A Founders Feast

Published:April 24, 2009 by Brendan Wolfe

I realize that this isn’t Virginia history exactly, but the Washington Post reports this morning on a recently discovered cache of unknown letters by, to, and about Benjamin Franklin.

The sensational find, announced in the upcoming issue of the William & Mary Quarterly, centers on Franklin’s interactions with Gen. Edward Braddock after he and his soldiers arrived on the banks of the Potomac and during their disastrous march to the Forks of the Ohio in 1755. The discovery not only adds texture to a key chapter in early American history, but it also raises the question of what else about the founding generation might be lurking out there, overlooked or miscategorized in a library, or perhaps stashed in an archive in some distant land.

You can find WMQ online here. (Encyclopedia Virginia has no entry for the publication, but we have written about the William and Mary Review.) The guest editor of the issue in which the Franklin article will appear is Scott Casper, a former fellow at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and author of Sarah Johnson’s Mount Vernon, which looks at life at the famous Washington homestead through the lens of an enslaved woman.

Speaking of which, you may have seen that the Hemingses of Monticello by Annette Gordon-Reed won a Pulitzer Prize this week. In his review for the William & Mary Quarterly, Edward Countryman calls it “the Jefferson book for the Obama era,” which is sort of vague but probably means to suggest that Gordon-Reed has important things to say about race. “The book,” Countryman writes, “is about the malign absurdities of slavery, about one most unusual plantation complex, and about sex, naivete, opportunity, choices, and limits in the founding era of the United States.”

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