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Ron Chernow On George Washington

Biographer Ron Chernow says our first president was a passionate man, not the waxwork saint of our schoolbooks.

George Washington, in a 1795 portrait by Gilbert Stuart. (Metropolitan Museum of Art)

The great biographer Ron Chernow sees many reasons to respect George Washington. 

But Washington, he says, was not the man you may think. Never mind the cherry tree story – no evidence. And the wooden teeth – they were walrus and ivory. Even the calm, triumphant general on horseback was a staged image, he says. 

Washington was a great man, and a vital first leader. Yet he lost more battles than he won, and behind the cool facade he was roiled with passion. 

-Tom Ashbrook

Guest:

Ron Chernow, award-winning biographer of Alexander Hamilton,  John D. Rockefeller, and many others. His new book is “Washington: A Life.” You can read an excerpt here.

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  • Lou

    President Washington had excellent leadership skills and motives that every American could trust and feel confident in, unlike the one we are stuck with now.

  • http://shulmandesign.net Alan Shulman

    Lou:

    Check out the “Whiskey Rebellion” of the 1790s. Not everyone was so enamored of Washington’s leadership.

  • cory

    I wonder how our beloved founding fathers would stand up to the scrutiny of today’s media and the 24hr news cycle. You think any of them had skeletons in their closets that would make them unelectable today?

  • Grady Lee Howard

    I was surprised by the incidents in Ron’s biography of Washington where he paid to have his slaves’ teeth extracted and transplanted into his own mouth. The record shows he was a cruel magistrate who had slave women whipped for promiscuity, actually because of coerced sex by owners. It was also funny how he bought the British carriage made of green wood that creaked and separated and later fell apart. It was mysterious that he provided a farm to a man who may have been his bi-racial son. The massacre he ordered in the Glades (Mad Anthony Wayne in Ohio)would amount to an atrocity today, but he was only protecting his and his partners land holdings. (Had to deter squatters) You might say that Alexander Hamilton (Secretary of Treasury) was the financial leader of the new nation during Washington’s presidency. Washington was often clueless about sophisticated institutions and transactions. The pattern of value extraction by interest on issued money and incurrence of debt to the wealthy set was well established at that time. Hamilton and friends owned the First United States Bank, kind of like the FED. (Hamilton was a master politician who enriched his connections and family rather than himself.)Washington had been a frontier general lucky in a guerrilla war, but when he became president he was disengaged and often incompetent, kind of like Ronald Reagan. I like the drawing of him on his colorful mule (He bred them) at Mount Vernon with his long ponytail hanging down. He was an excellent farmer and planter, innovative and inventive. Too bad he got mixed up in politics.

  • michael

    The history channel did a great piece on Washington, it gives a more fuller view of him though Ron Chernow seems to get Washington down fairly well.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vGCE-7u5ou0&feature=related

  • michael

    “Better to see the land drench in blood than to live as a slave”

    Americans win the revolutions and still keeps there slaves, disallow non-landowners and females the right to vote, The senate was appointed not elected.

    Freedom for all i guess back than, unless you were non-white, Irish,Italian, catholic,Asian,Jewish and anything except protestant.

  • jeffe

    michael try using some common sense here, it was the 18th century and people had very different way of viewing things. Women were property, not unlike slaves.
    Some women, such as Dolly Madison did go to court to get her rights on her deceased husbands property, but this was rare in then.

    You need perspective when dealing with history. It does not justify their actions, it does however frame it with some understanding.

    Also if you had read any history of this period you would have been well aware that the slave issue was very much on the minds of the Founders.

  • Bernard B

    GW factoids:
    When out of control men under his leadership assaulted a French expedition during peacetime, it served as a trigger for the first world war (Europe, the Americas, India, Africa, and the Phillipines were involved.
    Having fought so well the Revolutionary War and then led the creation of the second federal government, including dealing with internal rebellion and the threat of war with France and England (the key year of 1793)he should be considered the greatest president, ahead of Lincoln and Roosevelt.
    According to one source, he had a bottle of Madiera (a quart?), around 35 proof. Was he, as so many of our early
    politicians, a bit of an alcoholic?
    He had to apologize, as a young man, for making a pass at another’s wife (although apparently much milder than Jefferson’s sexual approach to a married woman.)
    Washington and Franklin (perhaps two of the three greatest Englishmen of their time) talked of touring Europe together after the piece). That would have been a fine thing.

