Sunday, May 1, 2016

George Washington, the Enlightenment, and the Creation of the United States

"I am sure the mass of citizens in these United States mean well, and I firmly believe they will always act well, whenever they can obtain a right understanding of matters.” – George Washington, 1796 

At 6’2” and 210 pounds, George Washington was a muscular and athletic man who dominated every room he entered. He was a natural leader, and for the last 45 years of his life he found himself at the center of almost every significant event leading to the creation of a new nation — a nation proclaiming a belief in the rights and happiness of its people. As a man of the Enlightenment, Washington led a revolution against the Old World and its unrestrained superstitions, religious bigotry, and intolerance. 

My presentation for AP U.S. history teachers, titled “George Washington, the Enlightenment, and the Creation of a New Nation,” demonstrates how teachers can frame historical events from 1754-1799 around the life of George Washington. In my opinion, it’s difficult (and almost impossible) to understand the creation of our nation without examining Washington’s remarkable life, a life that ended with a final revolutionary act — the emancipation of his slaves in his Last Will and Testament. 

This bust of Washington was created from a life mask made in 1785 by the sculptor Jean-Antoine Houdon. It’s an image of Washington in his early fifties that has been described as one of the most accurate depictions of him in any work of art.  




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