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Book reviews for "Flexner,_James_Thomas" sorted by average review score:

George Washington in the American Revolution, 1775-1783
Published in Hardcover by Little Brown & Company (1968)
Authors: James Thomas Flexner and George Washington
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GW: Anguish and Farewell, (1793 - 1799)
This is the final volume in the set of four, in this series about George Washington, written by James Thomas Flexner; and the most intensely dramatic covering Washington's second term, his retirement and death.

George Washington takes his oath for a second term as President of the United States, in a time when the young United States is growing following a time of relative peace and a policy of non-aggression with France and England. And grow the young Republic did, by leaps and bounds, but with this growth, evolved some discontent. Factions in the fragile government wanted to be self-serving... Hamilton's lust for power and control, contrasted by Jefferson's lack of anything having to do with a central overseeing government. All of this coupled with the growing friction between North and the South, East and West, Federalism and Republican views all differing wanting a better stake in the government. If this wasn't enough, the French Revolution... with its pro and anti French sentiments creating unrest throughout the republic.

We see the ever dominent Hamilton trying to further himself at the expense of Washington... and again Jefferson wanting nothing further in the government... retiring to his Virginia agrarianism, but later both men working toward Washington's anguish and distrust. Washington wanting to retire himself and enjoy what little time he had left to him at his beloved acres... Mount Vernon.

We see again Washington's self-doubts, but with his aging, his brilliance fading and his body wreaked with infirmities, we see his judgement being clouded and distrusted. This book gives us the contrasts of Washington the public figure and the private Washington... a man deeply hurt by his attackers, now apprehensive, and forced to remain in office and in power, in thought a man weakened by age. Yet his last major services to the nation were as vitally important as his previous services had been. A man that wants to retire and leave the running of the government to others... wanting the cycling of power to be peaceful... a demonstration that humanity could rule itself, the orderly relinquishment of power by one elected representative to his elected successor. This, making the cycle complete, vindication that the new government is viable.

We next see Washington get his long awaited dream of retirement albeit shortlived and the freeing of his slaves as his final act to free ones bondsman. This is the most engrossing and engaging of all the books in this four volume set... knowing Washington as a man with real human emotions and feelings.

I highly recommend reading this volume, but to get the whole picture, reading the four volume set is a must.

What a fascinating man, brought to us in a brilliant and scholarlly work.

GW: In the American Revolution (1775-1783)
This is volume #2 of the four volume masterpiece written by James Thomas Flexner on the life of George Washington. As we have read previously, George Washington was content living a life at Mount Vernon with his wife and family, but the tides are turning in the life of George Washington, bringing him to the forefront of leadership... albeit woefully prepared.

Now, in the skillfully written volume, we see the wartime deeds and the soul searching that Washington goes through. A man thrust from the bosom of his home and hearth, a civilian who is now to lead the Continental Army for the American Revolution. An army that is hardly an army... more like a patchwork of the American cross section of life and skills. No formal training, little leadship, under equiped was the army Washington was to have.

Washington at heart loved his army as they loved him is very evident. We see Washington's mood swings here, his wild furious temper... like an untamed bull, his mistakes, indiscretions,
and a great deal of personal misery... we now have the man of Washington revealed. Washington's path was that of a mortal man, not that of an Icon, a man all-to-human, frought with inadequacy. Washington has to reach down deep to keep his dream alive and instill it in the men he has to lead.

And to lead he did... being out-generaled by far superior forces was the norm for Washington, but nevertheless, always on the lookout for that shread of hope to call victory. Flexner writes of Washington's failures and the anguish of what Washington felt as the battles turned against him... but we also see the resourseful resolve coming to light, learning though trial and error... becoming the master of the American Revolution and the Continental Army.

But Washington never happier to be at home with his wife Martha is not forgotten either. Martha seemed to know what was really troubling Washington.

I found this volume much more interesting and with an impeccable eye for detail. Written in an engrossing and an engaging style that keeps you reading to find out the tidbits left out in your school's history books.

This is a solid and well documented work.

