Joseph Ellis sets out to make George Washington, the person we think of as an icon, into a real person. He wants to show us what makes him tick. He wants to turn the marble into the man. So many students today see George Washington as a memorial, a monument, a face on a dollar bill, and the man who could not lie when he cut down the cherry tree. He wants to show us the man George Washington was in his day. Ellis’s method was to divide George Washington’s life into three main parts:
1. Events that transpired during the French and Indian War
2. His part as general in the American Revolution
3. His actions as President of the United States
When writing the biography of George Washington, Ellis uses some primary sources such as George Washington’s own letters, and official papers. He also uses secondary resources including manuscripts and printed/published sources, newspaper articles, as well as accounts from other leaders in his era to back his writing. Ellis doesn’t just tell the story of the first president, but is careful to provide the data from which he is working, and then to present his understanding. Ellis dissects the events of Washington’s experiences and tries to provide a blueprint of what he learned from them. He discusses each event in Washington’s life, and how the outcomes would affect his future actions, and would mold him into the man he would eventually become.
His Excellency is a fairly short book compared to many books about this era in time. Ellis writes the book in difficult to understand vocabulary which causes you to spend as much time understanding it, or learning the meaning of his words, as you do reading his book. He is attempting to use his language to paint pictures in our mind. The book would be more enjoyable if the wording was toned down to make it an easier read without trying to look between the lines for hidden meaning, and decipher each sentence that...