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For most Americans, George Washington is more of a legend than a man—a face on our currency or an austere figure standing in a rowboat crossing the icy Delaware River. He was equally revered in his own time. At the helm of a country born of idealism and revolution, Washington reluctantly played the role of demigod that the new nation required—a role reconciling the rhetoric of democracy with the ritual of monarchy.

Washington quickly understood that every decision he made as president would be analyzed, criticized, and emulated. “There is scarcely any part of my conduct which may not hereafter be drawn into precedent,” he said. In his own words, Washington describes himself as a poor orator and an uncomfortable leader, a man more at ease in his private gardens than at the center of America’s trust and adoration. Plagued by doubts about his education and abilities, Washington developed self-discipline that to others seemed superhuman.

Washington on Washington offers a fresh and human perspective on this enigmatic figure in American history. Drawing on diary entries, journals, letters, and authentic interviews, Paul M. Zall presents the autobiography that Washington never lived to write, revealing new insights into his character, both personal and political.

Paul M. Zall (1922-2010), Emeritus Professor of English at California State University at Los Angeles, was a research scholar at the Huntington Library. He is the author of many books including Lincoln on Lincoln, Jefferson on Jefferson, and Franklin on Franklin.

"Refreshing, scholarly, and entertaining. A wonderful introduction to Washington."—Dorothy Twohig, former editor-in-chief of the Washington Papers at the Universit

"Through an illuminating introductory essay and craftsmanlike editing, Paul Zall provides an intimate look at Washington. . . . Washington on Washington offers a compelling look at Washington’s life told in his own words, an inside view of what motivated him and how he thought, and a rare glimpse of how he saw himself and wanted to be seen."—John Ferling, author of The First of Men: A Life of George Washington and Set

"Zall enables readers to see Washington as he saw himself."—McCormick (SC) Messenger

"Provides a useful introduction to George Washington."—Register of the Kentucky Historical Society

"From Washington’s voluminous writings, Zall has painstakingly compiled much more than a biography in Washington’s own words, he has given us the autobiography that our preeminent Founding Father himself never wrote."—Stuart Leibiger, author of Founding Friendship

Publication Date



The University Press of Kentucky

Place of Publication

Lexington, KY






George Washington, United States presidents, United States politics


United States History


Edited by Paul M. Zall

Washington on Washington
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