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Washington mind was great and powerful, without being of the very first order; his penetration strong, though not so acute as that of a Newton, Bacon, or Locke; and as far as he saw, no judgement was ever sounder. It was slow in operation, being little aided by invention or imagination, but sure in conclusion. Hence the common remark of his officers, of the advantage he derived from councils of war, where hearing all suggestions, he selected whateever was best; and certainly no general ever planned his battle more judiciously.

These three bolded parts perplexed me, I can't imagine the figurative meaning. Could anyone help me to understan these three parts.

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    Perception, I think. – shin Sep 15 '15 at 19:17
  • yes, here penetration means ability to asses and figure out difficult task. Could you help me to understand other bold parts. – androidcodehunter Sep 15 '15 at 19:20
  • Not completely sure given this excerpt, but I think that the second bolded part means that it might take Washington longer than other great thinkers to work out a problem, but his conclusions, once formulated, were sound. The third means that he benefited from hearing others' thoughts ("councils of war" would be discussions with his officers), again making the point that he was not especially creative but his thought process was deliberate and sound. – vstrong Sep 15 '15 at 19:25
  • @vstrong thanks for your explanation. Regarding this exerpt "he selected whateever was best; and certainly no general ever planned his battle more judiciously." Is it means he selected the best things and no other general can planned his battle like him. – androidcodehunter Sep 15 '15 at 19:30
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    Nearly -- he selected the best things and no other general ever used such good judgment in planning battles. I think the main distinction throughout the passage is his main strength was judgment rather than innovation/creativity. – vstrong Sep 15 '15 at 19:36
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Penetration:

Analysis of worldly phenomena. We all see and hear the same things, somebody could be said to have 'strong penetration' if they see past the surface detail to the underlying truths, principles and mechanics of a thing.

"but sure in conclusion"

This means he generally doesn't let himself arrive at false conclusions, preferring a slow and methodical approach to weed out misleading information and wishful thinking.. he thus arrives at a [more] certain and sure conclusion..

"of the advantage he derived from councils of war,"

it's obtuse language but it just means benefit he got from meetings with his subordinate officers.

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