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An Imperfect God: George Washington, His Slaves, and the Creation of America

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An Imperfect God: George Washington, His Slaves, and the Creation of America Cover

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

A major new biography of Washington, and the first to explore his engagement with American slavery

When George Washington wrote his will, he made the startling decision to set his slaves free; earlier he had said that holding slaves was his "only unavoidable subject of regret." In this groundbreaking work, Henry Wiencek explores the founding father's engagement with slavery at every stage of his life--as a Virginia planter, soldier, politician, president and statesman.

Washington was born and raised among blacks and mixed-race people; he and his wife had blood ties to the slave community. Yet as a young man he bought and sold slaves without scruple, even raffled off children to collect debts (an incident ignored by earlier biographers). Then, on the Revolutionary battlefields where he commanded both black and white troops, Washington's attitudes began to change. He and the other framers enshrined slavery in the Constitution, but, Wiencek shows, even before he became president Washington had begun to see the system's evil.

Wiencek's revelatory narrative, based on a meticulous examination of private papers, court records, and the voluminous Washington archives, documents for the first time the moral transformation culminating in Washington's determination to emancipate his slaves. He acted too late to keep the new republic from perpetuating slavery, but his repentance was genuine. And it was perhaps related to the possibility--as the oral history of Mount Vernon's slave descendants has long asserted--that a slave named West Ford was the son of George and a woman named Venus; Wiencek has new evidence that this could indeed have been true.

George Washington's heroic stature as Father of Our Country is not diminished in this superb, nuanced portrait: now we see Washington in full as a man of his time and ahead of his time.

Henry Wiencek is the author of several books, including The Hairstons: An American Family in Black and White, which won the National Book Critics' Circle Award in 1999.
Named a Best Book by the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic

Winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for History

A Library Journal Best Book

When George Washington wrote his will, he made the startling decision to set his slaves free; earlier he had said that holding slaves was his "only unavoidable subject of regret." In this groundbreaking work, Henry Wiencek explores the Founding Father's engagement with slavery at every stage of his lifeas a Virginia planter, soldier, politician, president and statesman.

Washington was born and raised among blacks and mixed-race people; he and his wife had blood ties to the slave community. Yet as a young man he bought and sold slaves without scruple, even raffled off children to collect debts (an incident ignored by earlier biographers). Then, on the Revolutionary battlefields where he commanded both black and white troops, Washington's attitudes began to change. He and the other framers enshrined slavery in the Constitution, but, Wiencek shows, even before he became president Washington had begun to see the system's evil, and he understood that the problem of this "peculiar institution" would be central to the Amerian experience.

Wiencek's revelatory narrative, based on a meticulous examination of private papers, court records, and the voluminous Washington archives, documents for the first time the moral transformation culminating in Washington's determination to emancipate his slaves. He acted too late to keep the new republic from perpetuating slavery, but his repentance was genuine. And it was perhaps related to the possibilityas the oral history of Mount Vernon's slave descendants has long assertedthat a slave named West Ford was the son of George and a woman named Venus; Wiencek has new evidence that this could indeed have been true.

George Washington's heroic stature as Father of Our Country is not diminished in this superb, nuanced portrait: now we see Washington in full as a man of his time and ahead of his time.

"[An] honest and compelling study of Washington and slavery . . . In Wiencek's superb telling, [slavery] certainly makes Washington more of a traditional planter than we have usually been willing to admit . . . Wiencek tells stories of miscegenation and incest in the Washington household that rival anything William Faulkner imagined."—Gordon S. Wood, The New York Times Book Review
"[An] honest and compelling study of Washington and slavery . . . In Wiencek's superb telling, [slavery] certainly makes Washington more of a traditional planter than we have usually been willing to admit . . . Wiencek tells stories of miscegenation and incest in the Washington household that rival anything William Faulkner imagined."—Gordon S. Wood, The New York Times Book Review
 
