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TheCanadian Review of American Studies, Volume 12,No. 1,Spring 1981 MakersandFinders PaulE Boller.Jr. Freedom and Fate in American Thought /romEdll'ards to Dewey. Dallas: SMU Press, 1478. JOO+ xiv pp. H,irrvV Jaffa. How to Think About the American Rern)11uo11. Durham. N.C.: Carolina Academic Press, 1978. 18.'.' +xii pp. PeterKarsten. Patriot-Heroes in England and America: Pu/1t1c,il Sm1bolism and Changing Values 01•erThree Ce11t1mes: Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press, }ll78.257pp. JohnEWilson. Public Religion in American Culture. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. 1979. 198 + ix pp. Joan Shelley Rubin Americans, Van Wyck Brooks complained in Letters and Leadership (1918), have"'no national fabric of spiritual experience." In the years since Brooks made that pronouncement, intellectual historians, political scientists, literarycritics (among them Brooks himself), and other cultural explorers have furnished abundant evidence for a revision of his appraisal; such scholars havebeen, to use Brooks's phrase, the "makers and finders" of American traditions. Four of the latest contributors to that effort-Peter Karsten, JohnE Wilson, Harry V.Jaffa, and Paul E Boller, Jr.-have "made and found," and in some instances ''made up," national traditions of political heroworship ,collective devotion to broadly defined religious ideals, dedication toequality on the part of the country's greatest leaders, and preoccupation withideas of freedom. Each provides a different model for the examination ofAmerican thought. Peter Karsten's Patriot-Heroes in England and America: Political Syrnbol1 :•an and Changing Values over Three Centuries is a comparative study of popular responses to a number of political figures whose symbolic fortunes rose and fell on both sides of the Atlantic during the period 1650-1975. Karsten assumes that the values Britons and Americans have attached to John Hampden, Oliver Cromwell, Charles I, Algernon Sydney, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln reveal characteristics 80 Joan Shelley Rubin of their societies as a whole, though he limits his concerns to what he calls "political culture." His evidence comes from pamphlets, newspapers. addresses, census records and, to a lesser extent, songs, poems and other literary sources. Following a chapter on methodology, the book proceeds chronological!\, beginning with a discussion of the reputations in the seventeenth and eariv eighteenth centuries of the men whom Karsten calls the "patriot-symbols:. of the English civil wars. Brief biographical sketches introduce Karsten's subjects-a device which is helpful with respect to Hampden and Sydne, but seems strained and superfluous in the cases, later on, of Washingto~ and Jefferson. Within a generation after their deaths, Karsten points out. Charles I and Cromwell were either lauded as champions of right or vilified as traitors. Hampden, the outspoken opponent of the King's efforts to levv taxes without Parliament's consent, was similarly buffeted about by Royalists and Parliamentarians before 1700, but grew in popularity after that date. especially in America, where discontented colonists invoked him as a protector of property rights. More dramatic was the rise in public esteem of Algernon Sydney, the "rebel-saint" who was tried and beheaded for treason in 1683 because of his defense of parliamentary prerogatives. Retried in the Tory press in the years immediately following his execution, Sydney was rehabilitated after the Glorious Revolution, remembered as a martyr by the ''eighteenth-century commonwealthmen," and widely admired in the col· onies for his resistance to ''tyranny" and for his defense of "freedom." By the 1760s, Karsten notes, Americans had yoked Hampden and Sydne} together as "twin patriots," sometimes counterposing them to Cromwell, who had come to symbolize the dangers of a standing army and his own version of tyranny. But in the wake of the American Revolution, the "twin patriots'' were generally displaced by native sons. Instead, Hampden and Sydney became possessions, by the 1850s, of a few Anglophile Whigs who equated tyranny with both democracy and federal power. The two had a special appeal in the South, where they served the cause of those bent on preserving slave property. In the second half of the book, Karsten devotes his attention, albeit in only one chapter, to the shifting status of America's homegrown patriot· heroes. He charts the glorification of Washington throughout the nineteenth century and argues, largely on the basis of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1710-114X
Print ISSN
0007-7720
Pages
pp. 79-88
Launched on MUSE
2019-01-02
Open Access
No
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