As the great-nephew of the first president, Washington writes about a forgotten book he claims molded the Founding Father’s personality: H. de Luzancy’s A Panegyrick to the Memory of His Grace Frederick, Late Duke of Schonberg (1690).
The author deems it absolutely necessary that all Americans change their ways and become more like his great-uncle, ignoring the passage of more than 200 years of social, political and economic changes that have altered the need and/or usefulness of such a person. He does acknowledge modernity with comparisons that suit no purpose and make no point. This book seems to be Washington’s bully pulpit (his conclusion: “If you trust in Providence, follow your conscience, and keep an eye on the past to guide you,” he writes, “while you keep another eye on your goals, then you, too, can be good and great, just like George Washington”), and the narrative is loaded with witless asides and lazy writing (“What. A. Cool. Job.”; “I mean, it’s not for everyone, maybe, but, hey…”; “Hold on to your tri-cornered hats”) without which readers could possibly take him seriously. At the end of the book, the author briefly mentions that next to the Bible on Washington’s bedside was Addison’s Cato, which was staged at Valley Forge and from which he quoted as early as 1758. Cato, the virtuous republican who opposed Caesar’s tyranny, undoubtedly had a great deal more influence on the general than did Duke Frederick. This book is much more a venue for the author’s ultraconservative views—e.g., “stupid, bacon-loving Canadians”; “haughty contempt…a French specialty”; and especially, “the ignorant, stupid people who believe [in] the rule of Demos, the Mob.”
For a picture of strict belief in class distinctions and the stupidity of the fools who accede to the good of the whole, please step this way. For anyone else, take a pass.