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John Jay
George Washington, in war and peace
George Washington, in war and peace

Washington A Life Ron Chernow Penguin Press: 906 pp., $40 On Dec. 14, 1799, an ominous, fog-like gloom hung over Mount Vernon. Sixty-seven-year-old George Washington was dying. The ex-president, his doctors believed, was suffering from "quinsy" (a throat inflammation). In fact, Washington had contracted a vicious bacterial infection. His windpipe was swollen shut. Washington may have defeated the British at the Battle of Yorktown in 1781, but an inflamed epiglottis got the best of him in 1799. "Though he never complained," biographer Ron Chernow recounts of those last hours, "Washington was expiring in a particularly gruesome fashion and constantly gasped for...

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