Book Review: How George Washington Fleeced The Nation

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History as you may not know it!

History is something we have learned, usually from educators as well as from our leaders, parents, family members and friends. What we are told about a person or event is considered to be the truth, stories or accounts we carry with us for many years.

Phil Mason, author of Napoleon’s Hemorrhoids…and Other Small Events That Changed History, has followed up his earlier history lessons with another one: How George Washington Fleeced the Nation…and Other Little Secrets Airbrushed From History (2010 | Skyhorse Publishing). Mason, who purportedly has amassed one of the largest collections of clips and books documenting the weird and out of the ordinary, has the reader examining historical events and then tells us what really happened.

And what Mason says happened may surprise you, perhaps forcing you to question some long held and fundamental beliefs.

Take Christopher Columbus who in 1492 sailed the ocean blue…. Turns out the explorer was no Italian. Instead, we learn that Columbus was Portuguese, sent to Spain to redirect the rival Spaniards in their quest to discover the new world. That move backfired as Columbus and crew made it to America and vaunted Spain into world supremacy.

George Washington, America’s founding father, had his quirks that is for sure. Like Jefferson and so many of America’s leaders of that day, Washington had his share of slaves. But, the picture of dear George is one of self sacrifice, a man dedicated with leading his country to independence and then refusing to be crowned king. Though he forsook royalty, Washington was anything but a commoner. His Mount Vernon estate was 8,000 acres large and he owned thousands more acreage in Kentucky, Virginia and the Ohio region. When he died, Washington was most likely the richest man in America.

Many of the stories about World War II have been immortalized, but quite a few of them are incorrect or at least they may have left out important information. In recent years rumors that Adolf Hitler may have been Jewish have surfaced, that Britain sacrificed Poland much in the same way they abandoned the Czechs, and that Churchill tried to buy off Mussolini after successfully keeping Spain’s Franco out of the war thanks to a healthy financial contribution.

But, there are a number of dark secrets too, including those recently brought to light about certain Allied action. Before London was bombed, the RSPCA ordered more than 200,000 dogs euthanized with a secret burial ground constructed in the East End. I verified Mason’s claims and found out that the number may have been closer to 400,000 and included cats too. In September 1939 the war had started, but pet food was not rationed. Apparently, Londoners thought that they were benefiting the “Home Front” by sacrificing their pets.

Not every “truth” uncovered by Mason was earth-shattering, with some offering clarity about some muddled part of history. For example, Johann Sebastian Bach is considered today to be one of the foremost composers, but when he died he was unknown, with his definitive collection of works not published until 1900, just six years after his gravesite was rediscovered. Apparently, Bach’s composing style when he died in 1750 paled in comparison to his contemporaries, resurrected years later when Mendelssohn used his St. Matthew’s Passion in 1829. Today, Bach’s name rivals the best of the classical composers although his fame came long after he died.

Perhaps the best thing about Mason’s book is that you can skip around with ease. And that’s a good thing given that some historical accounts are hard to swallow while others are simply fun to ponder.

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Categories: Book Reviews