John Adams was certainly not correct when he prophesied that the [History of our Revolution will be one continued lye from one end to the other] but he was considerably closer to the truth when he predicted that one of the more notable distortions of that history would be [that Dr. Franklin's electrified Rod smote the Earth and out sprung General Washington…. That Franklin electrified him with his rod—and thence forward these two conducted all the Policy, Negotiations, Legislatures and War.] Properly, George Washington has figured large in the history of the achievement of American independence; yet, for all the ink spilt in his name, few Americans know more about him than a few stray facts and some stories, some true, some false, but all insignificant, about a cherry tree and a hatchet, dental problems, kneeling in prayer in the snows of Valley Forge and throwing a coin across a river. What I have done within these pages is to synthesize the best modern scholarship on Washington into a brief biography that will give the student or general reader an opportunity to gain a proper understanding of Washington's character and his contribution to the securing of American independence all the while setting the record straight on a few of the more notable [lyes] which John Adams predicted.
Any historian stands on the shoulders of those who have previously studied the problem, but most especially when writing a work of this sort. Although I have done some research in the Papers of George Washington at the Library of Congress, my primary reliance has been on the two most recent multi-volume biographies of Washington and other, more specialized, studies. Anyone wishing to compare this work with Douglas Southall Freeman's seven volumes (New York: Scribner's, 1948–57; completed by J.A. Carroll and M. W. Ashworth) or James Thomas Flexner's four volumes (Boston; Little, Brown, 1965–72) will recognize my debt to those gentlemen and I acknowledge it gratefully. If I had not been able to rely on the results of their labors, my own would have been considerably more arduous. But, perhaps perversely, I have not accepted their judgments in all cases, and what follows is not a condensation of previous work as much as my interpretation of it.