The Washington Presidential Library

  • The tradition of creating a presidential library did not begin until 1939 when Franklin Roosevelt donated his papers to the Federal Government. So it is not surprising that George Washington is getting his library only now. Located at the Mount Vernon Estate, the $45 million Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington is, however, long overdue. Washington’s stature, once collectively acknowledged by Americans, is now somewhat diminished. The library, research center, scholars in residence, and rotating exhibits will, with time, be a corrective. And if he is not again first in the hearts of his countrymen, then certainly he should be second. See Edward Rothstein’s review on Washington as a reader of books (The New York Times, 27-Sep-2013).
JDN | 29-Sep-2013

I set out on this ground, which I suppose to be self-evident, that the earth belongs in usufruct to the living; that the dead have neither powers nor rights over it. This, with its echo of the Declaration (self-evident) was Jefferson at his most terse. Except for the phrase in usufruct — a legalism meaning the right to use property for a certain time — Jefferson’s words could be chiseled in stone, or shouted on the hustings.

Richard Brookhiser
James Madison (2011)