The Corner

Hillary vs. George

Come on, John. Late 18th century America had two crucial elements of modern media–newspapers and cheap books. The U.S. had more newspapers per capita in 1776 than it has now (25 for 3 million, vs. 1400 for almost 300 million). Common Sense, by Tom Paine, sold 150,000 copies (today’s equivalent sale: 14 million).  A Russian visitor to the country after Washington died noted that every house he looked in had an image of him, even as Russians had icons. Many many Americans didn’t need pictures, having seen him in person. He fought in five states during the Revolution, and visited all the original 13 during his first term.   He was the second American celebrity (the first was George Whitefield, the charismatic cross-eyed evangelist), and one of the most famous people in the western world.  An odd, but deeply moving example of his celebrity etiquette (one of zillions) is in William Carlos Williams’s long poem, Paterson (p. 10, New Directions paperback).  

Historian Richard Brookhiser is a senior editor of National Review and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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