  • Sarah

    Was George Washington really disappointed with his education and/or experience at William & Mary? I am the very proud mother of a W&M sophomore, and W&M certainly is honored by his affiliation with that very fine institution of higher learning!

    Sarah
    Concord, Massachusetts

  • Steve Brennan

    Can you comment on Washington’s religion? I have read and heard wildly varying things, frequently spun by the teller.

  • Bernard B

    My impression is that the more sophisticated of the founding fathers, in the post Newton Enlightenment, did not buy much of religious myths (as factual), but obviously did not have access to our level of scientific explanation, and therefore kept a larger role for a creator. But they were concerned about the need for structures to implant the bases of moral behavior. (Overlapping social control — see Hamilton’s concept that religion should act as a bulwark for the upper classes against lower class rebellion).

  • http://none Kathy

    I wasn’t happy that he didn’t do anything to help out LaFayette when he was imprisoned in Europe. LaFayette did so much for America and practically worshiped Washington.

  • Ann

    I could be wrong, but, I THINK that when it was mentioned early on that George was disgruntled about “western” expansion (because he favored it), I THINK that the British had decided that the west (think the Ohio River as an East-West border) should be RESERVED FOR THE NATIVE AMERICANS.

    Am I correct about this?

  • Rob

    I firmly believe you have to judge any historical figure in the context of the world in which he/she lived or you will be gravely dissapointed with everyone. Yes, many of the Founding Fathers were slave owners. However,the representative form of government our ounders put in place, which was only applied to white male property owners at the time, laid the groundwork for the eventual abolition of this evil institution because the underlying principles outlined in the Declaration were inconsistent with slavery. Many of the founders knew slavery was wrong, but they also knew is was politically impossible to abolish at the time. The Founders wrongly assumed slavery would die out slowly over a generation, but the advent of the cotton gin in the late 1790s changed everything as it had the unfortunate consequence of temporarily expanding slavery to deal with dramatically expanded cotton production.

    I would also point out that virtually every society that preceded western civilizaton had slavery to some exent. What is unique about slavery in western civilization is: 1)slavery was almost exclusively race based in the west: 2) western civilization progressed to the point where slavery was eventually abolished. Please do not interpret this last comment to imply that I believe western civilization has cured racial problems. Obviously, we have not.

  • Mark

    This love fest over Washington is sickeningly myopic–this guy on the radio wants to downplay his deadly and often cruel ambition with a wink and a nod. Washington was an extemely self serving ambitious man who would screw over anyone who would get in his way–READ SOME REAL HISTORY ABOUT HOW HE ACQUIRED ALL HIS LAND HOLDINGS (TENS OF THOUSANDS OF ACRES)INCLUDING HOW HE PRACTICALLY STOLE LANDS FORM HIS OWN TROOPS (NOT TO MENTION THE NATIVE POPULATIONS).

  • Roberto

    Sarah-in-Concord: Relax. GW’s experience was prob. diff. from your child’s 225+ years later. W&M is a super place, and you get it at reduced cost b/c it is heavily subsidized by Va Commonwealth, I believe.

    Cory: Well said! Despite the great research RC has done, am sure we don’t know half the sordid details, just b/c of poor record-keeping etc. And remember, as a new nation, some crafty people were creating “heroes” and “lore” literally in one generation. GW fit the bill well enough, I guess, and I bet his morals (of that day and age) were better than most. We can rage in our politically correct world about slaves and indians (oops, Native Americans) but when we use our cell phones/PCs/Plasma TVs, or buy our textiles at low-low prices, do we think about the work conditions and take home pay of those making these things in developing nations? Do we consider the environmental damage of these overseas factories? Where all the toxins go when we toss the stuff in the garbage? Can’t wait to see how our ancestors judge us materialistic consumers of the 19th/20th/21rst centuries!

  • Bernard B

    Many of the founding fathers were involved in the western land speculations and, yes, George III was trying to protect the Indians. Washington was a real frontiersman in his penetrations of the undeveloped (white viewpoint) lands.
    Although a number of accusations have been made about Franklin’s behavior during the war, they don’t seem to amount to much. But during the War, he wrote to his buddy in the London General Post Office that it didn’t look good to be involved in a British land speculation company, and his shares should be sold. But not really sold — only for show.