A majesterial biography
The last volume of Flexner's 4-volume biography of Washington. The complete set is a wonder. You'll feel you've watched a man struggle with ambition, pride, betrayls and extreme disappointments...and then serve his country magnificently, setting precedents for its future that time has proved almost unfailingly correct. It's not an exaggeration to say that the country's fate rested on his shoulders. When unanimously elected by Congress, he accepted the position of Commander in Chief of the Continental Army. This was before that army existed: he was THE symbol of the cause (and willing to expose himself to British retribution to further it). He could have become king (not so much in title as through use of the powers granted the president) but he consistently refused to abuse the office's powers, leadng to restraint in later presidents (no one before Roosevelt was willing to run for more terms than Washington served, for example). By my count, he single-handedly changed the course of history 5 times through his actions (in his youth, not always deliberately: he unwittingly started the French and Indian War!). At the end of this volume, if you've read the previous three, his death will be wrenching. It a great telling of a great man's life (his "final" act was in his will to free his slaves - of all the Founders, including Jefferson, only Washington took a step so revolutionary - and so true to his ideals)

George Washington: And the New Nation 1783-1793, VOL.III
Published in Hardcover by Little Brown & Company (1970)
Author: James Thomas Flexner
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GW and the New Nation, (1783-1793)
This the third installment of a four volume series by James Thomas Flexner on the life of George Washington taking us through the years 1783 - 1793.

We see Washington returning to his beloved acres... Mount Vernon, after the British are finally leaving the American shores. Washington is exhausted and wants to retire and live out his life in the resplendency of his home and family. We begin to see Washington open up so to speak, relaxing in his quiet country life. But again the matters of the New Nation are begining to pull and strain the rather reluctant Washington to a leadership roll.

Being a very popular figure in early American life... Washington now is growing in popularity and as such is called to lead the Constitutional Convention for ratification of a new and untested government. Washington is elected to become the First United States President. Flexner gives us a lot of detail and put into the writing feelings and emotions felt at the time.

From the writings that were written about Washington from his peers and thoughs of Washington to others, we again see Washington's fallibility, a man wrought with insecurity and heavy responsibilities trying to cope with a newly emerging government. Even present that others from overseas were watching and waiting for the new government to fail, but proving to them a government viable and alive. But, alas, Washington is now aging and retirement is begining to take hold once again in his life.

This volume take us through Washington's thoughts and thoughs of Jefferson and Hamilton and how does Washington really feel. Washington is now working harder than ever trying to forge this fledging government into a working model of that written on paper. We see Washington's self-doubts again arise... troubling him with insecurities. Then again, who can he trust, to give correct counsil and if he left too soon would the government fail. If he stayed too long, would he be no better than the Kings he fought. We feel Washington's dilemma.

I found this book to be very well written with sound documentation.

Great Book About a Great Man
George Washington and the New Nation is actually the third in a four volume set, and continues to follow the life of George Washington after the Revolutionary War. From the years immediately following the last withdrawal of British Troops, up through the end of his first term as the President of the United States.

Flexner does an excellent job of describing the man behind the legendary hero. Through the actual writings of Washington, and those of his contemporaries, we see not only the "Great General" and the "Father of Our Country," but also see Washington as fellow human being, just as fallible as the rest of us.

This is also a remarkably telling book about the nature of politics and how in over 200 years, very little has changed. As distrustful as we are of todays politicians, Flexner's book puts those of Washington's days in an even less favorable light - and he uses their own words to do it.

Through this book (and the other volumes in the set) I gained an even deeper appreciation for the one who was "First in War...First in Peace...and First in the hearts of his Countrymen." I heartily encourage this book and this entire set to all.

America's Old Masters: Benjamin West, John Singleton Copley, Charles Willson Peale and Gilbert Stuart
Published in Paperback by Dover Pubns (1994)
Author: James Thomas Flexner
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A must-have volume for those interested in early US painters
I found this book was able to shed some much needed light on America's first master painters. I found Flexner's writing to be beautiful and the result of reading this book has been several trips to view the works of the artists featured within. I heartily recommend this title to all who are interested in this period of American/art history, or to those who would likee to be!