"[A] revisionist new book [that] rises to the challenge of turning Washington's very furtiveness into a source of fascination . . . Leaving a will that freed slaves cannot be seen as a simple, bold stroke. It makes sense only in the larger, richer context that Wiencek's book vividly creates . . . This book offers many glimpses into the ways in which intertwined black and white family histories revealed the monstrousness of slavery-sustaining laws."—Janet Maslin, The New York Times
 
"The most comprehensive attempt thus far to look at Washington and slavery in all its dimensions. The book is based on a great deal of research in both primary and secondary sources and is quite readable, even absorbing."—Don Higginbotham, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, The Journal of American History
 
"Surveys have shown that George Washington is remembered by most as a soldier and statesman. Few recollect that he was also a farmer-businessman, and fewer still think of him as a slaveowner. This book by Henry Wiencek, who has written widely on Southern slavery, will change that . . . He chronicles not only the indignities and horrors imposed upon those in bondage, but shows how slavery destroyed opportunities for free craftsmen and how slaveowners lived anxiously under the shadow of potential slave insurrections. This book should be read by all who are interested in Washington. It must be read by all who wish to understand early America."—John Ferling, The Washington Post Book World
 
"[This book reveals] the moral compromises made by the nation's early leaders and the fragile nature of the country's infancy."—Ulrich Boser, US News & World Report
 
"Engaging . . . [A work of] compelling and troubling reading [that] offers a sensitive, powerful, disquieting, and balanced account of one of Washington's most important legacies—and previously one of the least understood."—Jack Rakove, Chicago Tribune
 
"Wiencek is thorough in his research . . . The book is thoroughly documented, heavily footnoted, and conveniently indexed. It is fascinating to read."—Greg Langley, The Baton Rouge Advocate
 
"Remarkable for [its] willingness to confront the founding fathers on their own terms, which is by no means the same thing as giving them alibis . . . Serious . . . [Avoids] the cheap sentiments of blind reverence, of self-aggrandizing contempt."—Scott McLemee, Newsday
 
"An important topic . . . An Imperfect God is a model of controlled indignation. Wiencek admires Washington, yet piles detail upon detail about the slave system of which he was a part: what it meant, how it functioned, the costs it imposed on both its immediate victims and larger society, and so forth. Even for those of us who consider ourselves well informed, the results are shocking."—Daniel Lazare, The Nation
 
"With admirable dexterity, Wiencek weaves his exploration of Washington's circuitous career as an emancipator into an account of his own path of discovery. He takes us to remote parts of Virginia, where he interviewed contemporary descendants of both Washington and his slaves. We follow him as he combs Southern archives and visits and revisits national monuments, commemorative parks, and historical museums in search of the piece of evidence that might connect otherwise random facts. The world he opens up with this intrepid sleuthing is far greater than the sum of the details he harvested. And mercifully he leaves it to his readers to feel moral outrage without his guidance."—Joyce Appleby, Los Angeles Times Book Review
 
"A frightening and inspiring biography of Washington unlike any written before . . . Subtle [and] refreshing . . . Wiencek has a gift for elucidating Washington's personality and inner life in crisp, unpretentious prose. He tells his readers how he conducted his research, 0 turning his story into an engaging tale of scholarly discovery . . . At a time when caricature has driven out nuance in historical studies, especially of 'dead white males,' [Wiencek's] assessment could not be more welcome."—Sean Wilentz, The New Republic (cover review)
 
"Wiencek's timely and important work effectively demonstrates how biographers have tended to obscure slavery's importance to Washington's life and the development of his character . . . What is so valuable about Imperfect God [is] its depiction of Washington's direct involvement with slavery's most sordid details . . . Wiencek presents [these details] in ways that are at once chilling and instructive . . . Wiencek's . . . assessment of the man [is] just right."—Annette Gordon-Reed, The New York Journal of American History
 
