Washington and the "Patriarchal Problem"
In preparation for this tour, I pulled a number of books from the shelves at Schmidt Library, including His Excellency, by Joseph Ellis. In his introduction, Ellis describes the difficulty of capturing who Washington really was, noting that "Washington poses what we might call the Patriarchal Problem in its most virulent form: on Mount Rushmore, the Mall, the dollar bill and the quarter, but always an icon- distant, cold, intimidating. As Richard Brookhiser has so nicely put it, he is in our wallets but not our hearts."
I think Ellis is right that we have alternated between idolization and "evisceration" in the treatment of Washington. The facts of Washington's life give us plenty to work with on both counts.