THE YEARS BETWEEN: Washington at Home at Mount Vernon 1783-1789 by Hazel Wilson

THE YEARS BETWEEN: Washington at Home at Mount Vernon 1783-1789

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From his journals and with helpful excerpts from his letters, Miss Wilson recreates the years between Washington's return from the Revolution and his assumption of the Presidency: he had hopes not only of retiring from public life but also of ""retiring within myself."" Here, however, we meet him on the middle ground of his daily attention to his farms, his informed interest in landscape gardening and interior decoration, his support--material and emotional--of relations near and far and of all his ""people"" (an intemperate miller was fired reluctantly, a feeble old man was taught to knit). Weather is a prime concern; the arrival of two ""Jack Asses,"" a gift of the King of Spain, is an Event. The particulars do have application: an unknown Mr. Watson is unknown to Washington too, typical of the stream of uninvited guests; all were made welcome, and Washington records on June 30, 1785 that he is dining alone with Mrs. W. for the first time ""since my retirement from public life."" Magnaminity plus poor weather (and his prior absence) result in persistent financial problems; the other thread that runs through is Washington's increasing concern with strengthening the central government, so that when it is a question of ""To Go Or Not To Go"" to the Constitutional Convention, he cannot in conscience decline. The import of the occasion is briefly indicated but one feels more closely the enormity of becoming ""not only the first President of the U.S. but the only president in the world."" If the book were not repetitive and meticulous about small matters it would not accurately reflect life at Mount Vernon; readers with patience and some skill at scanning will learn as much about a manner of living as about the man, maybe more.

Pub Date: Nov. 17th, 1969
Publisher: Knopf