Jefferson and the Iconography of Romanticism: Folk, Land, by Malcolm Kelsall (auth.)

By Malcolm Kelsall (auth.)

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Extra info for Jefferson and the Iconography of Romanticism: Folk, Land, Culture, and the Romantic Nation

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Yet, as the 'geography' evolved, Morse had to confess subsequently to Young America that, even as he wrote, the subject changed before him: 'so fast do alterations and revolutions succeed each other, that it is not an easy matter ... to keep pace with them. ' So fast does the idea of the 'native land' change that no text can keep abreast of the Heraclitean flux of things and the endless process of conquest and discovery. 29 Or consider an issue more problematical and fundamental yet in romantic nationalism: the question of 'the national language', which Webster saw as intrinsic in the founding of the 'national character' of the American 'family'.

The 'ten thousand people' on the streets of Philadelphia calling for war in support of the French Revolution are not the united nation for which Jefferson claimed to speak but represent for Adams a dangerous and violent mob. Perhaps this is paranoia. Perhaps, too, Jefferson showed paranoia in his fear, clear from the Anas as well as the Mazzei letter, that even Washington had (when he was aged and feeble) betrayed the people into the hands of Toryism - the international conspiracy of kings. But it was not a judgement written out of the heat of the moment when Jefferson claimed in his Autobiography that the' crimes and cruelties' of Europe had passed to America, and that he had lived through an epoch of 'the total extinction of national morality'.

It is not a material history that we are seeking scientifically to define, but rather a symbolic perspective upon history which needs to be imaginatively revitalised. Things are as they are perceived by the agents in history. What is it that is perceived, and what form is taken by the symbolic order? In this context, Miltonic eschatology is enabling historically, for it provides a specific, textual focus illustrative of something widely diffused in the culture of the new 'American' nation and the Jeffersonian Weltordnung.

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