Rediscovering America

A new generation of historians finds new meanings in the past

The American . . . seems to bear lightly the sorrowful burden of human knowledge. In a word, he is young . . .The American has never yet had to face the trials of Job.

—George Santayana, 1920

The Fourth of July speech today is seldom the shapely purple cloud of bombast that it once was. That style is nearly extinct. The old eagle-screaming rhapsody, the Everlasting Yea, survives mostly in wistful, or merely empty, references to Jefferson, in Smithsonian pageants or...

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