The Traitor and the Spy: Benedict Arnold and John AndrE
Published in Hardcover by Little Brown & Company (1975)
Author: James Thomas, Flexner
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An exciting and dramatic story.
This tale has everything you could ask for in a story. Intrigue and romance played out on a grand scale during the American revolution. The real story behind Benedict Arnold's defection is told in fascinating detail. The reader gets a glimpse of the everyday concerns of our nations greatest heros and it's greatest villians. We meet the beautiful and ambitious Peggy Shippen and the handsome and tragic Major Andre'. A rousing good yarn.

William Henry Welch and the Heroic Age of American Medicine
Published in Hardcover by Johns Hopkins Univ Pr (1993)
Authors: Simon Flexner and James Thomas Flexner
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A very comprehensive account of a distinguished American.
Simon Flexner portrays William Henry Welch as probably the biggest contributor in helping establish the backbone for medicine / pathology as we know it today. Simon Flexner was a very good friend of Welch's, and this source is one of the best secondary sources available to explore what is basically a patriotic American who helped his country in every single way (including the war) but did not get the fame or credit he deserved because to achieve all that this man had, he could not afford to concentrate on any one topic. This is a book which has enabled me to access what his most intermediate friends described him as, and not only was it a good source, but also an excellent read. If you want to know why American medicine really reached its pinnacle, this book is the answer.

Washington, the Indispensable Man
Published in Mass Market Paperback by Signet Book (1984)
Author: James Thomas Flexner
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Hodge Podge
I found this biography very disjointed and empty. Flexner flies past Washington's youth, right into his life as general and president. While that was indeed much of his life, it was hardly all of it. Flexner also seemed like he has an axe to grin against John Adams. In what few references made about Adams, all but one was negative. In another instance, Flexner deviates for 5 or 6 pages on the dispute between Jefferson and Hamilton regarding fiscal policy. To take that many pages out of a 400 page biography is ridiculous, and it didn't make any change to the story of Washington. To top it all off, the chapters are not chronological, but jump here and there, in a general order of age. At least twice, I found myself reading text which had been covered not 20 pages earlier in a different manner, thus wasting more of the precious pages of the condensed biography. There are unforgivable factual errors, too. In one instance, an event which occurs on Washington's 65th birthday, yet the year is pegged as 1795 (Washington was born in '32)! All in all, I found the book generally helpful regarding Washington's outlook and demeanor, but it was the most painful biography I've had to read. Just mish-mashed. I hope to find a better bio of certainly exists.

This book changed my life-really
Several years ago, I spent Thanksgiving with the parents of a friend of mine and started reading this book based on their reccomendation. Well, this book so inspired me, I've continued with biographies of most of our Founding Fathers(including Flexner's "Young Hamilton") as well as the other Presidents and into the Civil War. James Thomas Flexner brings to life a man whom I only knew as the first President, the guy on the dollar bill, and yes, the one who chopped down the cherry tree. My perspective on American history and the man responsible for such a great piece of our history was completely changed by this book. It reads like a novel, though I admit was a bit rough getting started. Once in, however, I was hooked. This biography takes you through Washington's early years as a child, his courtship struggles and life as a surveyor: then, we travel with our hero through the Revolutionary War, the precarious aftermath and his tenure as the first President of the newly founded nation. Flexner shows us that much of this was, for Washington, a struggle indeed, and he seems very much the reluctant hero, whose journey is destined for greatness in spite of himself and the enormous odds against him. It is an epic journey masterfully navigated by Flexner. This biography is worthy of it's subject. If you are an American, read it.

Every American should read this book...
...and if you do, you'll be forever grateful you did. Flexner is a wonderful writer. George Washington is a subject more than worthy of his talents. Flexner takes this man, someone reduced through the years to a stiff plaster saint, and shows the real human being. Amazingly, the portrait reveals someone entirely worthy of all the adulation his contemporaries heaped upon him. Washington had faults, including enormous pride, a terrible temper, a great yen for money. He became, worst of all to modern eyes, a slave owner. Yet despite all these things, Flexner's distillation of his four volume life shows that, in the creation of these United States, Washington truly was indespensable. Though America's list of so-called Founding Fathers is legion, filled with people of extraordinary talents, the American Revolution succeeded largely because of Washington. He managed, first, to keep an army in the field despite loss after loss and the essential apathy of the Continental Congress. At the close of the war, he single-handedly kept the army from taking over the civilian government, thereby sustaining the freedom and democracy in whose name the war had been fought. Because Washington lent his prestige, support, and presence to the constitutional convention, men of substance attended and managed in the face of great controversy to craft the amazingly flexible and inclusive document which is the basis of our nation. Because everyone knew Washtington must be the first president, the Constitution that resulted did not have a weakened executive branch, which would certainly have proven unworkable. The men who wrote the Constitution held deep antipathy for a strong executive--a king, in other words. But such was their trust in Washington--the only US President ever elected unanimously--that the executive branch was made an equal partner to the legislative. Washington was fully aware that, as the first President, his every act and gesture set precedents for the future; what is astonishing is that he felt unworthy for the task and humbled by the honor. What is astonishing in Flexner's book is how the author lets his readers inside the mind of the times so that we understand the politics and emotions and lofty ideals of that now-remote time, and can see and appreciate a great man in terms that still speak eloquently today.

