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In the Name of the Father: Washington's Legacy, Slavery, and the Making of a Nationby Francoi Furstenberg
Synopses & Reviews
How did people in our country-North and South, East and West-come to share a remarkably durable and consistent common vision of what it meant to be an American in the first fifty years after the Revolution? How did the nation respond to the problem of slavery in a republic? In the Name of the Father immerses us in the rich, riotous world of what François Furstenberg calls civic texts, the patriotic words and images circulating through every corner of the country in newspapers and almanacs, books and primers, paintings and even the most homely of domestic ornaments. We see how the leaders of the founding generation became "the founding fathers," how their words, especially George Washington's, became America's sacred scripture. And we see how the civic education they promoted is impossible to understand outside the context of America's increasing religiosity.
In the Name of the Father is filled with vivid stories of American print culture, including a wonderful consideration of the first great American hack biographer cum bookseller, Parson Weems, author of the first blockbuster Washington biography. But François Furstenberg's achievement is not limited to showing what all these civic texts were and how they infused Americans with a national spirit: how they created what Abraham Lincoln so famously called "the mystic chords of memory." He goes further to show how the process of defining the good citizen in America was complicated and compromised by the problem of slavery. Ultimately, we see how reconciling slavery and republican nationalism would have fateful consequences that haunt us still, in attitudes toward the socially powerless that persist in America to this day
"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 Montral, 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)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Furstenberg offers 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 this revelatory and genuinely groundbreaking study, François Furstenberg sheds new light on the genesis of American identity. Immersing us in the publishing culture of the early nineteenth century, he shows us how the words of George Washington and others of his generation became America?s sacred scripture and provided the foundation for a new civic culture?one whose reconciliation with slavery unleashed consequences that haunt us still. A dazzling work of scholarship from a brilliant young historian, In the Name of the Father is a major contribution to American social history.
About the Author
François Furstenberg was born in Washington, D.C., and grew up in Boston, Massachusetts, and Washington. After graduating with a BA from Columbia University, he worked for several years in Paris before pursuing his graduate studies in history at The Johns Hopkins University, where he earned his Ph.D. in 2003. He was a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in U.S. history at Cambridge University, England, for one year, after which he moved to Montreal, Canada, where he is an assistant professor of history at the Université de Montréal.
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