Book Review: Realistic Visionary A Portrait of George Washington
Realistic Visionary: A Portrait of George Washington by Peter Henriques tries to explain the first president of the United States of America as a person and not a symbol as most books have done. It is because it focusses on both his public and private life. The author looks at the reputation of George Washington as he tries to merge them with the facts about him. The book describes the first president as a war hero who is very serious and uptight. It means that the book explains the character of the president and relates it with the way he carried out his presidency. The book is not a biography of George Washington, but it gives an accord of the president’s various relationships and specific historical events in a chronological manner. The book begins by describing Washington as an ambitious person who yearned for glory in the public eye. He is described as a war hero in the French and Indian War to a plantation farmer who came out of retirement to aid in the Revolutionary War (Henriques 40). The book looks at the life of George Washington before presidency, his life as president, and his overall character in his personal life that led him to make certain decisions.
George Washington is described in many biographies as a war hero, which is also the same in this book. However, A Realistic Visionary: The Portrait of George Washington goes a step further and tries to compare the character of this hero to his actions. In the Indian and French War, Washington is not only portrayed as a hero, but also a very ambitious person who strived for public recognition (Henriques 23). The book explains that this was his first attempt in the search for glory. His ambition and need for recognition made him have poor relations with some of his elders in the service who described him as insubordinate. It is what is different about this book while comparing it to the rest of the accounts of the life of President George Washington. The book not only describes what Washington did as a hero, but also his character as a person. It shows that he did not care to follow instructions and he lacked respect for the officers above him. The book explains that he did this because he cared very much about himself and his ambition in public life.
Most of the accounts of the life of the first president of the United States of America, George Washington, do not focus on why he made certain choices. His life’s accounts in the history books, mostly describe him as a war hero who provided exceptional service to his country (Qaiser 79). He is almost pictured as a super human who cared for nothing more than doing all he can to help the nation of America. However, this book Realistic Visionary: A Portrait of George Washington compares George Washington was to what he did during that time. One is able to see him as a person whose actions were fueled by personal ambition, and not only his desire for service. It is an interesting take in the life of a person that many history books have glorified. It is true that he became president in a time when there were no structures of government and he did great things with the resources he had at the time (Henriques 48). Nevertheless, this book acknowledges these accomplishments and goes an extra mile to give a human picture of this highly esteemed leader. The book also gives an account where George Washington came of retirement as a farmer in the plantations to lend his services in the Revolutionary War. Here, the author is trying to portray Washington as a man who was hard working in the plantation farm (Henriques 46). He also cared very much for his country that he came out retirement to rejoin the army in a selfless manner.
Washington’s Reign as President
The first president had to face certain adversities at the time such as a non-functioning government, disunity amongst the citizens, and a crippled economy. As explained in the book, Mr. Washington was a leader who liked to do things practically instead of using words or delegation (Henriques 65). Him as a practical leader wanted to unify the United States, set up a functioning economy and organize an operating government. Most of the historical books on the account of the United States of America describe George Washington as the first president (Qaiser 23). The books give the impression that there was a functioning government and that there were structures of administration. Realistic Visionary: A Portrait of George Washington stands out from the rest of the history books since it describes the lack of organization in the structures of government. The book enables the audience to see that during that time, the leaders did not have a house of representatives, a senate, and there was no plan on how to maintain a balance of power. The book also shares some humor where it mentions that Washington was referred to as “His Exalted Highness”. He was referred to in this was because the term president was not in use during that time. It is another example of the way this book stands out from the rest of the history books that give an account of the first president of America.
The other books only mention him as the first president and then they give his accomplishments, failures, and his legacy. On the other hand, this book looks at the events during his presidency and how they influenced his actions. For this reason, the book continues to add praise to the name George Washington by saying that he came at a time when there were no structures of government, disunity among the people, and a non-functioning economy (Henriques 55). In the presence of all these adversities, he managed to champion them and become a renowned president all over the world. In this book, the issue of slavery is tackled, but it does not focus a lot on the subject (Henriques 163). The author says that the president could not tackle the issue of slavery appropriately because he had most of his focus on creating a new country.
George Washington’s Character and Personal Life
The book begins by describing the character of the president as an ambitious person who was also very serious. This was during the time before he became president where he was offering his services to the army. This means that the president had an idea of what he wanted to do in his country America and he remained true to his path. However, some his elders in the service said that he did not follow command making him disagree with most of them. The book describes Washington’s selflessness by mentioning the time when he came out of retirement to help in the Revolutionary war (Henriques 46). He is also described as a man who preferred action to words, a character that brought him enemies. This was described at the time when he signed the Jay Treaty that brought disagreement within his administration (Henriques 114). His actions as a military person and a president resemble to the other historical accounts on the president (Qaiser 15). The book goes a step further and describes Washington as a person who then is related to his actions.
The book also describes Washington’s engagement to Martha and how he used to write to her during his service in the war. The book, unlike the other historical books, describes Washington as a man with feelings, and not only a hero with a vision. The author also shows the devotion Washington had to Martha in the midst of accusations that he had an affair with Sally Cary Fairfax. The other books give tales of how President Washington was a devoted soldier, husband and president. The book acknowledges all of these facts, but goes a step further and describes the character and personality of George Washington. While other books describe his accomplishments after his death, this book describes his religious beliefs and how he only cared for his legacy.
The book by Henriques on the first president of America is interesting for anyone who likes history. It looks at both the character and the career of George Washington as it tries to bring a balance between the two aspects. One who wants to know about the president and not only his accomplishments will find this book apposite. It illuminates some hidden information in other history books such as Washington’s religious life, his marriage to Martha, and how he handled the issue of slavery. The book also gives an insight on the president’s judgment, and other sensitive topics such as his relationship with Hamilton and the feud with Jefferson. The author does not provide information about the entire life of President Washington, but looks at various events and themes that reveal the man; Mr. Washington. The book shows how Washington’s ambitions led to public service and eventually to a fledgling nation. It is a good book that stands out from the rest since it focusses on George Washington as an all-rounded person.
Henriques, Peter R. Realistic Visionary: A Portrait of George Washington. Charlottesville:
Qaiser, Annie. How to Analyze the Works of George Washington. , 2013. Print.