GEORGE WASHINGTON'S JOURNEY by T.H. Breen

GEORGE WASHINGTON'S JOURNEY

The President Forges a New Nation
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KIRKUS REVIEW

An examination of the first presidential road trips.

Between 1789 and 1791, George Washington arranged to visit all 13 of the original states, an ambitious undertaking in an era when transportation was slow and hazardous. He passed through the middle states on his way to his inauguration and then traveled to the others in three trips: to New England (except Rhode Island) in 1789, to Rhode Island after it ratified the Constitution in 1790, and to the southern states in 1791. His stated purpose for these travels was "to become better acquainted with the principal Characters & internal Circumstances [of the states], as well as to be more accessible to numbers of well-informed persons, who might give [him] useful information and advices on political subjects." Breen (Professor at Large/Univ. of Vermont; American Insurgents, American Patriots: The Revolution of the People, 2010, etc.) conflates these travels into a single "journey" and imposes upon them two completely different purposes: "to bind scattered individuals and competing regions into a viable federal union" and "to engage with [the common people] in an ongoing conversation about the character of the republican experiment." He offers barely any historical support for these aims aside from the fact that Washington believed passionately in a strong central government. While the author ably describes the adulatory parades and receptions that greeted Washington in New England, he chooses to interpret what appear to be personal accolades as enthusiasm for constitutional government. He reports no speeches, addresses, or private pleas in explicit support of federalism and says little of substance about the southern tour at all. The narrative is presented in simple prose and a condescending tone in which all involved—Washington, state leaders, the people—appear as rather dim bulbs in need of learning or being reminded of something.

An unconvincing attempt to read extraneous political agendas into the first president's fact-finding tours.

Pub Date: Jan. 5th, 2016
ISBN: 978-1-4516-7542-9
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 2015




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