April/May 2007 | Volume 58, Issue 2
“The founding of the United States experience: 1763-1815”
The Founding of the United States Experience (Presidio Press, 64 pages, $50) earns the slightly unwieldy last word in its title, because digging into this handsome volume creates an experience much like rooting through a treasure-filled attic. Salted through pages filled with beautifully photographed objects—a miniature portrait of George III, a snuffbox found at Valley Forge, a collapsible field telescope—are documents in facsimile meant to be pulled from slots or envelopes. Leafing through, you won’t be surprised to unfold Jefferson’s handwritten draft of the Declaration of Independence, but elsewhere, the oath of allegiance signed by every member of the Continental Army, sworn here by the Commander in Chief himself, resonates afresh. In the archaic typeface of the time, “G. Washington” promises to “defend the said United States, against the said King George the Third, his heirs and successors and his or their abettors, assistants and adherents … with fidelity, according to the best of my skill and understanding.” This volume reminds us how precious such skill and understanding is.