Why did you decide to gather quotes about George Washington, and other founders of America?I’ve always been interested in the Revolutionary/Constitutional period of American history. Knowing how important their activities were to themselves, their country, and the world, many of that generation preserved their sometimes voluminous correspondence. I first started collecting interesting quotations from Thomas Jefferson’s writings. Then, I starting collecting quotations from a number of Founders’ papers as a way of compiling a database about their lives that I could use for research in writing and making presentations. Then, when compiling a database of subjects from the John Adams papers, I realized that he was regularly writing about himself and others. That’s when I starting compiling what I called "The Founders on the Founders.” These quotations really bring alive who these people were as they described themselves and as others described them.
Was there one quote in particular that sheds new light on a side or trait of George Washington maybe we don’t know as well? (or perhaps a quote that is a particular favorite) Why?There are many quotations that present descriptions of Washington that are not well known. The story of how Washington stifled a potential military coup at Newburgh, N.Y., in March 1783 is well known, but Lafayette’s response to that is not so well known. Lafayette wrote from France that Washington’s activities made Lafayette proud of him. Other accounts of the personal side of Washington stand out—Elkanah Watson’s account of Washington bringing him a bowl of tea to soothe Watson’s nighttime cough or Abigail Adams’s account of a dinner at which President Washington gave her the sugar plums from a cake for her four-year-old grandson. These account offer personal insights into the "good” side of a "great and good man.” This can also be said for the 110 rules of civility that Washington copied as a young teenager and that he tried to live by throughout his life. How can this book serve as a guide to American history? The book offers a great deal into Washington’s attitude on a wide range of topics. These topics often concerned the most important issues of the day dealing with government, the military, politics, economics, and issues of character. Many other Americans—political leaders and ordinary folks—wrestled with these same issues.
George Washington is the ultimate national figure, but this book was published in Wisconsin – Why? And, what about Washington is relevant to Wisconsinites today? The Wisconsin Historical Society has collected an amazing amount of primary source material in the form of manuscript documents, maps, newspapers, pamphlets. In addition to the original documents, the Society has acquired a voluminous collection of primary documents in various microform collections. All of this data has contributed to the research of many scholars, including those at the Center for the Study of the American Constitution. In 1976, the Society Press started publishing "The Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution," which now includes twenty-eight volumes [edited by Kaminski]. The Society also distributes at least six other volumes I've written. The "Word Portraits of America’s Founders” series continues this cooperative effort. As Revolutionary War General and First President, George Washington is probably the most beloved and most well-known American founder. What MORE can we learn about America’s "Founding Father” from reading this book?The book teaches us what Washington felt about a myriad of subjects and other individuals, and what Washington and his contemporaries thought about him personally. Washington’s attitude about these is not always easy to discovery from biographies and more general histories of the time. Writing a book is a deeply personal experience. How has researching and editing "George Washington,” and the other books in the new "Word Portraits” series been a personal experience for you?Delving into the personal and public papers of the Founding generation always illustrates the dedication that these individuals had in serving their country and fulfilling the duty they believed they had. Many individuals sacrificed a great deal to achieve American independence and to have America function as an example to the rest of the world that human beings could govern themselves. They had a dream for their country, and only through their dedicated service was that dream accomplished. The effort, however, didn’t stop with them; it’s an ongoing process.