  • Cynthia M

    My birthday is February 22 and I am 53 years old, so I have had a long association with George Washington. I remember that I was in 3rd or 4th grade when the holiday was changed to a Monday. Until then I had always had the day off from school for my birthday. When I was told that Washington’s birthday was now going to be the 3rd Monday in February, I thought that my birthday had also been changed. (I’ve since figured that out). As an adult I became more and more interested in George himself, and I really enjoyed the interview with Ron Chernow, who obviously has a love and respect for one of our greatest founding fathers!

  • michael

    “michael try using some common sense here, it was the 18th century and people had very different way of viewing things. Women were property, not unlike slaves.”

    Don’t buy the different time so therefore x,y,z

    Can I ask the same for yourself,?common sense would point out the hypocrisy of saying one thing and doing another (even if it was in the pass)

    “Also if you had read any history of this period you would have been well aware that the slave issue was very much on the minds of the Founders.”

    Yep, and it took a civil war (not just because of slavery) to do so cause they did not have the guts to take such on(btw the british did far before the americans), even than states in the north had slaves and legal do to so.

    Before telling others to use common sense try doing so yourself.

  • Ann

    Rob (Oct. 6, 11:37 a.m.), you express your view well. Altho I disagree with you somewhat, I do want to thank you for reminding us that “slavery was almost exclusively race based in the west”.

    You say, “many of the founders knew slavery was wrong, but they also knew is was politically impossible to abolish at the time.”

    There had been slave rebellions, insurrections, escapes, and the establishment of maroons in the Caribbean, long before the establishment of Jamestown. By the time of the Founders, the Black Codes had been in effect for quite some time BECAUSE of the news that our colonists got from their relatives, acquaintances and business partners in the Caribbean about these insurrections and about other “behaviors” by the slaves brought from Africa or born in the New World. In South Carolina, at some point, slavery was so successful that the owners feared that Blacks would outnumber them and thus be able to “overtake” them. Black Codes ensued.

    Basically, these insurrections were the “telegraphed” opinion about slavery by the slaves themselves. And who were these slaves? They were THE OTHER PEOPLE HERE in this land – millions of them! Yet, in part due to the racism of the time that did not even SEE the slaves as human beings, and in part due to the advantageous economic value of a slave-based economy, Whites refused to listen to the other side of the argument, even when expressed in a form larger and more apparent than by words alone. That said, some slaves and/or freed slaves did go on the public record in opposition to the institution of slavery; and many, many slaves personally (and unsuccessfully) begged their owners not to break up their families, or begged for other personal requests!

    An argument LIKE yours presents the delicate, picture of Founders debating slavery. You can imagine the oil painting depicting this: oak table, wall paper, wigs, quill pens, etc. All the while these same “gentlemen” were owning slaves, giving them back-breaking work, disciplining them, punishing them, raping them, selling them, breaking their families apart, refusing to let them marry, while reaping the profits and benefits of slave labor. AND, they were, or their compatriots were, writing more and more Black Codes and other laws to deal with new situations brought upon by slave rebellion. The colonists and early countrymen were terrified of the physical power of the slaves, especially in groups. Many of the Black Codes were written to prevent the aggregation of numbers of Blacks, hence hoping to prevent the build up of this kind of power.

    While all this fear was around, George Washington was very methodical in his business ledgers about all the transactions with his slave labor.

    I will never agree that the Founders should get “off the hook” for being “men of their times”, and for me, it is a credit to your argument that you did not go that far, tho others do. The evidence was all around them that slavery was wrong — whether they were brutal in their treatment of their slaves, or whether they swayed back and forth between a “genteel” cruelty and something kinder. The racism that suggested to many (if not all of the Founders? I need more info.) that the African-Americans, who BUILT THIS COUNTRY, were not even human beings underlaid this. As Prof. Gates said the other day, racism is the underground stream in American history. But, the LAWS, the man-made LAWS, ALLOWED the system of flourish, and the stream to flow.