"In this precisely documented and highly readable work, Wiencek has performed a dual service. He has, without denigrating the contribution of our first chief executive, helped restore him to human dimensions. He has, moreover, brought out in vivid terms the monstrosity, the horror of the human bondage that constitutes the most shameful chapter in our history, the aftermath of which plagues us to this day."—Walter Barthold, The New York Law Journal
 
"An Imperfect God is a fascinating and insightful work. It is the type of history and biography we need if we are to truly understand the world that gave birth to our country. Wiencek's research pulls in long over-looked letters and records, first-person encounters with family genealogists, [and] a trip to Colonial Williamsburg to help trace our country's evolving understanding of slavery."—M. Dion Thompson, The Capital Times
 
"Wiencek's greatest gift may be his firm alliance to fact over conjecture. His laborious research almost always reveals that the human truth is far more complex and captivating than any historian's wishful thinking, and these talents [are] on display in An Imperfect God . . . Wiencek's book shows how deeper insights can be gained by reflecting upon [the Founding Fathers] in more ambivalent terms . . . He mines the fascinating but neglected facts, beginning and ending with the important detail that Washington freed his slaves upon Martha's death. This gesture seems small at the book's opening, but after our journey through the early-American universe of this book, we reach the book's close with a greater understanding of how unassumingly revolutionary this decision was. Wiencek does not simply give us a new view of George Washington; he offers us a new way of looking."—Virginia Quarterly Review
 
"The first definitive history of Washington the slave-owner."—John Hanc, Newsday
 
"In his honest and compelling study of Washington and slavery, Henry Wiencek contributes an intimate view of the personal development of one of the most important people in our history. He focuses on Washington's role as an oppressive slaveholder, the complex history of race mixture within his and his wife's families, and his gradual change of heart on slavery. Wiencek gives us a complex Washington, by turns heroic and vacillating, an heir to his time and place who moved toward transcending both . . . This is simultaneously history from the bottom up and from the top down. Wiencek admires Washington, yet piles detail upon detail about the slavery system of which he was a part: how it functioned, the costs it imposed on both its immediate victims and the larger society. Wiencek personalizes his, and our, shock at Washington's connection with slavery in his own accounts of extensive and fruitful visits to historical sites and his consultation with amateur and professional experts on their meaning. This, combined with openness to oral traditions and imaginative writing, result in a greatly enriched sense of what life was like in the northern neck of Virginia in the eighteenth century for 'all sorts and conditions' of men, women, and children . . . Our committee agreed that as a 'great man' biography this is as good a study of George Washington's character as we've seen. Wiencek's book shows how deep insights can be gained by reflecting upon a well-known person in carefully ambivalent terms. Wiencek does not simply give us a new view of George Washington; he offers us a new way of looking."—from the award-ceremony comments by the Best Book Prize Committee of SHEAR (Society for Historians of the Early American Republic)
 
"Wiencek is particularly strong in providing a rich description of the family and social networks to which Washington belonged, including the complicated kinship relations between mixed-race slaves and their owners."—Timothy Brown, San Francisco Chronicle
 
"Wiencek does an admirable job of exploring how and why Washington's attitude toward slavery changed . . . This gripping story of moral reform adds greatly to our understanding of this most remote of Founders."—Alan Pell Crawford, The Wall Street Journal
 
"Timely . . . Riveting history . . . Essential reading for anyone interested in the origins of American thinking about political process, states' rights, and the ongoing dilemma of racism."—Paul Evans, Book
 
"The book's real achievement is to depict in grisly anecdotal detail the moral abomination that was plantation life while simultaneously imagining how such an admirable figure as Washington could have been for so long a cheerfully prosperous participant before his graduation to abolitionism . . . Highly recommended."—Library Journal
 
