George Washington, Leader of the People Critical Essays

Clara Ingram Judson


(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Accepting the 1960 Laura Ingalls Wilder Award for a body of writing for children that has made a lasting impression, Judson remarked that she had determined many years before “to write books that would show young readers the work, the hopes, the ideals that were woven into the making of the new world.” Beginning her story of Washington with his early education, Judson proceeds to highlight the significant events in his life that shaped him to accept the “leader of the people” role that her subtitle identifies as the distinguishing feature of his career. In her preface, she notes the abundance of information available to a modern biographer, who could provide Americans with “a real understanding of our first president as farmer, soldier, statesman, and citizen.”

The narrative proceeds as a balanced dramatization of the conflicting appeals of private life as a country gentleman and squire and the recurring pressures to become involved in political action as circumstances required. Judson makes deliberate choices to reveal Washington’s humanity, as when he blushes, becomes angry, feels inferior, or exhibits pride in family. She intersperses scenes showing his affection for children; his grief over the deaths of family members, including children and grand-children; and his desire for a peaceful but busy life as a Virginia planter, only to be called upon to make “deep sacrifices” “three times” to leave “these cherished scenes to serve...

(The entire section is 592 words.)