The Magnificent Fraud

How a lying poseur gave America its army

There is no evidence of any such events taking place at Valley Forge. The baron’s letter was one more piece of theater in what may well be the greatest public deception ever perpetrated in a good cause.

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The Revolution 1776 To 1787

I’ve been fighting the war of the American Revolution (on paper, that is, and with none of the suffering the participants endured) off and on since 1962, and my research has included journals, diaries, letters, newspapers, and books on nearly all the campaigns. For the list that follows I have assumed that a reader is interested in the overall story of the Revolutionary War. (Books about specific campaigns or battles are far too numerous to include.) These are books I have found informative, enjoyable, and, in some cases, worth reading again and again.Read more »

Inventing The Presidency

As America goes into its fifty-fifth presidential election, we should remember that there might have been only one—if we hadn’t had the only candidate on earth who could do the job

THERE WERE NO PRIMARIES BACK THEN TO SELECT presidential candidates, no organized political parties, no orchestrated campaigns, not even any established election procedures. But it really didn’t matter, because when the votes of that odd invention called the Electoral College were cast in February of 1789, George Washington had in effect won by acclamation.Read more »

Introducing Washington

Richard Brookhiser has spent four years trying to capture for the television screen the character of perhaps the greatest American.

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Eisenhower

His farewell speech as President inaugurated the spirit of the 1960s

Whatever the calendars say, in some figurative sense America’s 1950s ended, and the 1960s began, on January 17, 1961, when President Dwight D. Eisenhower delivered the most memorable farewell address by a Chief Executive since another old soldier, George Washington, warned his new nation back in 1796 to stick together always in the cause of its founding principles. Ike, of course, had led the Allied forces in Europe to the triumph of democracy in World War II, a century and a half after General Washington had won America’s freedom in the Revolutionary War.Read more »

Half A Million Purple Hearts

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

Early last year, just as NATO was stepping up its bombing campaign in Kosovo, the news broke that the United States was manufacturing 9,000 new Purple Hearts, the decoration that goes to American troops wounded in battle and the families of those killed in action. To the media, this seemed a clear indication that despite its pledge not to send in ground forces, the United States was planning to do just that.

 
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Presenting The Presidents

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

On November 15, just a week after the first presidential election of the new millennium, the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History will open an ambitious new exhibition, “The American Presidency.” The 7,000-square-foot show will cover all 41 past American Presidents and will be organized thematically, not chronologically. Its sections will include “Presidential Campaigns,” “Inaugural Celebrations,” “Life at the White House,” “Assassinations and Mourning,” “The Media and the Presidency,” and “Life After the Presidency.”

 
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George Washington, Spymaster

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

 

George Washington a master of espionage? It is commonly understood that without the Commander in Chief’s quick mind and cool judgment the American Revolution would have almost certainly expired in 1776. It is less well known that his brilliance extended to overseeing, directly and indirectly, extensive and very sophisticated intelligence activities against the British.

 
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The Sad End Of George And Martha

A true story of their final days on the Florida seashore

 

One summer afternoon not so very long ago, the police department of Holmes Beach, Florida, a village on the Gulf Coast a few miles north of Sarasota, took custody of an insignificant-looking package that immediately caused extreme apprehension around the little white station house on Marina Drive.

 
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Is Our Civic Life Really In Decline?

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

If you look at the decline in voter turnout since 1960 or the steady decrease in young people’s interest in electoral politics, it is easy to get the idea that America’s democratic experiment stands on increasingly shaky ground. Voter turnout fell from 63 percent in 1960 to 49 percent in 1996. In national surveys 58 percent of college freshmen in 1966 said they considered it important to keep abreast of political affairs; by 1996 only 29 percent felt that way. Has our era broken trust with a great heritage?

 
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