"Documenting the complex role of slavery in the late colonial and early republican period, Wiencek charts George Washington's feelings about the subject, which evolved beyond the slave-trading days of his youth into an attitude not unheard-of in Virginia, but certainly unusual: the conviction 'that nothing but the rooting out of slavery can perpetuate the existence of our union.' The change of heart, Wiencek suggests, had several origins. One was the valiant service of slaves and black freemen in the Revolutionary War; when a group of Virginia slaves revolted 20 years afterward and were condemned to be executed, one nobly said, 'I have nothing more to offer than what General Washington would have had to offer, had he been taken by the British and put to trial. I have adventured my life in endeavoring to obtain the liberty of my countrymen, and am a willing sacrifice in their cause.' A more personal cause may have been that Washington fathered children by slave women at Mount Vernon; Wiencek offers circumstantial but compelling evidence that the family of West Ford descended directly from ochWashington, and Ford had the unusual distinction of having been a landowner and the second wealthiest free black in Fairfax County at the dawn of the Civil War. Whatever the ultimate reason, Washington stipulated in his will that his slaves be emancipated and, Wiencek says, apparently regretted that he had done nothing to free them while he was in office, when 'the effect might have been profound' had Washington set a precedent that the chief executive could not be a slaveholder. A capable, decidedly revisionist work of history."—Kirkus Reviews
 
"Thomas Jefferson is revered as our apostle of liberty; yet, when he died deeply in debt, he had made no provision for the emancipation of his slaves, and many were sold and families scattered. George Washington was conservative, authoritarian, and aristocratic in outlook and demeanor; yet, he strongly emphasized in his will that his slaves were to be freed, despite opposition from his family. Wiencek, a Virginia historian, studies Washington's moral struggle with the institution of slavery. As Wiencek's fascinating and often emotionally wrenching examination of Washington's private correspondence reveals, he expressed distaste for slavery as a young man. But like many similarly minded Virginia planters, he was not prepared to advocate emancipation. As commander of the Continental Army, Washington was deeply moved by the sight of black slaves and free men fighting alongside whites, which seems to have accelerated his personal opposition to what he regarded as a curse. Unfortunately, like Jefferson, his personal opposition could not spur him to lead a public campaign that might have spared the nation the horrors to come."—Jay Freeman, Booklist
 
"This important work, sure to be of compelling interest to anyone concerned with the nation's origins, its founders and history of race slavery, is the first extended history of its subject . . . What will surely gain this book widest notice is Wiencek's careful evaluation of the evidence that Washington himself may have fathered the child of a slave . . . The book stands out for depicting Washington's deep moral struggle with slavery and his 'gradual moral transfiguration' after watching some young slaves raffled off . . . This work of stylish scholarship and genealogical investigation makes Washington an even greater and more human figure than he seemed before."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Synopsis:

A major new biography of Washington, and the first to explore his engagement with American slavery

When George Washington wrote his will, he made the startling decision to set his slaves free; earlier he had said that holding slaves was his "only unavoidable subject of regret." In this groundbreaking work, Henry Wiencek explores the founding father's engagement with slavery at every stage of his life--as a Virginia planter, soldier, politician, president and statesman.

Washington was born and raised among blacks and mixed-race people; he and his wife had blood ties to the slave community. Yet as a young man he bought and sold slaves without scruple, even raffled off children to collect debts (an incident ignored by earlier biographers). Then, on the Revolutionary battlefields where he commanded both black and white troops, Washington's attitudes began to change. He and the other framers enshrined slavery in the Constitution, but, Wiencek shows, even before he became president Washington had begun to see the system's evil.

Wiencek's revelatory narrative, based on a meticulous examination of private papers, court records, and the voluminous Washington archives, documents for the first time the moral transformation culminating in Washington's determination to emancipate his slaves. He acted too late to keep the new republic from perpetuating slavery, but his repentance was genuine. And it was perhaps related to the possibility--as the oral history of Mount Vernon's slave descendants has long asserted--that a slave named West Ford was the son of George and a woman named Venus; Wiencek has new evidence that this could indeed have been true.

George Washington's heroic stature as Father of Our Country is not diminished in this superb, nuanced portrait: now we see Washington in full as a man of his time and ahead of his time.

