Yet it seems that few who look into his life come away unimpressed. The most perceptive and interesting bit of "The Genuine Article" presents a convincing semi-explanation of Washington's appeal
Washington seems to have been born with a thirst for public respect of a special kind. He wanted nothing more than honor, and he had identified its ingredients so clearly that he knew he would miss getting it if he showed himself wanting it as badly as he did. He wished to be honored by deserving it. If his neighbors placed a high value on graceful ballroom dancing or fine horsemanship, he wanted not simply to have the reputation but to be the most greaceful dancer and the finest horseman. If they honored physical courage, he would give them courage, leading Virginia's militia against the French when he was only twenty-two. In the contest with England, he found the larger cause he needed to gain larger honor and deliberately placed himself in a position to win it by command of the Continental Army. In the end, his own successful quest won him the prestige to honor the cause that had honored him. . . . Washington continually sought to make nature imitate art, to make his life conform to the perfection of character and conduct that was his ideal.
Take a moment and compare that approach to that of our current president. Do you think the 18th-century Karl Rove, powdered wig and all, would have suggested that he step down voluntarily after two terms?
Morgan's whole book is interesting and worth reading, a here-and-there tour through early American history, a type of book I find particularly pleasant, wherein a smart author reads through all sorts of very specialized books and picks out the best parts on our behalf.
Have a good Thanksgiving. Don't forget to thank Tisquantum!