Sons of the Father: George Washington and His Proteges. Edited by Robert M. S. McDonald. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2013. 285 pp.
In this excellent collection of essays, Robert M. S. McDonald has assembled profiles of ten men who were drawn, in one way or another, into George Washington's orbit. McDonald also includes an introduction by Theodore Crackel, a chapter on Washington's mentors by Fred Anderson, and a brief concluding essay by Jack P. Greene.
Washington's relationships were not all created equal. He knew how to use men as the situation demanded. The rough-hewn former wagoner Dan Morgan, Scott Philyaw explains, was a logical choice to command the occupation of Pittsburgh, then a frontier settlement, after the Whiskey Rebellion. Henry Knox, profiled by Mark Thompson, and Nathanael Greene, about whom John W. Wall writes, were both senior commanders in the Continental Army who could approach Washington as contemporaries. At the other extreme, the Marquis de Lafayette perhaps came closest to being a real son to Washington, although Stuart Leibiger warns us against romanticizing their relationship. Initially a "marriage of convenience," it only "gradually grew and developed into an intimate friendship" (p. 211). One of Washington's more effective generals, "Mad Anthony" Wayne, revered his commander, but Mary Stockwell argues that Washington rarely showed Wayne the respect he deserved; she suggests that Washington could never quite get past Wayne's demonstrative personality. Most of Washington's admirers, of course, had no personal relationship with him. Thomas Rider's Robert Kirkwood stands in for them. An intrepid captain in a highly regarded Delaware regiment, Kirkwood survived the Revolution, only to die fighting Native Americans in the old Northwest Territory.
Unlike many anthologies, the quality of the essays in Sons of the Father is uniformly high, and some are especially compelling. Mary Jo Kline deftly explores Washington's unlikely friendship with the rakish Gouverneur Morris: despite stark differences in temperament, Washington seemed genuinely fond of Morris, and he appreciated Morris's nationalism and his support for the military and a strong presidency. Brian Steele, in his essay on Thomas Jefferson, tackles an intriguing question: how did Washington remain an unimpeachable national icon despite his association in the 1790s with an allegedly elitist Federalist Party that would soon fall from favor...