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First and Always

A New Portrait of George Washington
Peter R. Henriques

BUY Cloth · 240 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813944807 · $27.95 · Sep 2020
BUY Ebook · 240 pp. · ISBN 9780813944814 · $27.95 · Sep 2020

George Washington may be the most famous American who ever lived, and certainly is one of the most admired. While surrounded by myths, it is no myth that the man who led Americans’ fight for independence and whose two terms in office largely defined the presidency was the most highly respected individual among a generation of formidable personalities. This record hints at an enigmatic perfection; however, Washington was a flesh-and-blood man. In First and Always, celebrated historian Peter Henriques illuminates Washington’s life, more fully explicating his character and his achievements.

Arranged thematically, the book’s chapters focus on important and controversial issues, achieving a depth not possible in a traditional biography. First and Always examines factors that coalesced to make Washington such a remarkable and admirable leader, while also chronicling how Washington mistreated some of his enslaved workers, engaged in extreme partisanship, and responded with excessive sensitivity to criticism. Henriques portrays a Washington deeply ambitious and always hungry for public adoration, even as he disclaimed such desires. In its account of an amazing life, First and Always shows how, despite profound flaws, George Washington nevertheless deserves to rank as the nation's most consequential leader, without whom the American experiment in republican government would have died in infancy.


Peter Henriques's short, shrewd takes on Washington climax in a masterly essay on the passions that burned within him, and his lifelong effort to tame them to the service of liberty and his country.

Richard Brookhiser, author of Founding Father: Rediscovering George Washington

A pleasant collection of isolated essays on the first president. Although retired from his professorship at George Mason University, Henriques cannot resist writing about his favorite subject, delivering eight expert chapters... At least in theory, the Founding Fathers believed that slavery was wrong, but Washington was the only one whose will freed all of his slaves. Henriques’ descriptions of some of Washington’s slaves turn up surprises—e.g., that they owned property (including guns) and were occasionally entrusted with money.

Kirkus Reviews

Peter Henriques highlights the color and drama of George Washington’s life with this vivid and revealing portrait. First and Always is original, perceptive, persuasive, innovative in terms of its method, and highly appealing in terms of its execution. As both a writer and a historian, Henriques is at the top of his game.

Robert M. S. McDonald, United States Military Academy, editor of Sons of the Father: George Washington and His Protégés

No one knows more about George Washington than Peter Henriques, who has spent years exploring nearly every nook and cranny of Washington’s extraordinary life and character. In First and Always, Henriques assays the qualities that led to Washington’s greatness, but he does not ignore the man’s faults. The result is a balanced, nuanced, and illuminating portrait that is a must read for all who wish to understand George Washington.

John Ferling, author of Whirlwind: The American Revolution and the War That Won It

I had thought Peter Henriques’ previous book was one of the best I’d ever read about George Washington, but with the publication of Henriques’ latest, I’m going to have to add another book to that select list. First and Always is wonderful—a fascinating, revelatory examination of our first president in all his startling complexity. Henriques pulls no punches when it comes to the darker, controversial sides of Washington’s character, yet First and Always remains a balanced and deeply sympathetic portrayal of the leader without whom there would be no United States.

Nathaniel Philbrick, author of Valiant Ambition and In the Hurricane’s Eye

Those looking for further context for [Washington's] remarkable life will appreciate Mr. Henriques’s thoughtful collection of essays, which share insights gained during decades of research and teaching.... Taken together, the disparate topics scrutinized in First and Always form a coherent and convincing study of Washington’s character.

Wall Street Journal

[A] skillful historian brings to life, with economy and discernment, an episode in which a statesman actually tried to reconcile the demands of leadership with the requirements of personal honor.

National Review

With so many books already written about the Founding Fathers, some believe there is nothing new to be learned about those men.... Peter Henriques shows us in First and Always that this is not true.... No one is better able to give us an insightful portrait of the revolutionary war general and first American president. From the outset, Henriques makes it clear that he admires Washington, but he does not shy from criticizing him when warranted. In the book’s 226 easy to read and well-written pages, including notes and a bibliographical essay, Henriques gives the reader superlative insights into the man, his character, and his career.

Journal of the American Revolution

Peter Henriques’ answer to the question of what made George Washington tick: honor and fame.Despite Washington’s repeated assertions that he wanted nothing morethan to live a quiet life at Mount Vernon, he wanted very much to be adored.

Trend & Tradition

About the Author(s): 

Peter R. Henriques is Professor of History, Emeritus, at George Mason University and author of Realistic Visionary: A Portrait of George Washington (Virginia).

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