Frank McLynn


The Indian World of George Washington: The First President, the First Americans, and the Birth of the Nation


Oxford University Press 621pp £25 order from our bookshop

It is astonishing that George Washington’s reputation is still so high. His position as an American monument presumably makes him unassailable, but sober history reveals the feet of clay. An arrogant prima donna of no real military or political talent, Washington succeeded thanks to his good luck and his remarkable capacity for blame-shifting and lies. Intensely money-minded, he may well be one of history’s greatest land speculators, and the tale of his relations with Native Americans is a microcosm of the entire story of the United States’ exploitation of native peoples. He spent a lifetime turning Indian land into real estate for himself and his cronies. For Indians, the quid pro quo for being dispossessed of their land was supposed to be the benefits of civilisation, but this civilisation largely manifested itself in massacre and war crimes. It is not an exaggeration to say that Washington’s Indian policies were really genocide by another name. Landownership in the white man’s sense was meaningless to Native Americans, as the inequality it engendered contradicted the very notion of a benevolent great spirit.

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