James Thomas Flexner’s four-volume biography of George Washington

Late last week I received in the mail a package containing the books your see above. This is James Thomas Flexner’s four-volume biography of George Washington, which the author published from the mid-1960s into the early-1970s. I won’t go too much into the details here and now but reading Flexner’s history of the first president will be part of some projects I have planned for 2019. I am already making a list of various interpretive possibilities. It may seem like a marked digression from my previous endeavors but that would be less accurate than it might seem; one of the major themes of my book manuscript, Incorporating New York, is that the Civil War generation was a bridge from the years of the Early Republic to the modern city and nation. That is one of the reasons I was so keyed up to see the Schuyler family plot in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery last week. Just as one example of such threads: Eliza Hamilton Schuyler was the granddaughter of both Philip Schuyler and Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton, John Jay and Isaac Roosevelt were three of the delegates who voted in favor of the adoption of the United States Constitution in Poughkeepsie in 1788.

I intend to start volume one of Flexner’s series after the holidays. I am a tabula rasa with the Founding Fathers. I started building a foundation by reading James McGregor Burns’s and Susan Dunn’s slim George Washington, part pf the late Arthur Schlesinger Jr.’s The American Presidents series, and am continuing now with Harlow Giles Unger’s “Mr. President” George Washington and the Making of the Nation’s Highest Office.” These historians have extensive experience already on the presidents; Burns wrote two authoritative volumes on Franklin D. Roosevelt and Unger penned the authoritative modern biography of John Quincy Adams.