Layman's Handbook of Christian Doctrine
Published in Paperback by Baptist Sunday School Board - Baptist Book Stores (1975)
Author: Herschel H. Hobbs
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Well written bio captures Hamilton's romantic character
Flexner vividly recounts Hamiltons life and career through age 26. This reads like Dickens writing history - from Hamilton's miserable, impoverished home life until age 10, his teenage life in his adopted country, (America), his career in the Continental Army, his love for Elizabeth Schuyler.

Flexner Brings the young Hamilton to life through his letters and actions in the revolution. This book has a vividness that is remarkable. The famous and not so famous participants in the story come to life also - George Washington, The Marquis de Lafayette, Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton, etc.

This book has been criticized for being overly "psycological". This aspect is not over done. Simply put, this is a great story - well told, well researched. Highly recommended.

In the bibliography of this book Mr. Flexner wrote that he felt that the real Hamilton had become obscured through the years through the writings of people who were either too fawning or too critical, depending on their political biases. Mr. Flexner therefore tried to get back to original sources as much as possible. Reading quotations from Hamilton's correspondence is one of the great pleasures of this book. But there are many things that make this book special. The author has a smooth, easy-to-read style. I have read elsewhere, in connection with one of Mr. Flexner's volumes on George Washington, someone complaining that the style is stilted or "old-fashioned." I heartily disagree with that criticism. Mr. Flexner was born in 1908 and this book was first published when the author was 70, but there is nothing "old-fashioned" about the prose. The style is actually quite modern. Another thing I enjoyed about the book was that the author went into the psychiatric reasons for Hamilton's sometimes aggressive and impulsive behavior, but he did so in a reasonable manner. You didn't feel as though you were being bludgeoned with analytical arguments but Mr. Flexner "gently" gave some commonsense and logical reasons for why Hamilton behaved the way he did e.g.-the stigma of his illegitimate birth, his mother's irresponsible behavior, being brought up in the West Indies and being left to basically fend for himself at an early age, etc.

I also enjoyed the way Mr. Flexner concentrated on Hamilton's service as aide-de-camp to George Washington during the Revolutionary War. There is a lot of interesting military history here, dealing with the battles fought on Long Island and in Trenton and Princeton and Monmouth, as well as Yorktown. There are wonderful gems of information, such as Washington's propensity to lose his temper amongst his close aides, when he wasn't on "public view" and felt that he could "let his hair down" a bit. Other interesting scenes include: at the Battle of Princeton where a patriot cannonball went through the window of Princeton college and slammed into a portrait of George II that was hanging on the wall, "decapitating" the king. (The patriots took the portrait down and "repaired" it by having an artist paint a scene with George Washington in it!); The Battle of Trenton, where the patriot army celebrated by drinking up the liquor the Hessians had left behind. Washington wanted to pursue the Hessians but was forced to give up on the idea as his men were in no shape to do anymore fighting!; Finally, in the section dealing with the Battle of Yorktown, Mr. Flexner mentions that shortly before the battle word had spread that a British force, led by Benedict Arnold no less, had been so upset by the strong resistance they had encountered in trying to take a fortress in New London, Connecticut, that the British had executed the men who had wanted to surrender to them when the fighting was over. The patriot army at Yorktown wanted to get revenge on the British and Washington had to give a speech before the battle that he basically didn't want his men to "lower themselves" to that level. If British troops wanted to surrender the surrender should be accepted and they should be taken prisoner. The troops did obey Washington's directive...

