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Fighting over the Founders

Fighting over the Founders: How We Remember the American Revolution

Andrew M. Schocket
Copyright Date: 2015
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Fighting over the Founders
    Book Description:

    The American Revolution is all around us. It is pictured as big as billboards and as small as postage stamps, evoked in political campaigns and car advertising campaigns, relived in museums and revised in computer games. As the nation's founding moment, the American Revolution serves as a source of powerful founding myths, and remains the most accessible and most contested event in U.S. history: more than any other, it stands as a proxy for how Americans perceive the nation's aspirations. Americans' increased fascination with the Revolution over the past two decades represents more than interest in the past. It's also a site to work out the present, and the future. What are we using the Revolution to debate?

    InFighting over the Founders, Andrew M. Schocket explores how politicians, screenwriters, activists, biographers, jurists, museum professionals, and reenactors portray the American Revolution. Identifying competing "essentialist" and "organicist" interpretations of the American Revolution, Schocket shows how today's memories of the American Revolution reveal American's conflicted ideas about class, about race, and about gender-as well as the nature of history itself.Fighting over the Foundersplumbs our views of the past and the present, and illuminates our ideas of what United States means to its citizens in the new millennium.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-7115-0
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)

    If you live in the United States in the twenty-first century, you can’t escape the American Revolution. Take a drive. Chances are, streets or neighborhoods in your town bear the name “Washington” or “Jefferson” or “Franklin” or “Adams” or “Madison” or “Hamilton,” and you live in or near a city or county named for one of the famous founders. Walk by a bookstore or your local library. You’ll find a display featuring the latest best-selling founder biography. Take a look in your pocket, and see whose faces stare back at you from the bills in your wallet or the coins...

  6. 1 Truths That Are Not Self-Evident: The Revolution in Political Speech
    (pp. 17-48)

    One day during the last week of October 2010, as I was opening the mail, a political flyer caught my eye. Political mailings were no strangers that season. Nonetheless, even more than most voters during the Fall 2010 election cycle, residents of our small Ohio town had been bombarded. We had the full slate of candidates at every level except president; levies for the schools, the library, and local emergency services; and a referendum on anti-discrimination ordinances that attracted tens of thousands of dollars in out-of-state money and more letters to the editor of our local paper than any other...

  7. 2 We Have Not Yet Begun to Write: Historians and Founders Chic
    (pp. 49-84)

    In January 2010, 2008, Republican vice presidential nominee and former Alaska governor Sarah Palin became a target of derision after a live television interview with conservative personality Glenn Beck because of her inability to name her “favorite founding father.” Even Beck, a big Palin booster, found her indecision unsatisfying. Sarah Palin’s choice mattered to Beck and, presumably, to his audience because it has become an ideological litmus test. Just as the ways that politicians invoke particular phrases from the Revolution tip their ideological hand, the choice of a favorite founder has also become a political tell. But perhaps more intriguing...

  8. 3 We the Tourists: The Revolution at Museums and Historical Sites
    (pp. 85-124)

    In the summer of 2011, I traveled to the pasts. I say “pasts” because I mean more than one: the various contested notions of our nation’s past, as well as my own. In mid-June, I packed up a suitcase, my computer, and some books, and started up my time machine, ingeniously camouflaged to look exactly like a well-cared-for 2001 Ford Focus. I headed east from my current home in northwest Ohio. Over the following month, in addition to attending a challenging seminar that met three days a week in Philadelphia, I drove nearly 3,200 miles in my personal quest to...

  9. 4 Give Me Liberty’s Kids: How the Revolution Has Been Televised and Filmed
    (pp. 125-164)

    A lone violin plays a mournful tune while the panicked young redcoat runs through wintry woods. He looks back before clearing the trees to a high mountain plain. The camera pans back, showing him sprinting toward three mounted officers alongside a small regiment of smartly marching British soldiers. A close-up shows the soldier pointing back at the woods, talking, although the only sound is the fiddle’s whine. Quick close shots show the British flags, the officers shouting, the men shouldering their muskets as one to fire. The frame shifts to a pan shot of the woods from which the first...

  10. 5 To Re-create a More Perfect Union: Originalism, the Tea Party, and Reenactors
    (pp. 165-200)

    In January 2011, the new Congress opened with a Republican majority. Republican House of Representatives leaders orchestrated a public reading of the Constitution. Many had gotten elected by tea party activists, railing against what they perceived as the unconstitutionality of President Obama’s new healthcare plan. Despite their campaign rhetoric blasting “Obamacare” and thundering that judges should show more fidelity to the Constitution as originally written, they opted not to read the whole document. They skipped parts that had been superseded by amendments or that could be considered offensive. They therefore silently eliminated the “three-fifths clause.” It had been negated by...

  11. Conclusion
    (pp. 201-212)

    What I hope you as the reader take away from this volume is to think of it as a prompt for deeper consideration for when you encounter the American Revolution. When politicians speak of “the wisdom of the founding fathers” or working toward a “more perfect union,” note how they are framing a debate concerning history and the relationship between the past and the present. When you read a book interpreting the Revolution as a conflict among Americans or as a grand cause for national freedom, think about what the author is implying in terms of class, diversity, and national...

    (pp. 213-236)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 237-252)
    (pp. 253-253)