George Washington and Political Fatherhood

The Endurance of a National Myth


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About the Book

More than two hundred years after his death, George Washington is still often considered the metaphorical father of the United States. He was first known as the “Father of His Country” during his lifetime, when the American people bestowed the title upon him as a symbolic act of resistance and rebirth. Since then, presidents have stood as paternal figureheads for America, often serving as moral beacons.
This book tracks political fatherhood throughout world history, from the idea of the pater patriae in Roman antiquity to Martin Luther’s Bible translations and beyond. Often using George Washington as a paradigm, the author explores presidential iconography in the U.S., propaganda and the role of paternal rhetoric in shaping American sociopolitical history—including the results of the 2016 presidential election.

About the Author(s)

Heinz Tschachler is a former professor of English and American studies at Alpen-Adria-University in Klagenfurt, Austria. He is the author of numerous books.

Bibliographic Details

Heinz Tschachler
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 262
Bibliographic Info: 30 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2020
pISBN: 978-1-4766-8109-2
eISBN: 978-1-4766-3917-8
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
Prologue: Enter George Washington 1
I. Daddy Issues: Presidents as Fathers 13
1. On Fathers, Past and Present 15
2. George Washington Becomes the Father of His Country 29
II. Political Sovereignty and Metaphorical Fathers 47
3. Strict Father Washington? 49
4. Inventing George Washington 61
5. Representing the Republic 71
III. One Whom Memory Oft Recalls 81
6. Symbolic Alliances 83
7. Expressions of Consent 94
8. The Father of the Fatherless 106
IV. From the Civil War through the Bicentennial of 1932 121
9. North and South 123
10. National Myths 133
11. Towards the Bicentennial of 1932 147
V. The Preservation of Our Folklore 159
12. George of Many Perceptions 160
13. Washington’s Unique Greatness 178
Epilogue: If George Washington Had Not Been the Father of His Country 192
Notes 203
Bibliography 243
Index 247

Book Reviews & Awards

“This is an extremely timely book that deserves a wide readership. …Tschachler looks at how the image of Washington has informed American life and political discourse over the entire life of the nation. … This accessible text displays an impressive range and depth of research…highly recommended”—Choice