Sex and the Founding Fathers
The American Quest for a Relatable Past
by Thomas A. Foster
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Pub Date 01 Oct 2016 | Archive Date 28 Oct 2016
New in Paperback!
How the desire to know the “real” Founders of the United States has influenced the stories we tell and remember
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.
Thomas A. Foster is Associate Professor in the History Department at DePaul University. He is the author of Sex and the Eighteenth-Century Man: Massachusetts and the History of Sexuality in America and the editor of three books, the most recent being Documenting Intimate Matters: Primary Sources for a History of Sexuality in America.
"Does it matter with whom and how often Washington, Hamilton, and Jefferson had sex? Apparently so, as this fascinating and erudite work demonstrates. Foster deftly documents historians’ intense efforts to portray the Founders as all up to heteronormative code, conjuring intense affairs—sometimes out of thin air—and downplaying problematic associations. Sex and the Founding Fathers is a must read for all who are interested in the founding era and the historiography of the period."—Annette Gordon-Reed, author of The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family
"In this concise, engaging book, Foster explores the intimate lives of six Founding Fathers, and, more importantly, the way their sex lives have been presented and analyzed over the years. Focusing on George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, and the oft-forgotten Gouverneur Morris, Foster deftly demonstrates the ways these men’s private lives have been essentially rewritten to present the normative, virtuous, and manly Founders Americans choose to believe in..... Proving that you can’t trust biographers, Foster ably reveals that sex has always factored into national identity and that the Founders were flesh-and-blood men, unable to support idealistic American standards of morality."
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