Henry Wiencek is the author of several books, including The Hairstons: An American Family in Black and White, which won the National Book Critics' Circle Award in 1999.
Named a Best Book by the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic

Winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for History

A Library Journal Best Book

When George Washington wrote his will, he made the startling decision to set his slaves free; earlier he had said that holding slaves was his "only unavoidable subject of regret." In this groundbreaking work, Henry Wiencek explores the Founding Father's engagement with slavery at every stage of his lifeas a Virginia planter, soldier, politician, president and statesman.

Washington was born and raised among blacks and mixed-race people; he and his wife had blood ties to the slave community. Yet as a young man he bought and sold slaves without scruple, even raffled off children to collect debts (an incident ignored by earlier biographers). Then, on the Revolutionary battlefields where he commanded both black and white troops, Washington's attitudes began to change. He and the other framers enshrined slavery in the Constitution, but, Wiencek shows, even before he became president Washington had begun to see the system's evil, and he understood that the problem of this "peculiar institution" would be central to the Amerian experience.

Wiencek's revelatory narrative, based on a meticulous examination of private papers, court records, and the voluminous Washington archives, documents for the first time the moral transformation culminating in Washington's determination to emancipate his slaves. He acted too late to keep the new republic from perpetuating slavery, but his repentance was genuine. And it was perhaps related to the possibilityas the oral history of Mount Vernon's slave descendants has long assertedthat a slave named West Ford was the son of George and a woman named Venus; Wiencek has new evidence that this could indeed have been true.

George Washington's heroic stature as Father of Our Country is not diminished in this superb, nuanced portrait: now we see Washington in full as a man of his time and ahead of his time.

"[An] honest and compelling study of Washington and slavery . . . In Wiencek's superb telling, [slavery] certainly makes Washington more of a traditional planter than we have usually been willing to admit . . . Wiencek tells stories of miscegenation and incest in the Washington household that rival anything William Faulkner imagined."Gordon S. Wood, The New York Times Book Review
"[An] honest and compelling study of Washington and slavery . . . In Wiencek's superb telling, [slavery] certainly makes Washington more of a traditional planter than we have usually been willing to admit . . . Wiencek tells stories of miscegenation and incest in the Washington household that rival anything William Faulkner imagined."Gordon S. Wood, The New York Times Book Review
 
"[A] revisionist new book [that] rises to the challenge of turning Washington's very furtiveness into a source of fascination . . . Leaving a will that freed slaves cannot be seen as a simple, bold stroke. It makes sense only in the larger, richer context that Wiencek's book vividly creates . . . This book offers many glimpses into the ways in which intertwined black and white family histories revealed the monstrousness of slavery-sustaining laws."Janet Maslin, The New York Times
 
"The most comprehensive attempt thus far to look at Washington and slavery in all its dimensions. The book is based on a great deal of research in both primary and secondary sources and is quite readable, even absorbing."Don Higginbotham, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, The Journal of American History
 
"Surveys have shown that George Washington is remembered by most as a soldier and statesman. Few recollect that he was also a farmer-businessman, and fewer still think of him as a slaveowner. This book by Henry Wiencek, who has written widely on Southern slavery, will change that . . . He chronicles not only the indignities and horrors imposed upon those in bondage, but shows how slavery destroyed opportunities for free craftsmen and how slaveowners lived anxiously under the shadow of potential slave insurrections. This book should be read by all who are interested in Washington. It must be read by all who wish to understand early America."John Ferling, The Washington Post Book World
 
"[This book reveals] the moral compromises made by the nation's early leaders and the fragile nature of the country's infancy."Ulrich Boser, US News & World Report
 
"Engaging . . . [A work of] compelling and troubling reading [that] offers a sensitive, powerful, disquieting, and balanced account of one of Washington's most important legaciesand previously one of the least understood."Jack Rakove, Chicago Tribune
 
"Wiencek is thorough in his research . . . The book is thoroughly documented, heavily footnoted, and conveniently indexed. It is fascinating to read."Greg Langley, The Baton Rouge Advocate
 
"Remarkable for [its] willingness to confront the founding fathers on their own terms, which is by no means the same thing as giving them alibis . . . Serious . . . [Avoids] the cheap sentiments of blind reverence, of self-aggrandizing contempt."Scott McLemee, Newsday
 
"An important topic . .

