Joseph J. Ellis–His Excellence: George Washinton–Videos

Posted on April 3, 2010. Filed under: Blogroll, Books, Communications, Culture, Demographics, Economics, Education, Farming, Federal Government, Fiscal Policy, Foreign Policy, government, government spending, Health Care, history, Immigration, Language, Law, liberty, Life, Links, media, Medicine, Monetary Policy, People, Philosophy, Politics, Psychology, Quotations, Rants, Raves, Regulations, Religion, Resources, Reviews, Science, Security, Taxes, Video, War, Wisdom | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |


“If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.”

~George Washington


“The men shedding most of the blood at Valley Forge, and throughout the remaining years of the war came from the lowest rung of American society. “When men are irritated, and the Passions inflame,” Washington observed somewhat caustically, “they fly hastily and chearfully to Arms.” Those exuberant days of popular enthusiasm for the war were now gone forever, as were the enlistments by yeoman farmers and men of “the middling sort” who had manned the barricase during the Boston siege. Their place in the ranks of the Continental army were now filled by indentured servants, former slaves, landless sons, and recent immigrants from Ireland and England. These were the young men, usually between fifteen and twenty-five years of age, who lived in the makeshift log huts at Valley Forge and singed on “for the duration” of the war because, in most cases. they had no brighter prospects.”

~Jospeh J. Ellis, His Excellence: George Washinton, page 113″



The American Revolutionary War

The American Revolutionary War

 President George Washington – The Greatest Man in the World


The Battle of Trenton

Favorite part of The Crossing

John Adams – President Washington – VP John Adams

Alexander Hamilton on a National Bank

The Founders and Us


Joseph Ellis on Exporting Democracy

An excellent biography of George Washington is Ellis’ His Excellency: George Washington with extensive notes for further readings on Washington, the Founding Fathers and the American Revolutionary War.

“…Unlike Julius Casear and Oliver Cromwell before him, and Napoleaon, Lenin, and Mao after him, he understood that the greater glory resided in posterity’s judgment. If you aspire to live forever in the memory of future generations, you must demostrate the ultimate self-confidence to leave the final judgement to them. And he did.” 

~Jospeh J. Ellis, His Excellence: George Washinton, page 275″ 

“The Constitution is the guide which I never will abandon”

 ~George Washinton

Background Articles and Videos

BOOKS OF THE TIMES; Washington Minus the Myth: Ubiquitous but Remote


Published: October 26, 2004

“…Mr. Ellis concludes that for Washington, ”the American Revolution was not about destroying political power, as it was for Jefferson, but rather seizing it and using it wisely.” His life, in the end, ”was all about power: facing it, taming it, channeling it, projecting it.” This assessment places Washington in the forefront of the realistic tradition in American public policy; he believed that nations would always behave solely on the basis of self-interest and that ideals on their own must never define a government’s or military’s agenda.

Such arguments are not exactly new but grow out of other biographers’ and scholars’ writings. Unlike Mr. Ellis’s book on Adams, which did much to resurrect that founding father’s reputation, this volume does not break much new ground, but it nonetheless provides a lucid, often shrewd take on the man Mr. Ellis calls the ”primus inter pares, the Foundingest Father of them all.” And it does so with admirable grace and wit.”

 The Human Washington


“…IN a historical profession that is scornful of what it calls dead white males, Joseph J. Ellis has emerged as an eloquent champion and brilliant practitioner of the old-fashioned art of biography. He concentrates mainly upon the founders of the American republic, and while those who have particular favorites among the founders may cavil at his interpretations, Ellis has a gift for getting inside the skins of his subjects and showing what made them tick.

Now he has taken on the greatest and most enigmatic founder. To describe George Washington as enigmatic may strike some as strange, for every young student knows about him (or did when students could be counted on to know anything). He was born into a minor family in Virginia’s plantation gentry, worked as a surveyor in the West as a young man, was a hero of sorts during the French and Indian War, became an extremely wealthy planter (after marrying a rich widow), served as commander in chief of the Continental Army throughout the Revolutionary War (including the terrible winter at Valley Forge), defeated the British at the Battle of Yorktown, suppressed a threatened mutiny by his officers at Newburgh, N.Y., then astonished the world and won its applause by laying down his sword in 1783. Called out of retirement, he presided over the Constitutional Convention of 1787, reluctantly accepted the presidency in 1789 and served for two terms, thus assuring the success of the American experiment in self-government.

