An Imperfect God: George Washington, His Slaves, and the Creation of America by Henry Wiencek
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I thought this biography of George Washington was excellent. Too often we think of famous people, especially statesmen, as having a set of ideals which are static and consistent throughout their lives. Wiencek has explored Washington's changing attitudes concerning slavery. He was raised with the instution of slavery and accepted it as the way his society operated, but Wiencek believes that as he commanded black regiments in the Revolution he began to see them as human beings and began to see the gross inequity of slavery. He was unable to see the instution abolished in the new constitution, but succeeded in freeing his own slaves and making restitution where he could.
I appreciated the scholarship and lack of agenda in this book. I felt like Wiencek had true admiration for Washington and all he accomplished in his lifetime and yet was able to admit his less admirable attributes that were a part of the time period in which he lived. In fact, I believe that he showed Washington to be an even greater person because he was able to review his own attitudes and to change in a time and place where it was not easy. Washington did not free all of his slaves the moment he became aware of the injustice, but he did begin to prepare them for freedom indicating that he still was conscious of the responsibility of a slave owner to provide for his "people" and to consider their welfare.
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