In “Young Washington: How Wilderness and War Forged America’s Founding Father,” Peter Stark portrays a deeply flawed and immature Washington, long before personal growth transformed him into the Father of Our Country.
Stark writes: “George Washington at twenty-one was a very different Washington from the one we know and hold sacred, different from the stately commander of the Continental Army, the selfless president, the unblemished father of our country gazing off into posterity. This is not the Washington possessed of nearly superhuman virtue, who, given the chance to consolidate power and rule indefinitely over the just-born nation, willingly stepped down and returned to a quiet life on his Virginia plantation. Rather, this is the young Washington. But not the Washington of the cherry-tree bedtime story.
“This young Washington is ambitious, temperamental, vain, thin-skinned, petulant, awkward, demanding, stubborn, annoying, hasty, passionate. This Washington has not yet learned to cultivate his image or contain his emotions. Here, instead, is a raw young man struggling toward maturity and in love with a close friend’s wife. This is the Washington of emotional neediness, personal ambition, and mistakes – many mistakes.”
Stark writes that the experience in the wilderness of North America helped “mold Washington as he underwent the transition from adolescence to adulthood and moved from self-centered youth to empathetic adult, from ambitious individual to selfless leader.”
Washington did not come from one of the leading families in Virginia. “The Washingtons had occupied a spot on the second tier of society for generations, first in England and then in Virginia,” Stark writes. But Washington was ambitious. Stark writes that “he wished to propel himself into the upper aristocracy, to acquire a good name and reputation. …The military offered Washington one clear avenue to rank and social standing. Large tracts…
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