis assesses George Washington as a military and political leader and a man whose "statue-like solidity" concealed volcanic energies and emotions.

Here is the impetuous young officer whose miraculous survival in combat half-convinced him that he could not be killed. Here is the free-spending landowner whose debts to English merchants instilled him with a prickly resentment of imperial power. We see the general who lost more battles than he won and the reluctant president who tried to float above the partisan feuding of his cabinet. His Excellency is a magnificent work, indispensable to an understanding not only of its subject but also of the nation he brought into being.



From the Trade Paperback edition.

National Bestseller

To this landmark biography of our first president, Joseph J. Ellis brings the exacting scholarship, shrewd analysis, and lyric prose that have made him one of the premier historians of the Revolutionary era. Training his lens on a figure who sometimes seems as remote as his effigy on Mount Rushmore, Ellis assesses George Washington as a military and political leader and a man whose "statue-like solidity" concealed volcanic energies and emotions.

Here is the impetuous young officer whose miraculous survival in combat half-convinced him that he could not be killed. Here is the free-spending landowner whose debts to English merchants instilled him with a prickly resentment of imperial power. We see the general who lost more battles than he won and the reluctant president who tried to float above the partisan feuding of his cabinet. His Excellency is a magnificent work, indispensable to an understanding not only of its subject but also of the nation he brought into being.



From the Trade Paperback edition.
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Copies-
  • Available:
    23
  • Library copies:
    25
Levels-
  • ATOS:
  • Lexile:
    1390
  • Interest Level:
  • Text Difficulty:
    12

Recommended for you

Excerpts-
  • Chapter One Interior Regions

    History first noticed George Washington in 1753, as a daring and resourceful twenty-one-year-old messenger sent on a dangerous mission into the American wilderness. He carried a letter from the governor of Virginia, Robert Dinwiddie, addressed to the commander of French troops in that vast region west of the Blue Ridge Mountains and south of the Great Lakes that Virginians called the Ohio Country. He was ordered to lead a small party over the Blue Ridge, then across the Allegheny Mountains, there to rendezvous with an influential Indian chief called the Half-King. He was then to proceed to the French outpost at Presque Isle (present-day Erie, Pennsylvania), where he would deliver his message "in the Name of His Britanic Majesty." The key passage in the letter he was carrying, so it turned out, represented the opening verbal shot in what American colonists would call the French and Indian War: "The Lands upon the river Ohio, in the Western Parts of the Colony of Virginia, are so notoriously known to be the Property of the Crown of Great Britain, that it is a Matter of equal Concern & Surprize to me, to hear that a Body of French Forces are erecting Fortresses, & making Settlements upon that River within his Majesty's Dominions."

    The world first became aware of young Washington at this moment, and we get our first extended look at him, because, at Dinwiddie's urging, he published an account of his adventures, The Journal of Major George Washington, which appeared in several colonial newspapers and was then reprinted by magazines in England and Scotland. Though he was only an emissary--the kind of valiant and agile youth sent forward against difficult odds to perform a hazardous mission--Washington's Journal provided readers with a firsthand report on the mountain ranges, wild rivers, and exotic indigenous peoples within the interior regions that appeared on most European maps as dark and vacant spaces. His report foreshadowed the more magisterial account of the American West provided by Lewis and Clark more than fifty years later. It also, if inadvertently, exposed the somewhat ludicrous character of any claim by "His Britanic Majesty," or any European power, for that matter, to control such an expansive frontier that simply swallowed up and spit out European presumptions of civilization.

    Although Washington is both the narrator and the central character in the story he tells, he says little about himself and nothing about what he thinks. "I have been particularly cautious," he notes in the preface, "not to augment." The focus, instead, is on the knee-deep snow in the passes through the Alleghenies, and the icy and often impassably swollen rivers, where he and his companions are forced to wade alongside their canoes while their coats freeze stiff as boards. Their horses collapse from exhaustion and have to be abandoned. He and fellow adventurer Christopher Gist come upon a lone warrior outside an Indian village ominously named Murdering Town. The Indian appears to befriend them, then suddenly wheels around at nearly point-blank range and fires his musket, but inexplicably misses. "Are you shot?" Washington asks Gist, who responds that he is not. Gist rushes the Indian and wants to kill him, but Washington will not permit it, preferring to let him escape. They come upon an isolated farmhouse on the banks of the Monongahela where two adults and five children have been killed and scalped. The decaying corpses are being eaten by hogs.