Synopsis:

Wiencek's revelatory narrative, based on a meticulous examination of private papers, court records, and voluminous archives, documents for the first time the moral transformation culminating in George Washington's determination to emancipate his slaves. 416 p.

About the Author

Henry Wiencek, a nationally prominent historian and writer, is the author of several books, including, most recently, The Hairstons: An American Family in Black and White, which won the National Book Critics' Circle Award in 1999. He lives with his wife and son in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Product Details

ISBN:
9780374529512
Author:
Wiencek, Henry
Publisher:
Farrar Straus Giroux
Subject:
History
Subject:
Historical - U.S.
Subject:
Presidents
Subject:
United States - Revolutionary War
Subject:
United States - 18th Century
Subject:
Presidents & Heads of State
Subject:
United States / Revolutionary Period (1775-1800)
Subject:
Presidents -- United States.
Subject:
United States Politics and government.
Subject:
Heads of state
Subject:
Biography-Presidents and Heads of State
Subject:
Slavery
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade Paper
Publication Date:
20040931
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Includes 16 Pages of Black-and-White Ill
Pages:
416
Dimensions:
8.3 x 5.5 x 1.3 in

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Related Subjects

Biography » Presidents and Heads of State
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
History and Social Science » Politics » General
History and Social Science » Sociology » Slavery
History and Social Science » US History » General
History and Social Science » US History » Presidents » Washington, George
History and Social Science » World History » General

An Imperfect God: George Washington, His Slaves, and the Creation of America New Trade Paper
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$19.00 In Stock
Product details 416 pages Farrar Straus Giroux - English 9780374529512 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by ,
A major new biography of Washington, and the first to explore his engagement with American slavery

When George Washington wrote his will, he made the startling decision to set his slaves free; earlier he had said that holding slaves was his "only unavoidable subject of regret." In this groundbreaking work, Henry Wiencek explores the founding father's engagement with slavery at every stage of his life--as a Virginia planter, soldier, politician, president and statesman.

Washington was born and raised among blacks and mixed-race people; he and his wife had blood ties to the slave community. Yet as a young man he bought and sold slaves without scruple, even raffled off children to collect debts (an incident ignored by earlier biographers). Then, on the Revolutionary battlefields where he commanded both black and white troops, Washington's attitudes began to change. He and the other framers enshrined slavery in the Constitution, but, Wiencek shows, even before he became president Washington had begun to see the system's evil.

Wiencek's revelatory narrative, based on a meticulous examination of private papers, court records, and the voluminous Washington archives, documents for the first time the moral transformation culminating in Washington's determination to emancipate his slaves. He acted too late to keep the new republic from perpetuating slavery, but his repentance was genuine. And it was perhaps related to the possibility--as the oral history of Mount Vernon's slave descendants has long asserted--that a slave named West Ford was the son of George and a woman named Venus; Wiencek has new evidence that this could indeed have been true.

George Washington's heroic stature as Father of Our Country is not diminished in this superb, nuanced portrait: now we see Washington in full as a man of his time and ahead of his time.

Henry Wiencek is the author of several books, including The Hairstons: An American Family in Black and White, which won the National Book Critics' Circle Award in 1999.
Named a Best Book by the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic

Winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for History

A Library Journal Best Book

When George Washington wrote his will, he made the startling decision to set his slaves free; earlier he had said that holding slaves was his "only unavoidable subject of regret." In this groundbreaking work, Henry Wiencek explores the Founding Father's engagement with slavery at every stage of his lifeas a Virginia planter, soldier, politician, president and statesman.

