A revelatory study of how Americans were bound together as a young nation by the words, the image, and the myth of George Washington and how slavery shaped American nationalism in ways that define and haunt us still.
How were the ideals that were articulated in America's founding documents-freedom, democracy and government based on the consent of the governed-disseminated to the nation? That question animates this extraordinary new study by Furstenberg, an assistant professor of history at the Universit de Montreal, which shows how popular print-broadsides, newspaper columns, schoolbooks, sermons-taught citizens "liberal and republican values," and ultimately "create[d] a nation." Thus Furstenberg devotes a chapter to Mason Weems's bestselling early biography of Washington: in addition to originating the famous cheery tree story, Weems taught a generation of Americans subtle stories about nationalism, virtue and piety. Indeed, Washington-or, rather, images of Washington-became central to American political education. In reading Washington's farewell address aloud to the family when it was reprinted, year after year, in the local newspaper, or in hanging his portrait on the dining room wall, Americans were expressing their consent to be governed by the government Washington presided over. In the deluge of founding father books, Furstenberg's blend of high-brow intellectual history and popular culture studies stands out; rather than lionize Washington, it advances an important argument about his role in shaping American political identity. B&w illus. (June 26) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.