Historical memory is a method used by individuals to alter historical events depending on the current events that are occurring in the country. History is altered to historical memory through the usage of narratives, symbols, collective memory, and print capitalism. Historical memory is a state-sponsored interpretation of a particular past event, individual, place, or ideal that state leaders and intellectuals link to the present through a series of narratives and symbols (Rossi, 856).
Historical memory is a state-sponsored interpretation of a particular past event, individual, place, or ideal that state eaders and intellectuals link to the present through a series of narratives and symbols (Rossi, 856). Historical memory connect the histories, preserves certain narratives while restoring others. It is a process that takes years to go into full effect and therefore, takes one interpretation of the past and makes it, the non-negotiable truth. Because it is state sponsored legally, constitutionally, and an institutionally; it therefore is what goes into the history books.
It provides a crucial element to political culture by mapping the transformation of collective identity into power, and from power either into authority or as challenges to uthority (Rossi, 856). Historical memory goes through four phases: the foundational myths of origin, growth and expansion, fall, and redemption. George Washington, founding father and first president of the United States went through these four phases of historical memory as events unfolded in the nation. The foundational myth of the origin is considered to be where it all began in history.
History is the factual information of the events that took place; this is not necessarily what the public remembers. President George Washington is considered to be one of the founding fathers of this nation. Most of what history knows about George Washington as an individual is mythologized, such as the apple tree story. The origin of George Washington was seen as an ordinary man, not as legend, which was later, mythologized by the public. He was in fact the first president of the United States, but meaning and memory changes as United States history develops (Rossi, 2015).
Therefore, there were some non-negotiable truths that cannot be altered or mythologized to the public. Many narratives of George Washington were reflected depending on the public’s tastes and interests. Some authors exploit it, dealing mainly ith the features of Washington’s life that would interest a mass audience, while others believed their efforts would be of no social significance if they did not in some way affect as well as reflect the public’s conception of Washington (Schwartz, 223). Meanwhile, the growth and expansion of George Washington can be seen through the years after his death, particularly before the Civil War.
President George Washington was remembered to be the founding father of this great nation. Prior to the civil war, Washington has a well-maintained reputation amongst the American people. His patriotic achievements in the ation were viewed as key components in the founding of the United States of America. He was recognized as a founding father, brave solider, a dedicated leader, passionate by nature, a reluctant slave owner, and a stand by which all others can only aspire to be (Rossi, 2015).
They labeled him as a ‘reluctant slave owner, in order to maintain his well-known reputation, creating the narrative that he was hesitant about being a slave owner rather than being an ordinary slave owner. He was remembered by his solid judgment rather than brilliance and by his fame rather than power. When Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, illions of mourning portraits produced in commemoration of Lincoln’s death, it is George Washington who welcomes Lincoln into Heaven (Schwartz, 224).
This reflected Washington’s memory for the first sixty-five years of the nineteenth century as an aristocrat, humble prisoner, general, and an isolationist. All admired his gentility and refinement; those least inclined to share these values readily attributed them to Washington and held him in esteem nonetheless (Schwartz, 224). George Washington was praised during his presidency and was seen as a leading figure many years after, but the narrative changed as vents in the nation changed the world. Authors were fond of George Washington before the Civil War. The fall and decline of George Washington’s image came shortly after the Civil War.
This war was a turning point in America’s conception of itself and its past, and with this transformation, interest in Washington diminished (Schwartz, 224). America was making history since the founding fathers came to the nation, therefore, making the founding fathers irrelevant at the time. President Washington became uninteresting, articles were being published less about him, and hostile articles about how his irtues have been over exaggerated surfaced. Washington was viewed by the public as an emancipator, charismatic philosopher, and as an ordinary man.
Most of what we know about George Washington is mythologized, being transformed from man, to myth, to legend. Washington is never regarded as anything short of flawless; even his flaws are noble (Rossi, 2015). George Washington as a legend became less appealing to the public after the War. The country had just made history, and therefore, George Washington’s victories became irrelevant to society. The massive scale of the war made the Revolutionary War and its soldiers, including Washington, seem less significant (Schwartz, 225). The redemption of George Washington came during the progressive era.
Individuals began to look into Washington’s personal traits and how it related to the American democracy. George Washington’s adeptness at frontier living, his experience at common labor and attachment to the common people, his kindness to children, his strong romantic inclinations were traits that American had always associated with democracy (Schwartz, 228). These traits were never discussed before or after the civil war because those traits seemed insignificant at the time. Traits of George Washington only became more visible to the public when it was more relatable to them.
Post Civil War remembered Washington in two different ways. The new evoked images of a democratic Washington, an ordinary man acquainted with hardship, warm in his affections, and approachable (Schwartz, 229). Meanwhile, the other depiction used was the pre-democratic Washington- one who was run conquerable. Americans never forgot his original image or rejected what he had stood for all along. In retrospect, the history of nation goes through four general phases: the foundational myths of origin, growth and expansion, ecline and fall, and redemption.
These four phases allow for memory to be lost and reclaimed whenever needed. It is not the historical event that is vital for the strengthening of a political culture, democratic or otherwise. Rather, it is how social and political factors transmitted interpreted narratives of “the past” to a consuming public through symbolic meaning (Rossi, 856). The narratives used for George Washington altered over the years as the country went through major historical events in which different characteristics of Washington were brought to light for the public to see.
Before the Civil War, he was depicted as a founding father that was legendary. During the Civil War, he became irrelevant as the country was going through a revolutionary change. But then, his depiction changed as the country was going through the progressive era. During this time, George Washington became more personalized, showing his characteristics as part of the American democracy. These four phases are ever-changing as more events begin to unfold and take their course. He will continue to be depicted in a way that the country can sell his narrative, and this is the ongoing evolvement of historical memory.