- The tradition of creating a presidential library did not begin until 1939 when Franklin Roosevelt donated his papers to the Federal Government. So it is not surprising that George Washington is getting his library only now. Located at the Mount Vernon Estate, the $45 million Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington is, however, long overdue. Washington’s stature, once collectively acknowledged by Americans, is now somewhat diminished. The library, research center, scholars in residence, and rotating exhibits will, with time, be a corrective. And if he is not again
first in the hearts of his countrymen,then certainly he should be second. See Edward Rothstein’s review on Washington as a reader of books (The New York Times, 27-Sep-2013).
The Washington Presidential Library
Washington was imperfect. In strictly military terms, he does not merit comparisons that have sometimes been made between him and generals like Marlborough, Frederick the Great, Napoleon, or Robert E. Lee. Yet he remains a remarkable man, one of those Tolstoyan figures whose acts determine the course of history. James Thomas Flexner has called him
the indispensable man. Nobody — not Nathanael Green or Henry Knox, and certainly not Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, or John Adams — united the military, political, and personal skills that made Washington unique ... without George Washington there could have been no victory in the Revolutionary War, no United States. As a soldier he was erratic but competent. As a man he was impulsive, vindictive, brave, hardworking, intelligent, and virtuous. And as a leader he was great. Those who mourned Washington’s passing in 1799 were right to regard him, for all his flaws, as the savior of his country.