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Inventing American History (Boston Review Books) Hardcover – March 13, 2009
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For William Hogeland, thinking about history is an act of moral inquiry and high citizenship. A searching and original voice.(Rick Perlstein, author of Nixonland)
About the Author
William Hogeland is author of The Whisky Rebellion: George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and the Frontier Rebels Who Challenged America's Newfound Sovereignty. He lives in New York City.
William Hogeland is author of The Whiskey Rebellion: George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and the Frontier Rebels Who Challenged America's Newfound Sovereignty. He lives in New York City.
Top customer reviews
I considered withholding one star from my rating only because I was frustrated that there were only three sections in this superb book. I wanted more!
In the first essay, the author takes on the notion that Alexander Hamilton is perhaps the most important founder, given that the US to some extent followed his economic vision making it the foremost industrial power in the world with a strong financial system. He is, to some, the exemplar for "national-greatness conservatism." But the author notes that Hamilton was in fact elitist in his thinking, not democratic. He was an admirer of the British monarchy. His financial policies favored rich bondholders. He quickly led the charge to suppress the Whiskey rebels when they objected to his whiskey taxation policies that put small producers at a disadvantage.
Secondly, the author notes that the portrayal of charismatic individuals often hides their problematical sides. For example, Peter Seeger is known for his folk music. What is seldom revealed is that as a member of the Communist Party all through the 1930s and 40s, he followed the Party line, often ignoring the excesses of Stalinism. It was he and others who grafted radicalism onto down-home, banjo-picking music. The acerbic intellectual William Buckley may have been the darling of conservatives in opposition to the welfare state, but what has been lost is his advocacy for white superiority in opposition to what he called the Negro "revolt" in the 50s and 60s.
In his most important essay, the author is dismayed that the modernistic National Constitution Center in Philadelphia whitewashes the democratic actions taken by ordinary citizens leading up to the US founding Constitutional Convention in 1787. The Center's grandiose, soaring presentations are designed to convince people of the power of the average person in our founding documents - an effort the author refers to as "flat-out indoctrination." What are clearly avoided are clear facts that the elite members of the Convention were there largely to limit democracy, not enhance it. In some respects, the American people are robbed of their legacy by such blatant manipulation. So-called consensus historians, in the author's view, are unwilling to acknowledge the role of such "class warfare" in our founding.
The author is surely correct to decry intentional efforts to mislead about our past. Such manipulation is not harmless. So much distortion about the past undermines the American people's ability to move forward in an intelligent fashion.