George Washington

Why a 200-year-old decoration offers evidence in the controversy surrounding the Hiroshima bombing.

A major new installation at the Smithsonian Institution explores the nation’s biggest and most important job

A true story of their final days on the Florida seashore

Without his brilliance at espionage the Revolution could not have been won

VOTER TURNOUT MAY BE DOWN IN RECENT YEARS, BUT THE INVOLVEMENT OF THE COMMON CITIZEN HAS GROWN TO FAR SURPASS ANYTHING THE FOUNDING FATHERS EVER DREAMED OF

THE FIRST ANNUAL AMERICAN HERITAGE GREAT AMERICAN PLACE AWARD

Photographs by ROBERT BENSON     Read more >>

CAPT. LOUIS FRAN’OIS BERTRAND DUPONT D’AUBEVOYE, COMTE DE LAUBERDIÈRE, served the patriot cause in the Revolution, did all he could to teach Virginians proper French manners, made love to the local women—and found every American inferior. Except for one.

“In 1492, Christophe Colomb discovered America!! Read more >>

ON IT HE GAVE THE NEW nation a new industry, wrote a protoguide to New England inns and taverns, (probably) did some secret politicking, discovered a town that lived up to his hopes for a democratic society, scrutinized everything from rattlesnakes to rum manufacture—and, in the process, pretty much invented the summer vacation itself

BY THE END OF THE FIRST CONGRESS, IN THE SPRING OF 1791, Thomas Jefferson badly needed a vacation. The first Secretary of State disliked the noise, dirt, and crowds of the capital, Philadelphia, and the cramped routines of office work. Read more >>

The ambassador from an infant republic spent five enchanted years in the French capital at a time when monarchy was giving way to revolution. Walking the city streets today, you can still feel the extravagant spirit of the city and the era he knew.

Paris is every day enlarging and beautifying,” Thomas Jefferson noted with satisfaction during his residence there as minister to France. The city under construction was a delight to Jefferson, the art patron and amateur architect. Read more >>
The English writer G. K. Chesterton once observed that journalism largely consists of saying “Lord Jones is dead” to people who never knew Lord Jones was alive. Read more >>

An Interview With the President and the First Lady

On a busy Wednesday morning last August, President and Mrs. Clinton found an hour to speak with me in the Oval Office of the White House. Read more >>

Once seen as a vice and now as a public panacea, the national passion that got Thomas Jefferson in trouble has been expanding for two centuries

“I’m dad-gum disgusted at trying to police every half-square and every half-house,” Sen. Huey Long told a radio audience in Louisiana in May 1935. “You can’t close gambling nowhere where the people want to gamble.” Read more >>

A scholar searches across two centuries to discover the main engine of our government’s growth—and reaches a controversial conclusion

Alexis de Tocqueville observed in 1835 that America had no neighbors and hence no enemies. Read more >>

Americans invented the grand hotel in the 183Os and during the next century brought it to a zenith of democratic luxury that makes a visit to the surviving examples the most agreeable of historic pilgrimages

At the turn of the eighteenth century, a story went around Connecticut about a pious old woman who was berating her nephew for being such a rake. And an aging rake, at that. “But we’re not so very different,” he insisted. Read more >>

After every war in the nation’s history, the military has faced not only calls for demobilization but new challenges and new opportunities. It is happening again.

Not many people appreciate a military base closing. Like the shutting of a factory, it can devastate nearby towns, throwing thousands of people out of work. Merchants face losses and even bankruptcy as sales fall off. Read more >>

They’ve all had things to say about their fellow Executives. Once in a great while one was even flattering.

John Adams said Thomas Jefferson’s mind was “eaten to a honeycomb with ambition, yet weak, confused, uninformed, and ignorant.” Ulysses S. Read more >>

The two-party system, undreamt of by the founders of the Republic, has been one of its basic shaping forces ever since their time

Recently I got a letter from a friend of mine, Max Lale, the current president of the Texas State Historical Society, that gave me a quick glimpse of a vanished world. Read more >>

The Cold War was an anomaly: more often than not the world’s two greatest states have lived together in uneasy amity. And what now?

