Washington: The Indispensable Man

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Open Road Media, Mar 7, 2017 - Biography & Autobiography - 423 pages
This “perceptive” and “satisfying” biography of George Washington by an award-winning historian “deserves a place on every American’s bookshelf” (The New York Times Book Review).

James Thomas Flexner’s masterful four-volume biography of America’s first president, which received a special Pulitzer Prize citation and a National Book Award for its concluding installment, is the definitive chronicle of Washington’s life and a classic work of American history. In this single-volume edition, Flexner brilliantly distills his sweeping study to offer readers “the most convincing evocation of the man and his deeds written within the compass of one book” (Los Angeles Times).
In graceful and dramatic prose, Flexner peels back the myths surrounding Washington to reveal the true complexity of his character. The only founding father from Virginia to free all his slaves, Washington was a faithful husband who harbored deep romantic feelings for his best friend’s wife. An amateur soldier, he prepared for his role as commander in chief of the Continental army by sending out to Philadelphia bookshops for treatises on military strategy. As president, he set many democratic precedents—including the two-term limit and the appointment of an advisory cabinet—yet routinely excluded his vice president, John Adams, from important decisions.
The George Washington that emerges in these pages is a shrewd statesman, a wise commander, a brave patriot, and above all, “an ordinary man pushed to greatness by the extraordinary times in which he lived” (The Christian Science Monitor). In tracing Washington’s evolution from privileged son of the landed gentry to “the indispensable man” without whom the United States as we know it would not exist, Flexner presents a hero worthy of admiration not only for his remarkable strengths, but also for his all-too-human weaknesses.

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - Jarratt - LibraryThing

"Washington: The Indispensable Man" is full of great information. Based on the author's 4-volume set (!) this covers the main points of most of Washington's life. Unfortunately, I found a good bit of ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - LisaMaria_C - LibraryThing

In his bibliography in the back, Flexner divides published biographies of Washington into "three major categories--the historically sound, the goody-goody, and the debunking." Flexner's four volume ... Read full review


A Second Constitutional Convention 1789
The Social Man 1789
Infighting Foreshadowed 1790
The Great Schism Opens 17901792
Europeans and Indians 17831791
Desire to Escape 17911792
No Exit 17901793
Bad Omens 17921793

A Virginia Businessman 17591775
Washington in His Landscapes 17591775
A New Call to Arms 17651775
A Virginian in YankeeLand 1775
An Early Triumph 17751776
The Continental Army on Trial 1776
Depths 17761777
Heights 1777
The Loss of Philadelphia 1777
The Conway Cabal 17771778
The Road Turns Upward 1778
Hope Abroad and Bankruptcy at Home 17781779
Enter a French Army 17791780
Treason 17751780
Virginia Endangered 17801781
Yorktown 1781
A Gulf of Civil Horror 17811783
Goodbye to War 17751783
Pleasures at Home 17831787
Canals and Conventions 17831787
The Constitution of the United States 17871788
Hysteria and Responsibility 1788
Earthquake Faults 1793 and thereafter
A French Bombshell 1793
Trouble All Around 1793
A Tragic Departure 1793
Opposite Hands Across the Ocean 1794
The Whiskey Rebellion 17901794
The Democratic Societies 1794
A Disastrous Document 1795
Tragedy with a Friend 1795
Downhill 17951796
Washingtons Farewell Address 1796
Home Again 17971799
Mental Confusion 17971798
Politics at Sunset 17981799
Washington and Slavery 17321799
Death of a Hero 1799
About the Author

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About the author (2017)

James Thomas Flexner (1908–2003) was a prizewinning historian and the author of twenty-six books. Born and raised in New York City, he graduated from Harvard University with honors. He began his career as a reporter for the New York Herald Tribune and published his first book, Doctors on Horseback: Pioneers of American Medicine, in 1937. Best known for his four-volume biography of George Washington, Flexner won a special Pulitzer Prize citation for the series and a National Book Award for its final installment, Anguish and Farewell (1972). His single-volume distillation, Washington: The Indispensable Man (1974), has been heralded as “the most convincing evocation of the man and his deeds written within the compass of one book” (Los Angeles Times). Flexner’s other books include America’s Old Masters: First Artists of the New World (1939), The Traitor and the Spy: Benedict Arnold and John André (1953), Mohawk Baronet: Sir William Johnson of New York (1959), The Young Hamilton: A Biography (1978), and An America Saga: The Story of Helen Thomas and Simon Flexner (1984).