Sex and the Founding Fathers: The American Quest for a Relatable Past (Sexuality Studies)

Sex and the Founding Fathers: The American Quest for a Relatable Past (Sexuality Studies)

Thomas A. Foster

Language: English

Pages: 232

ISBN: 1439911029

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Biographers, journalists, and satirists have long used the subject of sex to define the masculine character and political authority of America's Founding Fathers. Tracing these commentaries on the Revolutionary Era's major political figures in Sex and the Founding Fathers, Thomas Foster shows how continual attempts to reveal the true character of these men instead exposes much more about Americans and American culture than about the Founders themselves. 

 

Sex and the Founding Fathers examines the remarkable and varied assessments of the intimate lives of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, and Gouverneur Morris from their own time to ours. Interpretations can change radically; consider how Jefferson has been variously idealized as a chaste widower, condemned as a child molester, and recently celebrated as a multicultural hero.  

 

Foster considers the public and private images of these generally romanticized leaders to show how each generation uses them to reshape and reinforce American civic and national identity. 

 

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establishing that Washington was a "giant of a man in every way."100 In his best-selling biography of Washington, Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Ellis similarly exclaims, "He was the epitome of the man's man: physically strong, mentally enigmatic, emotionally restrained."101 Wood also depicts Washington in this manner. Washington, he writes, had "all the physical attributes of a classical hero. He was very tall by contemporary standards, six feet three or so, and was heavily built and a superb

published the following: "The weary statesman for repose hath fled/From halls of council to his negro's shed/Where blest he woos some black Aspasia's grace/And dreams of freedom in his slave's embrace!" In a footnote he is more explicit: "The `black Aspasia' of the present P******** of the United States... has given rise to much pleasantry among the anti-democratic wits in America."9 Jefferson never responded publicly to the scandal, and the effect of the rumors was minimal in terms of damaging

normal desires and lends credence to the claim that his attraction to Cosway was genuine and had been acted on.65 In 1993, journalist Willard Sterne Randall continues the emphasis on depicting Cosway as someone Jefferson "would fall in love with" while in Paris-indeed, for Randall, Jefferson "fell in love with Maria Cosway from the moment he met her" and she became someone with whom he would want to "spend every possible moment."66 Popular writer Hitchens similarly declares that "Jefferson

the shade of retirement, no fruit was granted to their union. No child to catch with pious tenderness the falling tear, and soothe the anguish of connubial affection.... AMERICANS! he had no child-BUT YOU-and HE WAS ALL YOUR OWN.19 As mentioned in the introduction, in 1810, Mason Weems emphasized the importance of discussing Washington's private life, calling it "real life." Sex was a component of this aspect of life, as we can see in his reference to Benedict Arnold and his experiences with

(Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2007). See also Paul F inkelman, Slavery and the Founders: Race and Liberty in the Age of Jefferson (London: Sharpe, 1996). 5. Thomas Jefferson Papers Series 1, General Correspondence, 1651-1827 Henry Lee, 1805, John Walker Affair, available at http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.mss/mtj.mtjbib014530. See also Fawn M.Brodie, Thomas Jefferson: An Intimate History (New York: Norton, 1975), 83. 6. Richmond Recorder, September 1, 1802; italics original. 7.

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