On a final note, I felt Mr. Flexner was very fair in this book. The author looked at Hamilton from all angles and praised the good things about him- his intelligence and hard work and sincere interest in doing what he felt was good for the future of the country- but also criticized his sometimes rash and impulsive behavior, and the author didn't gloss over Hamilton's general disdain for humanity!

This was a really excellent book and well-worth your time.

George Washington: The Forge of Experience 1732-1775
Published in Audio Cassette by Books on Tape (1992)
Author: James Thomas Flexner
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Outdated and plodding
This is part of a four-volume series of George Washington's life and this is the initial installment, covering his early years. Flexner's narrative takes the reader up to the first shots of the Revolutionary War. Despite the fact that there is a plethora of interesting material on Washington's youth and young manhood, this book is singularly flat and written in a plodding style. It is generally reliable and accurate, but one yearns for a more enlightened and exciting presentation. This is the personification of how history is usually taught: in a manner not designed to capture the reader or the student.

One strong point is that Flexner successfully presents a balanced portrait of Washington. Any bias from the author is thankfully masked from the reader. When Washington deserves criticism or censure, the author soberly dispenses it. Praise and plaudits are similarly given. If you are deeply interested in Washington's early years, this is an adequate and trustworthy source. But if you are merely dabbling in Washington and prefer a swifter narrative, then this is not a recommended selection.

GW: The Forge of Experience, (1732-1775)
James Thomas Flexner does justice to the early years of George Washington's life. The author has a heavy straight forward writing style, that takes the reader on a journey through the life of Washington. As this is the first installment of a four volume series, the reader gets to know what made and the circumstances related to Washington, that laid the ground work for the framing of his life.

As with most of us, we have a mental picture of Washington as an Icon in our schoolrooms as we grew up, but Flexner paints a picture through words of a man. Not much different than you or I, but the times and circumstances are extraordinarilly different. A man subject to the vulnerabilities of life, energetic, somewhat impulsive, gullible to an extent, put into situations of leadership ill prepared but always seemed to prevail. A man using his resourses to forge a respectable life for himself, a resoursful man to make life better through deeds and enterprises.

This first volume takes us through the first forty-three years of Washington's life with detail and scholarship, the author gives us a glimpse into the society, family, and events that shaped Washington for the future as America's foremost leader early on, as a new nation is forged.

I found that this first volume to be full of interesting details and is accurate for the youthful Washington. Engrossing, adequate, accurate, but the writing style is again straight forward and factually solid leaving the reader with the impression of early experiences of history classes past... needing a breath of life.

The overall scholarship rated a 5 star, even in light of rather heavy writing style.

Washington Comes Alive
After reading Flexner's "Washington: The Indispensable Man" I bought the four part volume on which it was based. Flexner did a wonderful job, making Washington and his life come alive with many details. As a result of reading it I've actually visited some of the historic locations mentioned. After reading the first volume, I could hardly wait to get the second volume! Volume two is out of print, but I was able to find it used through Amazon (thanks!). For an insightful overview of Washington's life I'd recommend "Washington: The Indispensable Man". But if you're looking for lots of details I'd highly recommend the four volumes.

Mohawk Baronet: A Biography of Sir William Johnson
Published in Paperback by Syracuse University Press (1990)
Author: James Thomas Flexner
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Biography of a little known, but important historical person
Sir William Johnson was a loyal subject of the British crown. Yet his contribution to what is now the United States of America is little known or appreciated as it ought to be, most likely because he was a loyalist. Without his contribution to the British victory over France in North America, the United States simply would not exist. Flexner provides us with a biography of this man that avoids the pitfalls of some of the exagerated Johnson legends by careful historical research.

From the complicated family life of a man who never married his children's mothers, to his intricate involvement and dealings with the Iroquis Confederacy that held that Confederacy to the British side, Flexner presents a fascinating story of a side of American history many Americans are probably not aware of. You can not fully understand and appreciate American history without knowing about Sir William Johnson.

The Mystery at the Boston Marathon (Carole Marsh Mysteries)
Published in Paperback by Gallopade Pub Group (2003)
Author: Carole Marsh
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