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Extended Audio Sample The Ascent of George Washington: The Hidden Political Genius of an American Icon, by John Ferling Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (144 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: John Ferling Narrator: Norman Dietz Publisher: Tantor Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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Even compared to his fellow founders, George Washington stands tall. Our first president has long been considered a stoic hero, holding himself above the rough-and-tumble politics of his day. Now John Ferling peers behind that image, carefully burnished by Washington himself, to show us a leader who was not only not above politics but a canny infighter—a master of persuasion, manipulation, and deniability.

In the War of Independence, Washington used his skills to steer the Continental Army through crises that would have broken less determined men; he squeezed out rival generals and defused dissent from those below him. Ending the war as a national hero, Washington “allowed” himself to be pressed into the presidency, guiding the nation with the same brilliantly maintained pose of selfless public interest. In short, Washington deftly screened a burning ambition behind his image of republican virtue—but that image, maintained not without cost, made him just the leader the overmatched army, and then the shaky young nation, desperately needed.

Ferling argues that not only was Washington one of America’s most adroit politicians—the proof of his genius is that he is no longer thought of as a politician at all.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Once in a while a book comes along to remind us that history has no gods, that the past is less fossil than textbooks suggest and America more vibrant than a mere list of principles…a fresh, clear-eyed portrait of the full-blooded political animal that was George Washington…In John Ferling’s eminently readable, landmark interpretation, we cannot help but marvel at the man.”

    Washington Post

  • “Sensing that such biographers as James Flexner and Joseph Ellis have accepted the above-politics thesis, Ferling inspects the evidence of Washington’s political activities…while illustrating the substance behind Washington’s image as the indispensable man, Ferling pointedly grounds that image in the political soil from which it sprang.”

    Booklist

  • “Ferling has done his research and offers some new insights…recommended for readers interested in taking a fresh look at Washington’s political life.”

    Library Journal

  • “Never questioning Washington’s greatness, Ferling insists that seeing him as an artful self-promoter and master politician only enhances his reputation as an adept leader who knew exactly what he was doing…a fresh take on a monumental American.”

    Kirkus Reviews

Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Michael | 2/2/2014

    " Focuses on the political nature of George Washington. Most history books depict Washington as someone who "greatness was thrust upon him." Here, Washington is depicted as always having an agenda, even if that agenda was to appear disinterested. The author still treats Washington as the American hero that he is but he's not afraid to reveal his flaws. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Paul Lunger | 1/23/2014

    " There are a lot of words, phrases & stories that are associated with George Washington. John Ferling's biography of our nation's first commander in chief does a very good job of explaining just exactly how Washington went from surveyor in Virginia to failed military commander at Ft. Necessity to Revolutionary War hero to President of the US. Each chapter shows the growing confidence of Mr. Washington along with the growing pains that our new nation goes through from the French & Indian War through the Presidency. We the reader get to see the doubts a nation had about its new leader & the courage Washington had to stand behind his principles even when things weren't going his way. Overall this is an excellent biography of our nation's first chief executive & a very well done story for those of us who many not know all that much about George Washington. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Chad | 1/3/2014

    " I did enjoy reading this book as George Washington is my favorite US President. But, I felt that Ferling spent a lot of time painting Washington in a less that heroic light and then would make a statement along the lines of "Washington had to do this; or Washington was loved by most people at the time." "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Lisa | 12/11/2013

    " Ferling is an amazing historian and I always love reading his take on early American history. You can tell he has a great love for Washington but is also very good at demonstrating the myth versus the real man. Good book and one that everyone should read of our Nation's first political leader. "

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About the Author
Author John Ferling

John Ferling is professor emeritus of history at the State University of West Georgia. A leading authority on American Revolutionary history, he has appeared in many documentaries and has written numerous books, including The Ascent of George Washington: The Hidden Political Genius of an American Icon, Almost a Miracle: The American Victory in the War of Independence, Setting the World Ablaze: Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and the American Revolution, and the award-winning A Leap in the Dark: The Struggle to Create the American Republic.