Washington was born and raised among blacks and mixed-race people; he and his wife had blood ties to the slave community. Yet as a young man he bought and sold slaves without scruple, even raffled off children to collect debts (an incident ignored by earlier biographers). Then, on the Revolutionary battlefields where he commanded both black and white troops, Washington's attitudes began to change. He and the other framers enshrined slavery in the Constitution, but, Wiencek shows, even before he became president Washington had begun to see the system's evil, and he understood that the problem of this "peculiar institution" would be central to the Amerian experience.

Wiencek's revelatory narrative, based on a meticulous examination of private papers, court records, and the voluminous Washington archives, documents for the first time the moral transformation culminating in Washington's determination to emancipate his slaves. He acted too late to keep the new republic from perpetuating slavery, but his repentance was genuine. And it was perhaps related to the possibilityas the oral history of Mount Vernon's slave descendants has long assertedthat a slave named West Ford was the son of George and a woman named Venus; Wiencek has new evidence that this could indeed have been true.

George Washington's heroic stature as Father of Our Country is not diminished in this superb, nuanced portrait: now we see Washington in full as a man of his time and ahead of his time.

"[An] honest and compelling study of Washington and slavery . . . In Wiencek's superb telling, [slavery] certainly makes Washington more of a traditional planter than we have usually been willing to admit . . . Wiencek tells stories of miscegenation and incest in the Washington household that rival anything William Faulkner imagined."Gordon S. Wood, The New York Times Book Review
"[An] honest and compelling study of Washington and slavery . . . In Wiencek's superb telling, [slavery] certainly makes Washington more of a traditional planter than we have usually been willing to admit . . . Wiencek tells stories of miscegenation and incest in the Washington household that rival anything William Faulkner imagined."Gordon S. Wood, The New York Times Book Review
 
"[A] revisionist new book [that] rises to the challenge of turning Washington's very furtiveness into a source of fascination . . . Leaving a will that freed slaves cannot be seen as a simple, bold stroke. It makes sense only in the larger, richer context that Wiencek's book vividly creates . . . This book offers many glimpses into the ways in which intertwined black and white family histories revealed the monstrousness of slavery-sustaining laws."Janet Maslin, The New York Times
 
"The most comprehensive attempt thus far to look at Washington and slavery in all its dimensions. The book is based on a great deal of research in both primary and secondary sources and is quite readable, even absorbing."Don Higginbotham, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, The Journal of American History
 
"Surveys have shown that George Washington is remembered by most as a soldier and statesman. Few recollect that he was also a farmer-businessman, and fewer still think of him as a slaveowner. This book by Henry Wiencek, who has written widely on Southern slavery, will change that . . . He chronicles not only the indignities and horrors imposed upon those in bondage, but shows how slavery destroyed opportunities for free craftsmen and how slaveowners lived anxiously under the shadow of potential slave insurrections. This book should be read by all who are interested in Washington. It must be read by all who wish to understand early America."John Ferling, The Washington Post Book World
 
"[This book reveals] the moral compromises made by the nation's early leaders and the fragile nature of the country's infancy."Ulrich Boser, US News & World Report
 
"Engaging . . . [A work of] compelling and troubling reading [that] offers a sensitive, powerful, disquieting, and balanced account of one of Washington's most important legaciesand previously one of the least understood."Jack Rakove, Chicago Tribune
 
"Wiencek is thorough in his research . . . The book is thoroughly documented, heavily footnoted, and conveniently indexed. It is fascinating to read."Greg Langley, The Baton Rouge Advocate
 
"Remarkable for [its] willingness to confront the founding fathers on their own terms, which is by no means the same thing as giving them alibis . . . Serious . . . [Avoids] the cheap sentiments of blind reverence, of self-aggrandizing contempt."Scott McLemee, Newsday
 
"An important topic . .

"Synopsis" by , Wiencek's revelatory narrative, based on a meticulous examination of private papers, court records, and voluminous archives, documents for the first time the moral transformation culminating in George Washington's determination to emancipate his slaves. 416 p.
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