George Washington: The Political Rise of America’s Founding Father

Title: George Washington: The Political Rise of America's Founding Father
Published by: Dutton Books
Release Date: February 9, 2021
Pages: 576
ISBN13: 978-0451488985
ASIN: B089S72R9H
Buy the Book: AmazonBarnes & NobleBookshopApple


A fascinating and illuminating account of how George Washington became the single most dominant force in the creation of the United States of America, from award-winning author David O. Stewart

Washington's rise constitutes one of the greatest self-reinventions in history. In his midtwenties, this third son of a modest Virginia planter had ruined his own military career thanks to an outrageous ego. But by his midforties, that headstrong, unwise young man had evolved into an unassailable leader chosen as the commander in chief of the fledgling Continental Army. By his midfifties, he was unanimously elected the nation's first president. How did Washington emerge from the wilderness to become the central founder of the United States of America?

In this remarkable new portrait, award-winning historian David O. Stewart unveils the political education that made Washington a master politician—and America's most essential leader. From Virginia's House of Burgesses, where Washington learned the craft and timing of a practicing politician, to his management of local government as a justice of the Fairfax County Court to his eventual role in the Second Continental Congress and his grueling generalship in the American Revolution, Washington perfected the art of governing and service, earned trust, and built bridges. The lessons in leadership he absorbed along the way would be invaluable during the early years of the republic as he fought to unify the new nation.

  • Winner of the 2022 Book Award of the Colonial Dames of America, view here.
  • Winner of the 2021 History Prize of the Society of the Cincinnati, New Jersey.
  • Finalist, 2022 George Washington Prize of Mount Vernon and Gilder-Lehrman Institute, here.
  • Featured at the National Book Festival, 22 September 2021, watch session here.
  • Winner of  2002 George Washington Memorial Award of the G. Washington Masonic National Memorial Ass'n.


Wall Street Journal

"[A]n outstanding biography that both avoids hagiography and acknowledges the greatness of Washington's character. . . Mr. Stewart's writing is clear, often superlative, his judgments are nuanced, and the whole has a narrative drive such a life deserves."

Library Journal (STARRED Review)

"In this lively and admirable study, Stewart offers a balanced and thoughtfully well-written appreciation of George Washington's life and leadership.  A must for fans of biographies."

Virginia Magazine of History and Biography (Peter Henriques)

"[O]ne of the most insightful books about George Washington.  [Stewart's] explanation of Washington as a masterful politician is important and convincing."  

Booklist (STARRED Review)

"Stewart addresses the political aptitude of the Father of the Nation. . . .[in this] readable and revealing contemporary look" at Washington."

Washington Post

"Masterfully drawn . . . well-informed, intricate, and straightforwardly told.  . Stewart uses an impressive range of sources, showing breadth and scholarly heft. . . [a] spirited chronicle."

Publishers Weekly

“[An] insightful .  . . balanced portrait of Washington. . . Even readers well-versed in Washington’s life will learn something new from this meticulous look at how he became the ‘paramount political figure’ of his era.”

Manhattan Book Review

"Washington’s life is never dull, whether weathering frigid Valley Forge or blocking internal coup attempts. . . .Washington remains a transfixing figure. This is a biography not to be missed. (5 stars)


Jon Meacham, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power"

"David O. Stewart brings his characteristic grace and skill to this portrait of the political George Washington, liberating the most elusive of our Founders from the mists of myth to discover a shrewd and approachable human being. At a time when politics seems beyond redemption, Stewart's book is a welcome reminder of the possibilities, however imperfect, of the public arena."

Nathaniel Philbrick, author of Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution

"By focusing on the political genius of George Washington, David O. Stewart has produced an important new portrait of our first president.  As Stewart demonstrates time and time again, with vivid prose and a wonderful sense of pacing, great leaders are also great learners.  In this time of division and turmoil, this is the book we need.” 

 Washington Independent Review of Books

"Under Stewart’s energetic hand, the cold-marble hero warms into a flawed but remarkable person: ambitious, evenhanded, tender, callous, impetuous in his youth, wiser with age."

Virginia Gazette

"Devotees of the Founding Fathers will not want to miss this volume about the master politician and American history buffs will be amazed by Stewart's ability to hold your attention."

New York Journal of Books

[E]xamines in detail and with excellent analysis how Washington developed the political skills that would serve him in both war and peace . . . a truly fresh look at one of the most chronicled figures in American history."

Washington Independent Review of Books

"Under Stewart's energetic hand, the cold-marble hero warms into a flawed yet remarkable person:  ambitious, evenhanded, tender, callous, impetuous in his youth, wiser with age."

AudioFile Magazine (for audiobook, read by Arthur Morey)

Arthur Morey's "immaculate" and "flawless" presentation make the story "fresh and highly relevant."

Edward G. Lengel, author of General George Washington: A Military Life

David Stewart’s innovative and important study of George Washington’s political career succeeds because it places his successes as president of the United States within the context of his whole life and times. The most fascinating thing about Washington is not how he was great, but how he became great over the course of a dramatic career, compellingly chronicled in this book."


A George Washington podcast on Cross-Examining History, with Talmage Boston, here.

George Washington podcast with Booknotes host Brian Lamb, here (scroll down to July 27, 2021).

Presentation on White House History Live, with Colleen Shogan of the White House Historical Association, here.