    The Founders were men who were intent on building a structure of LAWS. Yet, with ALL THAT EVIDENCE FROM THE OTHER HUMAN BEINGS SHARING THEIR DAILY LIVES WITH THEM, did they write slavery OUT of the Constitution? No!

    I am the ancestor of African-American slaves. There is a huge body of evidence that we were owned by a niece of a Founding Father’s wife (as I have written before). I take a Slave-centric view on these matters, and I particularly dislike it when the slaves, not AS owned property, but AS individual human beings whose personal AGENCY survived this horror show, are ONLY in the picture AS property, to be discussed by others, especially their owners. The slaves DID use words (written and spoken), but, more often they used physical expression. Along with the Native Americans, THEY were the Original Freedom Fighters! It could NOT have been missed! The Black Codes were WRITTEN in response to this Freedom Fighting! Yet, the Founders went on and on with words alone, justifying their own behavior, and ensuring it thru LAW. (And, remember, slaves were not allowed to ENTER into that place where your Fate hangs on words — the courtroom!).

    I agree with you that the Declaration of Independence set a good bedrock. But, a large portion of the people who believed in it the most were the slaves and Free People of Color.

    George W. freed HIS slaves at the end of his life. Martha, freed HIS slaves, but she did NOT give freedom to HER slaves when she died. That George could have such a turn-around is truly wonderful. That the other Founding Fathers did NOT follow in his footsteps is a GREAT AMERICAN TRAGEDY, that, for me, cannot be explained by their hopes that the institution would die out, but can only be explained by deep-seated racism and personal greed.

    Thanks for the discussion.

  • michael

    Wow great post ann,

    thanks for taking the time to do so and you summed things up pretty good about the “whole there time thing” as well.

  • Rob

    Anne,
    Thanks for the discussion. I agree with the point that our nation’s Founding Fathers should not be let “off the hook” regarding slavery. You correctly pointed out that slave insurrections and the Black codes had long been established. The Founders obviously knew slavery was morally repugnant and contradictory to the basic principles outlined in the Declaration. To illustrate this point, one only needs to look at Thomas Jefferson’s original draft of the Declaration of Independence, which included the following text denouncing the British for the slave trade:

    “………..he has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life & liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating & carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere”

    This language was dropped when Ben Franklin pointed out the inconsistency between denouncing the slave trade, while saying nothing about the institution of slavery itself. When asked about this contradiction, Jefferson’s response was something along the lines of “… slavery is an abomination and must be denounced as such, but neither I, nor any man has the answer to this issue today”. This language was dropped because Ben Franklin, John Adams, and other Founding Fathers (e.g. those who had the deepest misgivings) all agreed that they could never get the other colonies to approve the Declaration if it contained language denouncing slavery. Herein lies the great American contradiction, along with the fact the slavery in the west was exclusively slave based.

    One of the points that I was conveying was that in 1776 (and still in 1787) Franklin, Adams, and others viewed slavery as a declining institution precisely because it was declining prior to the advent of the cotton gin in +-1794 and the huge expansion of cotton production shortly thereafter, which at least temporarily moved the political balance of power in this nation further toward slave owners. I think you would agree that the Founding Fathers cannot be held responsible for not seeing the effect that cotton gin, which had not yet been invented (or commercialized depending on your viewpoint) in 1776 and 1787, when the Founders dealt with the issue of slavery.

    In summary, I view our nation’s Founding Fathers as great (but still deeply flawed) men. I believe their contributions in establishing a form of government that has withstood a civil war, two world wars, and economic turmoil far exceed these deep flaws. There is no such thing as perfect human being, which is what I am getting at when I say historical figures need to viewed in the context of their time. I would make the same argument when judging the contributions of Frederick Douglas, Marcus Garvey, Martin Luther King Jr. Malcolm X, and other civil rights leaders.

    Thanks again the interesting (and civil) discussion.

  • Rob

    Meant to say “slavery in the west was exclusively race based” as I did not proof my comment for grammar and spelling.

  • Rob

    Anne, I wanted to add one other point to your earlier comment:

    “The Founders were men who were intent on building a structure of LAWS. Yet, with ALL THAT EVIDENCE FROM THE OTHER HUMAN BEINGS SHARING THEIR DAILY LIVES WITH THEM, did they write slavery OUT of the Constitution? No!”

