ROBERT MIDDLEKAUFF is Preston Hotchkis Professor of American History, Emeritus, at the University of California, Berkeley. He has been the director of the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens (1983–1988); and Harold Vyvyan Harmsworth Visiting Professor of American History at the University of Oxford. His books include The Mathers: Three Generations of Puritan Intellectuals, 1596–1728, which won the Bancroft Prize; The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, 1763–1789, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize; and Benjamin Franklin and His Enemies.
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.
Revolutionary hero, founding president, and first citizen of the young republic, George Washington was the most illustrious public man of his time, a man whose image today is the result of the careful grooming of his public persona to include the themes of character, self-sacrifice, and destiny.
As Washington sought to interpret the Constitution's assignment of powers to the executive branch and to establish precedent for future leaders, he relied on his key advisers and looked to form consensus as the guiding principle of government. His is a legacy of a successful experiment in collective leadership, great initiatives in establishing a strong executive branch, and the formulation of innovative and lasting economic and foreign policies. James MacGregor Burns and Susan Dunn also trace the arc of Washington's increasing dissatisfaction with public life and the seeds of dissent and political parties that, ironically, grew from his insistence on consensus. In this compelling and balanced biography, Burns and Dunn give us a rich portrait of the man behind the carefully crafted mythology.
Washington influenced every phase of the Revolutionary war, from beginning to end. He left his mark with strategies and a vision of the Revolution as a war of attrition. His offenses were as brilliant as they were unpredictable, such as his legendary Christmas Day strike at Trenton, and a bold foray through the fog to nearly drive the British from the field at Germantown. It was an aggressive attack that helped convince the French that the American Army was worth supporting. In Washington, award-winning author Gerald M. Carbone argues that it is this sort of fearless but not reckless, spontaneous but calculated, offensive that Washington should be remembered for--as a leader not of infallibility but of greatness.