But as Ellis puts it, though Washington is ”an inescapable presence that hovered all around,” he ”remained a mysterious abstraction . . . like one of those Jeffersonian truths, self-evident and simply there . . . that no one needed to talk about.” He is ”always an icon — distant, cold, intimidating.” …”

Joseph John Ellis

“…Joseph John Ellis (born 1943) is a Professor of History at Mount Holyoke College who has written influential and award-winning histories on the founding generation of American presidents. His book Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation (2000) received the Pulitzer Prize for History in 2001.

He received his B.A. from the College of William and Mary, where he was initiated into Theta Delta Chi. He earned his M.A. and Ph.D. from Yale University in 1969. He served in the United States Army and also taught at West Point until 1972.

That year Ellis joined the faculty at Mount Holyoke College. He is the former dean of faculty at Mount Holyoke and also served as Acting President for part of 1984 while President Elizabeth Topham Kennan was on leave.

Jefferson and Hemings

Main article: American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson

Ellis in his book American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson suggested that evidence for an affair between Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings was “inconclusive”.[1] Specifically, Ellis states in the appendix to American Sphinx,

Unless the trustees of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation decide to exhume the remains and do DNA testing on Jefferson as well as some of his alleged progeny, it leaves the matter a mystery about which advocates on either side can freely speculate… This means that for those who demand an answer the only recourse is plausible conjecture, prefaced as it must be with profuse statements about the flimsy and wholly circumstantial character of the evidence. In that spirit, which we might call the spirit of responsible speculation, after five years mulling over the huge cache of evidence that does exist on the thought and character of the historical Jefferson, I have concluded that the likelihood of a liaison with Sally Hemings is remote.[2]

On November 5, 1998, Dr. Eugene Foster published an article, “Jefferson Fathered Slave’s Last Child”, in the weekly journal Nature. Foster reported that DNA testing proved that a male from the Thomas Jefferson line was the father of Sally Hemings’s son Eston. Given that, he believed that Thomas Jefferson was the father of Eston and probably Hemings’ other children.[3]

On November 2, 1998, The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer featured this topic and stated, “According to an article in an upcoming issue of the journal Nature, DNA analysis shows that Jefferson almost certainly fathered at least one of Sally Hemings’ children, her last son, Eston.”[4] Ellis, who was interviewed during this broadcast, stated that he had revised his opinion due to this new evidence:

It’s not so much a change of heart, but this is really new evidence. And it—prior to this evidence, I think it was a very difficult case to know and circumstantial on both sides, and, in part, because I got it wrong, I think I want to step forward and say this new evidence constitutes, well, evidence beyond any reasonable doubt that Jefferson had a longstanding sexual relationship with Sally Hemings.[5]  …”

His Excellency: George Washington

“…His Excellency: George Washington is a 2004 biography of the first President of the United States, General George Washington. It is written by Joseph Ellis, a professor of History at Mount Holyoke College.

Through examination of the George Washington Papers, among other sources, Ellis indicates that his purpose in writing the text was to explore Washington’s periods in order to offer a profile of the man “first in War, first in Peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.” Indeed Ellis states that his goal in writing His Excellency was to produce a work that examined not George Washington’s life, but his personality and how his life shaped it.[1]

 Events and themes

In the text, Ellis focuses on three main areas of Washington’s life:

  • his military adventures during the French and Indian War
  • his generalship in the American Revolution
  • his time as the first President of the United States.

According to Ellis, Washington was always searching for a means to control his inner passions and his destiny. He fumed under the control that the British held over him during the Colonial America period. In particular, he was frustrated by the lack of respect offered for his military achievements to granting land claim rights in the west. As a general, he bemoaned the lack of control the fledgling Continental Congress had over the colonies which composed it (later as President, he created acts to ensure control of the federal government over the states).

As a man forced to make his own destiny, the theme of control would become a central issue for him. This was particularly true in the case of his beloved Mount Vernon.


  • Preface: The Man In The Moon
  • Chapter One: Interior Regions
  • Chapter Two: The Strenuous Squire
  • Chapter Three: First In War
  • Chapter Four: Destiny’s Child
  • Chapter Five: Introspective Interlude
  • Chapter Six: First In Peace
  • Chapter Seven: Testament


Gordon S. Wood of The New Republic commented that, “Everyone keeps wondering why over the past decade or so there have been so many books on the Founders, that remarkable generation of men who led the American Revolution and framed the Constitution. Joseph J. Ellis is surely one of the explanations: he has been a one-man historical machine…Ellis has entered the ranks of that tiny group of popular historians, including David McCullough, Walter Isaacson, and Ron Chernow, who sell copies of their books in the tens and even hundreds of thousands.” [2] …”

How the founders differed from the English Bill of Rights

Why the US Rebelled Against England

Book Haul?

Jefferson’s best moments from John Adams

The Patriot – Battle of Guilford Courthouse

War and History, Ancient and Modern


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