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Patriot Sage, George Washington and the American Political Tradition, Edited by Gary L. Gregg II and Matthew Spalding, Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI), 1999, 308 pps., 29.95

This timely compilation of factual essays refutes recent entertainment industry portrayals of our country's most important Founding Father as a casual swearer motivated to lead the American Revolution by a base desire for the profits to be gained by eliminating taxes. John G. West Jr.'s essay entitled "George Washington and the Religious Impulse," for example, quotes from an official order given by Washington in 1776 that included "a rebuke of swearing, a reprimand he repeated with increasing fervor in the years that followed."

A statement by William Bennett in the foreword also rebuts the rewriters of history and sets the book's tone: "From 1775 onward, Washington was the de facto leader of the colonial struggle and the personification of the American Revolution. At the darkest moments of the war he stood virtually alone in the pursuit of independent nationhood."

Patriot Sage is the welcome result of a conference held in June 1999 by the ISI and the Heritage Foundation in commemoration of the 200th anniversary of Washington's death. Twelve essays explore in roughly chronological order the many varied aspects of Washington's exemplary and heroic life. Yet they do not spare the reader his humanness. In the opening essay, University of Alabama Research Professor and author Forrest McDonald describes the first president's "aura of strength and invincibility," declaring that "he was the most trustworthy man" who "never abused or sought to aggrandize his power." Yet, McDonald writes, Washington was "a bit pretentious and hot tempered."

Editor-writers Gregg and Spalding, who contribute their own essays to the work, hope Patriot Sage will "contribute to the renewal of Washington's rightful authority in our political tradition." They lament that while generations of Americans learned of Washington's life at home and in the classroom, many today know little more about our greatest statesman beyond the folklore and legend - that as a boy he chopped down a cherry tree and could not tell a lie.

ISI Books, P.O. Box 4431, Wilmington, DE 19807-0432, 1/800-526-7022, web site www.isi.org

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