Washington's own accounts, observations by his contemporaries, narratives by the first generation of Washington biographers, decorative objects, and visual images, which were assembled for a major exhibition sponsored by the Virginia Historical Society, the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association, and Washington and Lee University, invite a fresh evaluation of Washington. William M. S. Rasmussen and Robert S. Tilton trace the ways in which Washington's origins in the peculiar colonial society of Virginia prepared him for success on the national stage. Chronologically arranged chapters examine Washington's early exposure to the wealthy Fairfax family, his command of the Virginia Regiment during the French and Indian War and later the Continental Army, his decision to attend the Constitutional Convention, and his two elections to the presidency. Rasmussen and Tilton argue that the major transitions we see in Washington's public image were made possible by the stability of his private life and his love of Mount Vernon.
William M. S. Rasmussen is Curator of Art at the Virginia Historical Society. Robert S. Tilton is Assistant Professor of American Literature and Director of American Studies at the University of Connecticut at Storrs.