Founding Fathers, Sexuality, and Public Memory
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 the commentaries on the Revolutionary era’s major political figures in Sex and the Founding Fathers, author Thomas Foster shows how continual attempts to reveal the true character of these men reflect the desire to identify the core values and relatable traits that link the Founders to subsequent generations of Americans.
Sex and the Founding Fathers examines the remarkable and varied assessments of the intimate lives of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Alexander Hamilton, and Gouverneur Morris from their own time to ours. Even in the absence of new revelations, interpretations can change radically. Jefferson, for instance, has been idealized as a chaste widower, condemned as a child molester, and recently celebrated as a multicultural hero.
Foster assesses the public and private images of these generally idealized leaders to show how each generation uses them to reshape and reinforce American civic and national identity. The stories we tell about the Founders say more about us than about our first celebrities.