    I have a different criticism of the Founders regarding the constitutional debates of +-1787. While I do not believe it would have been politically possible to ratify a constitution with language abolishing slavery in 1787 America (e.g. no way the states would ever have ratified it), a great failure of the Founders was writing slavery into the constitution when they agreed to the 3/5 compromise, which also gave southern slave states disproportonate political power. This approach made it far more difficult for future generations to abolish slavery.

  • Joshua Hendrickson

    George Washington. A great politician and a terrible general (good with the troops, yes, but an atrocious tactician who scarcely won a battle). A great representative of economic interests and a terrible example of enlightenment-era humanity. I recognize his importance to the early history of the United States, but will never see him as anything but an astonishingly overrated human being.

  • Ann

    Rob, I totally agree with you about the 3/5 Compromise. Thank you for bringing it into the conversation.

    Also, thank you for bringing up the distinction between the slave trade and the institution of slavery itself. Several Northern families were the biggest slave TRADERS in the nation. You, and others, are probably familiar with the Brown Slavery and Justice Report, and I have mentioned it here before; it goes into the distinction between the slave trade and slavery itself and also provides great background material on slavery globally. It is an extraordinary document put together from compilations of research from some of our most expert scholars.

    Something that was noticed during the research for Brown’s report was from study of some of the textile manufacturers up North who had slave-owning cousins in South Carolina. The Northern textile manufacturers were trying to compete with England in the printed cotton trade; unfortunately, England was decades ahead on this work and consistently created superior goods. Word came from the South Carolina cousins, of these frustrated Rhode Islanders, that the plantation owners needed “slave cloth” to dress their slaves. They expressly asked for fabric of poor, scratchy quality, so that the slaves would be reminded daily of their inferior human condition. (Once again, this is ON the record, rather than being a latter-day interpretation.) That RECIPROCAL nature of the slave trade and the institution of slavery with the manufacturing ambitions of the North complicates what has often been pictured simplistically. I would like to ask which Northern states would not have ratified a no-slavery Constitution due to the impact such a document would have had on their own businesses.

    Roberto says, “when we use our cell phones/PCs/Plasma TVs, or buy our textiles at low-low prices, do we think about the work conditions and take home pay of those making these things in developing nations? Do we consider the environmental damage of these overseas factories?” I believe that we need detailed, complicated portraits of the past and its people so that we CAN learn to critique the parallels or other lessons in our own times, as well as learn to appreciate what underlies our current situation(s). I think that Roberto is correct, tho his tone, to me, sounds like he does not believe an assessment CAN be made about our contemporary issues, and I’d suggest otherwise to some large extent. (As you say, things like cotton gins DO come in from left field!) When you say, “I view our nation’s Founding Fathers as great (but still deeply flawed) men,” and then you refer to “their contributions in establishing a form of government”, it is THERE that I think that the intellectual critique begins — in a discussion about their contributions and their flaws in vivid, historically accurate terms, using primary source materials and research methods like the newer forms of statistical analysis that help us “see” back into the past. I just always hope that the discussion will not be filled with pablum (yours, and so many posts on this site were NOT; instead providing really interesting information!). And, I always want the contribution, the viewpoints, the strategies, the various life circumstances of the slaves, the Free People of Color, the Native Americans to be included, on an equal par, in that retrospective analysis!

    When we discuss certain issues in ways that are untethered (to history), I think the resulting political philosophies can become vague, unrealistic, too precious, or just plain wrong, or frighteningly ideological. For me, when historic research presents a portrait of a robust life of the times, including ALL of those present, I feel better prepared and skilled to begin parsing out and deconstructing our own times.
    I am eager to read Mr. Chernow’s book! Thanks again for the discussion! Tomorrow I begin chemo therapy, so I may not be able to participate further if this discussion continues. I hope to be reading, however!

  • http://warblerwoodspress.com Henry de Vere

    Good luck with your chemo, Ann – get well soon! You are a wise, perceptive person. You are so correct about this whole discussion & its historic POV as from the slaveholders, former slaveholders & all those reaping the benefits from those enslaved and treated, often worse than the family dog. These issues are all still with us, despite the feelings of many that it’s long past time for “moving on” with all this. There is so much yet to uncover, so many stereotypes and falsehoods to expose to increase our understanding. A year or two ago I learned about a new book called “Slavery in all but Name” actually I think it may have been discussed on On Point. Anyway, the author chronicled the post-Civil War enslavement by Northern Steel companies of African Americans in the South to work underground in the coal mines, in some cases chained together. No one seemed to know anything about this but it went on, virtually unknown for decades, from the late 1800s until the 30s or 40s. So much yet to learn!