    In stark contrast to the brutal conditions and casual savagery of the frontier environment, the French officers whom Washington encounters at Fort Le...

About the Author-
  • Joseph Ellis is the Pulitzer Prize_winning author of Founding Brothers. His portrait of Thomas Jefferson, American Sphinx, won the National Book Award. He lives in Amherst, Massachusetts, with his wife, Ellen, and their youngest son, Alex.


    From the Hardcover edition.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from August 2, 2004
    In this follow-up to his bestselling Founding Brothers
    , Ellis offers a magisterial account of the life and times of George Washington, celebrating the heroic image of the president whom peers like Jefferson and Madison recognized as "their unquestioned superior" while acknowledging his all-too-human qualities. Ellis recreates the cultural and political context into which Washington strode to provide leadership to the incipient American republic. But more importantly, the letters and other documents Ellis draws on bring the aloof legend alive—as a young soldier who sought to rise through the ranks of the British army during the French and Indian War, convinced he knew the wilderness terrain better than his commanding officers; as a Virginia plantation owner (thanks to his marriage) who watched over his accounts with a ruthless eye; as the commander of an outmatched rebel army who, after losing many of his major battles, still managed to catch the British in an indefensible position. Following Washington from the battlefield to the presidency, Ellis elegantly points out how he steered a group of bickering states toward national unity; Ellis also elaborates on Washington's complex stances on issues like slavery and expansion into Native American territory. The Washington who emerges from these pages is similar to the one portrayed in a biographical study by James MacGregor Burns and Susan Dunn published earlier this year, but Ellis's richer version leaves readers with a deeper sense of the man's humanity. 16 pages of photos not seen by PW
    . (Nov. 1)

    Forecast:
    The 500,000 first printing seems steep but could be justified by Ellis's record and the current popularity of the Founders. First serial to
    American Heritage magazine.

  • Library Journal

    June 1, 2004
    As big as Washington himself, this work by the prize-winning author of American Sphinx gets a whooping 500,000-copy first printing and a nine-city author tour.

    Copyright 2004 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • School Library Journal

    March 1, 2005
    Adult/High School -As Ellis indicates in his well-documented acknowledgments and endnotes, this book relies heavily on the "Papers of George Washington" series, which provides access to the president's correspondence. Since no new documentary evidence is available, the attraction is Ellis's assessment of Washington's character and impeccable judgment. He keeps Washington on his pedestal while pointing out just a few flaws in the president's personality: ambition from an early age (yet how American!), slaveholding (although he came to regret this, and ordered in his will that upon Martha's death the slaves were to be freed), and no great military talent. These defects were vastly outweighed by his character and practical wisdom. Ellis notes that, even among that group of brilliant men known as our Founding Fathers, Washington was recognized by every one of them as "the Foundingest Father of them all." This book does offer new insights regarding Washington's disposition of his wealth and property in his will. Ellis does an excellent job of infusing a sometimes remote national icon with breath and life, so that readers are able to see the human Washington operating in his tumultuous period of history while towering above it -no mean authorial feat." -Edward Redmond, Library of Congress, Washington, DC"

    Copyright 2005 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Los Angeles Times Book Review

    " [Ellis has done it again. This is an important and challenging work: beautifully written, lively, serious and engaging." --The Boston Globe

    "Absorbing. . . . An incisive portrait [that] eloquently conveys the magnitude of Washington's accomplishments." --The New York Times

    "Absolutely fascinating. . . . Underscores how extraordinary Washington's accomplishments really were." --The Christian Science Monitor

    "Lively and engaging. . . . An accessible portrait. . . . Ellis writes simply but eloquently. His prose is lucid, graceful and witty, his book is hard to put down. . . . Should be required reading."

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    Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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