Acting Director of the David M. Rubenstein National Center for White House History, Matthew R. Costello’s new book The Property of the Nation: George Washington’s Tomb, Mount Vernon, and the Memory of the First President (University Press of Kansas, 2019) looks at the life of George Washington, and how he has been viewed throughout history.
George Washington was an affluent slave owner who believed that republicanism and social hierarchy were vital to the young country’s survival. And yet, he remains largely free of the “elitist” label affixed to his contemporaries, as Washington evolved in public memory during the nineteenth century into a man of the common people, the father of democracy. The Property of the Nation tells how this idea was a deliberately constructed image, shaped and reshaped over time, generally in service of one cause or another. Matthew R. Costello traces this process through the story of Washington’s tomb, whose history and popularity reflect the building of a memory of America’s first president — of, by, and for the American people. [Read more…] about Book Talk: Memory of the First President