Ohio History Journal

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The Hero in America. By Dixon Wecter. (New York, Charles

Scribner's Sons, 1941. 530p. $3.50.)

Here is something entirely new in literature--or as near

brand new as is possible in these days of multiple coverage of all

fields. It is a brilliant book, at times a bit too brilliant, with

apt quotations dragged in occasionally when the dazzled reader

might prefer, perhaps, to take things a little easier.

Professor Wecter (of the Department of English at the Uni-

versity of California) has set forth popular attitudes toward

various men in American history (he's mentioned women, too,

like Molly Pitcher, but he says there aren't many heroines), has

given information bearing on the correctness of estimating them,

and has shown how their reputations have risen and fallen as

they have been more or less taken for granted, made legend, or

debunked. He starts with Captain John Smith, a man too merry

to be welcome among the Pilgrim Fathers, and exposes the myth

of the Pocohontas affair. He shows that the Pilgrims were

mostly human, after all. He proves that the log cabin as a place

in which to be born was a design imported from the continent of

Europe, not devised by the first comers to these shores. He

punctures Patrick Henry, describes the gusto of Franklin, and

makes one feel that Washington, though austere and unapproach-

able, was truly a majestic figure.

Thomas Jefferson turns out to be a timorous aristocrat whose

reputation is greater now than it was a ceutury ago, largely thanks

to political cultivation. Truly "Jefferson still lives." The rival

camps try to steal each other's tribal gods, says Mr. Wecter.

Around the time of Abraham Lincoln the Republicans tried to use

Jefferson to some extent, but the Democrats got him and they

have made much of him.

Frontier scouts like Daniel Boone, killing and wasting the

wild game for the fun of it, and Johnny Appleseed, a constructive