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"His Excellency: George Washington" by Joseph Ellis

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This is my first introduction to Washington's motivation, his hopes and dreams as he led the rag-tag Continental Army against the strongest nation on earth. Washington was a fervent believer in the Enlightenment ideals of the rights of man, and led a nation to throw over its colonizer, and then with just as much conviction, retired to country life.

One of Washington's basic urges was to own and develop some trans-Appalachian land. To this end he worked for decades on a canal from what is now Tennessee and Kentucky to the Potomac River. He saw the Revolution not only as an assertion of liberty for him and his countrymen, but as a tremendous personal opportunity.

"His Excellency" takes us from Washington's early days as a suveyor (which made him familiar with the land west of Virginia), through his days as a colonial officer in the British Army (at whose hands his mistreatment made for a durable grievance). The Great Man's motivations and abilities come into high focus in this excellent, highly readable account. No less an expert than King George III said that if someone were to lead the American Colonies to freedom, and then retire without a thought to dynasty, he truly would be a great man. Yep. That's right.
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