Discussion Questions re Washington, a Life (“Life”):
1. I think I understand more about the causes of the American Revolution after reading Life. Did any of the causes discussed in Life surprise you? Do you think American Revolution was a civil war? If so, among whom? Why didn’t the British southern strategy work?
2. Did US win the American Revolution or did the British give up? Why give up? Why didn’t the British southern strategy work?
3. Did Ron Chernow’s thematic organization of Life work?
4. Was GW a revolutionary? (One could argue that his motives were tangled with many personal slights, including lose of western land at the whim of the governor.) If so, did Ron Chernow adequately discuss what made GW a revolutionary?
5. In drafting Life, Ron Chernow used letters (to and from GW, as well as third parties), paintings, minutes of meetings, legislation, reports to and from battlefields and legislators, cartoons, maps, contemporary and subsequent secondary sources and objects. Did Chernow miss anything? If one could interview one person, other than GW, who would it be? Who would be the most objective witness of GW?
6. Could you envision GW’s plan to rid US of the French after American Revolution, or did he not really worry about that problem?
7. Why did GW tolerate slavery? Why did he favor gradual abolition? Whatever the perspective, it seems to involve the intersection of several character issues.
8. If GW’s story was a novel, how would Thoreau portray GW’s visits to his western lands? How would Proust portray his relationship with Sally?
9. How did your view of GW change after reading Life?
10. Was GW a great president? A great politician? What was GW’s greatest weakness, as general and as president?
11. Does GW’s character/personality materially change when confronted with challenges to his authority or talents? How about despair?