Friday, December 07, 2007

" A Distinctly American Character"

On the death of George Washington, 1799:

Federalists were on the way out then and Republicans ascendant, but neither would survive by the time party politics really took hold – and yet in the end they both proved to be right. Just as the Federalists feared, Americans turned out to be almost ungovernably licentious, as licentious as any relatively law-abiding people can be; and as Republicans feared, America became the most capital- and market-driven nation on earth, a raw frenzy of commercialism. Maybe Washington would not have liked what he saw, but more than two hundred years later these traits were recognized (and caricatured) around the world as an important part of the distinctly American character, which was what Washington wanted for the United States most of all.

-- James R. Gaines, For Liberty and Glory: Washington, Lafayette, and Their Revolutions (New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 2007), p. 417

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