Sunday, June 3, 2012


A review of John Ferling’s The Assent of George Washington: The Hidden Genius of an American Icon (2009)

(Rating 5 of 5)

It can be said that there are two people for every person, the person who we are perceived to be and the person who we really are.  This is extra true for public personalities, there is the identity that the public knows and who the person actually is.  From any reality T.V. star to the President of the United States, who the person really is maybe far different from the public perception.  For those who have graced the public stage the public persona continues to live on long after the real person dies.  If the person is famous enough then that individual has become, in a very real way, immortal.  This is certainly true with George Washington’s persona.  

John Ferling’s book explores how the real George Washington conceived, crafted, created, and used his public persona to his and the nation’s advantage.  Far from being a disinterested man above politics George Washington is presented as extremely politically ambitious and creates an artificial poster of disinterestedness that was able to win over the American public. 
President Washington is an image George worked hard to create.

As far as George Washington’s life goes, as Ferling himself acknowledges, this is not a traditional biography.  You find no information here that you would not find in any other book covering Washington’s life and in some ways is a lot less.  This book is primarily just George Washington, the real person, creating the George Washington the internationally recognized persona.  It’s almost as if the traditional ‘Father of our Country’ was just a character created and acted by this eighteenth century Virginian aristocrat.
 Nevertheless the country clearly benefited.  George Washington served as a unifying force during the dark days of the Revolution, and the early days of the Republic.  Only he was popular enough to resist the type of criticism that was aimed at him for supporting the Jay treaty with Great Britain, a move that would prevent an ill-prepared nation from going to war the superpower of the day, the British Empire. 

{Video is from "Biography,"}

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