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About the Book
Beginning with the public debate over whether to ratify the Constitution in 1787 and concluding with Andrew Jackson’s own contentious presidency, Nathaniel C. Green traces the origins of our conception of the president as the ultimate American: the exemplar of our collective national values, morals, and “character.” The public divisiveness over the presidency in these earliest years, he contends, forged the office into an incomparable symbol of an emerging American nationalism that cast white Americans as dissenters—lovers of liberty who were willing to mobilize against tyranny in all its forms, from foreign governments to black “enemies” and Indian “savages" —even as it fomented partisan division that belied the promise of unity the presidency symbolized. With testimony from private letters, diaries, newspapers, and bills, Green documents the shaping of the disturbingly nationalistic vision that has given the presidency its symbolic power.
This argument is about a different time than our own. And yet it shows how this time, so often revered as a mythic “founding era” from which America has precipitously declined, was in fact the birthplace of the president-centered nationalism that still defines the contours of politics to this day. The lessons of The Man of the People contextualize the political turmoil surrounding the presidency today.
About the Author
Nathaniel C. Green teaches U.S. History at Northern Virginia Community College in Annandale, VA. A graduate of The University of Northern Iowa, The College of William & Mary, and Washington University in St. Louis, his courses emphasize the contested nature of concepts like freedom, citizenship, and equality throughout American history. Taking a broad view of “politics,” his courses explore how various individuals and groups at different moments in time defined these concepts, and how their divergent understandings inspired some to agitate for change, and others to support the status quo. Green was a member of the Washington Library’s 2015-16 class of research fellows.