cover image Founding Myths: Stories That Hide Our Patriotic Past

Founding Myths: Stories That Hide Our Patriotic Past

Ray Raphael, with Christian G. Appy, Martin Binkin, Dan Fahey, Linda Francke, George and Mer. New Press, $26.95 (354pp) ISBN 978-1-56584-921-1

Patrick Henry never said,""Give me liberty or give me death!"" In fact, no record exists of what he said in his powerful call to arms of March 23, 1775. And Molly Pitcher never took her husband's place at a cannon after he fell at the Battle of Monmouth. Historian Raphael dissects these and 11 other myths of the American Revolution to uncover the truth of these famous events and the significance of their conversion into myth. These tales, argues Raphael, represent 19th-century ideals of""romantic individualism"" more than the communitarian ideals of the revolutionary era. Raphael (A People's History of the American Revolution) continues in his populist vein by arguing that these myths, rather than encouraging patriotism and heroism, actually""take away our power,"" leaving us""in awe of superhuman stars"" like Washington or Jefferson and""discouraging ordinary citizens from acting on their own behalf."" This is arguable, but advocates of history as seen from below will find the author's point of view appealing. And all students of American history will find Raphael's correction of the historical record instructive and enjoyable. Illus.