George Washington: The Founding Father Summary

Paul Johnson

George Washington

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Paul Johnson is a British historian who has written extensively about the United States. In George Washington: The Founding Father he turns his attention to Washington who he sees as the most important figure in the history of the United States. His central theme is the relation between Washington's character and personality and his successes in the great endeavors of his life.

Washington's nature was formed of his love for farming, his abhorrence of slavery, his anxiety to be seen as an honorable man, his active athleticism, and his concern for public affairs. Johnson discusses his youth, family life, and marriage and then traces his career through his early work as a surveyor in the wilderness, and his participation in the Virginia militia. Washington saw this service, like his service as a vestryman, as a public duty. When the French and Indian War broke out, Washington was the leading candidate to be the commander of the colonial militia and soon distinguished himself. His success led directly to command of the Revolutionary armies ten years later. His strategic and political good sense eventually brought victory for the independence movement and made Washington the leading American of his age. It was natural to choose him to preside over the Constitutional Convention in 1787 where his quiet good sense helped bring the enterprise to fruition—and later to the newly established presidency where he played a leading role in getting the new nation off to a strong start economically and politically.

This book affords an excellent introduction to Washington's life. Although without the supporting detail of the many multi-volume biographies of Washington it provides an interesting and judicious assessment of his nature and accomplishments.