Exactly two hundred years after George Washington’s inauguration as the first President of the United States and three hundred years after Peter the Great’s ascent to the Russian throne, a new chapter opened in the history of the relations of the two greatest Read more >>

To the end of his life America’s most infamous traitor believed he was the hero of the Revolution

Shortly after noon on Thursday, April 20, 1775, a weary postrider swung out of the saddle at Hunt’s Tavern in New Haven, Connecticut, with an urgent message from the Massachusetts Committee of Cor- respondence. Read more >>

Two hundred years ago the United States was a weakling republic prostrate beneath a ruinous national debt. Then Alexander Hamilton worked the miracle of fiscal imagination that made America a healthy young economic giant. How did he do it?

One price of political greatness is to be forced to campaign even long after death. The Founding Fathers, particularly, have been constantly dragged from their graves for partisan purposes. Read more >>

Both admirers and detractors have invented myths about our first President. A famous biographer tells of his years spent trying to separate fact from fiction.

Anyone who has the temerity, as I have had, to set out in quest of a true understanding of George Washington undertakes a perilous adventure that requires climbing over hallucinatory mountains and penetrating ghost-ridden forests. Read more >>

When the French Revolution broke out two hundred years ago this month, Americans greeted it enthusiastically. After all, without the French we could never have become free. But the cheers faded as the brutality of the convulsion emerged—and we saw we were still only a feeble newborn facing a giant, intimidating world power.

There were two great revolutions against European monarchs in the late eighteenth century. In the first, the French nation helped Americans achieve their independence from George III. Read more >>
In the summer the stretch of the Delaware River north of Trenton, New Jersey, is as alluring as any place in the country. Read more >>

James Wilson was an important but now obscure draftsman of the Constitution. Carry Wills is a journalist and historian fascinated by what went on in the minds of our founders. The two men meet in an imaginary dialogue across the centuries.

  His red judge’s robe looked faded and theatrical by daylight. People at the bus stop stared at him, and his face flushed near the color of the robe. But he busily ignored them. Read more >>

A fond, canny, and surprising tour of the town where the Constitution was born

Two hundred years ago Philadelphia was the natural place for the constitution-makers. There was nothing unexpected about that. Philadelphia had one hundred years behind her that were as respectable as they were impressive. Read more >>

The framers of the Constitution were proud of what they had done but might be astonished that their words still carry so much weight. A distinguished scholar tells us how the great charter has survived and flourished.

The American Constitution has functioned and endured longer than any other written constitution of the modern era. It imbues the nation with energy to act while restraining its agents from acting improperly. Read more >>

Some of our finest public buildings were designed by a tormented young English architect whom the world has forgotten

George Hadfield was one of the most distinguished architects ever to practice in this country, yet he is so little known that no book has been written about him and very little has been published in architectural journals. Read more >>

This is not a test. It’s the real thing.

How precise is the educated American’s understanding of the history of our country? I don’t mean exact knowledge of minor dates, or small details about the terms of laws, or questions like “Who was secretary of war in 1851?” ( Answer: Charles M. Read more >>

The early years of our republic produced dozens of great leaders. A historian explains how men like Adams and Jefferson were selected for public office, and tells why the machinery that raised them became obsolete.

THERE IS NO clear consensus on what constitutes greatness, nor are there any objective criteria for measuring it—but when we look at holders of high public offices and at the current field of candidates, we know it is missing. Read more >>

An Interview With Edward L. Beach
The captain who first took a submarine around the world underwater looks at the U.S. Navy past and present and tells us what we must learn from the Falklands war

Naval power … is the natural defense of the United States,” said John Adams, who more than any other man deserves to be called the father of the American Navy. Read more >>