Author Joseph Ellis, to discuss "His Excellency: George Washington"Williamstown – Joseph Ellis, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian, professor of history at Mt. Holyoke College, and author of "His Excellency: George Washington" will speak at Williams on Thursday, March 2. His talk, "The Foundingest Father: George Washington" will be delivered at 8 p.m. in Griffin Hall, room 3.
Described by the New York Times as "an eloquent champion and brilliant practitioner of the old-fashioned art of biography," Ellis is author of a number of works on America's early republic and its personalities.
Ellis sought, in "His Excellency: George Washington," to "get beyond the monument into the man."
While "Americans see their first president on dollar bills, quarters, and Mount Rushmore," Thomas Jefferson and James Madison saw him as "their unquestioned superior" and Ellis shows Washington to the reader throughout his life: "as a young soldier… As the commander of an outmatched rebel army," a man who accepted the presidency only for the sake of the union, "driven by his belief that the union's very viability depended on a powerful central government."
"His Excellency: George Washington" follows Ellis' previous bestsellers "American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson" and the 2000 Pulitzer Prize-winning "Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation."
In "American Sphinx," Ellis searched for "the living, breathing person" behind the history; in "Founding Brothers," he traced the character and development of both the revolution and the people behind it. In "His Excellency, George Washington," he shows the reader not the idealist but the pragmatist, revealing that the man sculpted as Cincinnatus by Houdon was perhaps most successful because of "a knack for sheer survival."
Ellis is the author of seven historical books, largely on the early American republic and its personalities. In addition to "Founding Brothers" Pulitzer Prize, the "American Sphinx" won the National Book Award in 1997 for nonfiction.