  • Rob

    Ann,
    First and most importantly, best wishes with your chemo. I hope everything works out for the best regarding your treatment. While we may disagree on various political issues, I respect your point of view and make it a point to read your comments on these posts. While I still believe the contributions of the Founders outweighed their flaws, I can agree that far too little attention is given to slavery from the standpoint of the slave. Here is a quick personal story of mine to help illustrate this point. When I was growing up, I remember asking a teacher (who was well regarded in this school) how slaves lived and were treated. The teacher’s response was that slaves were generally treated in the same manner as I would treat my dog. My point is not too insult a teacher from 25 years ago, but to show how little focus is given to slavery from the point of view of the slave.

    Beyond slavery, I would also agree that Americans (especially whites, I can not speak for most African Americans here) do not learn enough about the contributions of African Americans in our schools. The only civil rights leaders mentioned with significance at my middle class suburban high school history class were Dr. King and Jackie Robinson. There was brief token mention of Booker T. Washington, Frederick Douglas, and no mention of the contributions of leaders, such as Harriet Tubman, Marcus Garvey, Malcom X, or business leaders such Anthony Overton. There was also no mention of Alex Haley and Roots (e.g. everyone should read Roots). I only learned about these and other contributions of African Americans during college and beyond. I only bring up these last points because I believe it contributes to a very distorted cultural view many people have toward African Americans.

    Get better soon.

  • Bostonccl

    You know, the first time I heard the word ‘slavery’ and its definition, as a young child, I knew it was wrong.
    I believe that there are poltical expediencies in every day & age but do not believe that slavery has ever been one. And I see nothing wrong with the answer given by Rob’s teacher, except that she should have added ‘on a good day.’
    How could anyone witness the lives of deprivation & misery endured by those enslaved, fellow human beings, and fail to take action against it? Even if such action involved the rest of one’s life, step by step, it should have been one taken up by more founders, more voices & then more, until it became law. It is inconceivable to me that these men & women observed the slaves’ condition on a daily basis ~ being served in the fields, at tables & in beds ~ and concluded otherwise.
    I do not think that I can be considered a neophyte or naif: I have lived a full life, read a lot, traveled & benefited greatly from learning about other cultures. I do realize that enslavement of the defeated was commonplace in the ancient world, that there have been slightly more acceptable examples of servitude over time, such as forms of indenture. To dismiss slavery in the US as merely a popular source of labor & profit reflective of the times is just not good enough.

  • JP McDonnell

    Rob

    Most middle school history books, if I recall, leave out a hell out of a lot of important people. In general, though, I would go further: most Americans have only a vague sense of almost all aspects of our history. They would rather listen to Lady Gaga, mess with their iPhone, or watch CSI:Denver than read a history book.

    “The teacher’s response was that slaves were generally treated in the same manner as I would treat my dog. My point is not too insult a teacher from 25 years ago, but to show how little focus is given to slavery from the point of view of the slave.”

    That is true to a point. However, they were valuable property. They didn’t send out search parties for runaway dogs! When a dog got sick, they didn’t send for a doctor.

    I had read about the treatment of indentured servants: in many cases they were often treated worse than slaves, as their economic value was set for a limited period and their long term health or well being was of no consequence to the owner.

  • Ishmael

    I often wonder why concepts like equality among people and voting are looked at as such odd “advancements” in politics when those ideas had been around for centuries and centuries, and are really not all that extraordinary. (Christianity; common sense dictating empathy at others’ suffering; Greek ideas about “demos”, etc) Ideas in the US Dec of Indep are (or were) basically common sense that took far too long to become embedded in human “law”.
    What took so long? And why?

  • Joshua Hendrickson

    Ishmael asks,

    “I often wonder why concepts like equality among people and voting are looked at as such odd “advancements” in politics when those ideas had been around for centuries and centuries, and are really not all that extraordinary. (Christianity; common sense dictating empathy at others’ suffering; Greek ideas about “demos”, etc) Ideas in the US Dec of Indep are (or were) basically common sense that took far too long to become embedded in human “law”. What took so long? And why?”

    To be completely realistic about it, Ishmael, laws and politics are chiefly about power, and power isn’t interested in empathy, demos, or equality. Power is interested in power. The influence of the Enlightenment is pretty much responsible for the good stuff the Founders threw in to leaven the essential protections for property and wealth and white male privilege that the Founders were mostly interested in back in 1789.

  • Ann

    Thank you, my fellow posters, Henry and Rob, for the kind wishes! AND, thank you for even MORE interesting POVs to consider in these last posts (intellectual content is such a GIFT when you don’t feel well — and I can “nibble” at it, as energy allows!!)! My stamina is at a low end, but I wanted to let you know how much I really appreciate your thoughtful words! I hope you might still be referring back to this webpage, so you all will know! — Ann

  • Konrad

    Chernow’s book on GW was excellent. His research is astounding, his writing flows and his details, not overwhelming, are perfect for fleshing out the person of GW. I have read dozens of books dealing directly and indirectly with GW and have only the highest regard to this new biography.

  • Mary Brewster

    Mary Brewster

    can you comment on Washington’s relationship with Hamilton, which understand from my reading of his biography, was a very warm and close one.  thanks you

  • Mary

    Loved your bio of Hamilton.  i’ll get this one asap.  Great writer.  

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Paolo-Caruso/1778940602 Paolo Caruso

    I would like to have heard about Washington’s ties to Freemasonry, as well as his very unflattering quotes towards the Jews at that time.

  • John Routon

    General George Washington was THE man at the right time at the right place with the right stuff. He made the decisions in battle that allowed our country to exist; He changed the world by winning the battle at Trenton and the three battles that followed. I look forward to reading ” Washington : A Life.” by Ron Chernow. 

  • http://www.bookofzo.blogspot.com Joshua Hendrickson

    Of all the founders, I find Washington to be the least interesting by far.  He was rich and had a commanding personality.  But he was a lousy general in the field and an unoriginal thinker.  Compared to Franklin, Jefferson, Paine, Madison, Adams and Hamilton, Washington was a relative nobody.

    • http://www.bookofzo.blogspot.com Joshua Hendrickson

      Okay, this is weird:  I always thought I’d be the only “Joshua Hendrickson” here, but there in the postings I find another.  Is that a legitimate poster who coincidentally shares my name, or is someone posting false posts in my name?

  • http://www.bookofzo.blogspot.com Joshua Hendrickson

    The Joshua Hendrickson did not post that.

    • http://www.bookofzo.blogspot.com Joshua Hendrickson

      Oops, I see now–this is an old thread and these are my old posts! No wonder my doppelganger seemed so agreeable.

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SHOWS
Jul 22, 2014
Lt. Col. James Howard Williams, aka "Elephant Bill," is the hero of Vicki Constantine Croke's new book, "Elephant Company." (Courtesy Random House)

We’ll travel to the jungles of Burma for the remarkable true story of Billy Williams—aka “the elephant whisperer”—and his World War II heroism.

 
Jul 22, 2014
Smoke rises after an Israeli shelling at the Shijaiyah neighborhood in Gaza City, Monday, July 21, 2014. The top Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip signaled Monday that the Islamic militant group will not agree to an unconditional cease-fire with Israel, while Israel's defense minister pledged to keep fighting "as long as necessary," raising new doubt about the highest-level mediation mission in two weeks. (AP)

The escalated Gaza offensive. We’ll get the views from both sides and the latest developments.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
Our Week In The Web: July 11, 2014
Friday, Jul 11, 2014

As we prepare for a week of rebroadcasts, we reflect on Facebook posts, misplaced comments and the magic of @ mentions. Internet, ASSEMBLE!

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Two Former Senators, One Fix For US Democracy?
Thursday, Jul 10, 2014

Former US Senators Tom Daschle and Olympia Snowe joined us today with a few fixes for American political inaction.

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Future Radio Interns Of America: On Point Wants YOU!
Thursday, Jul 10, 2014

On Point needs interns for the fall. Could YOU be one of them?

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