While the reading selections for this week were not the most engaging reading, they did provide a nice break from the Lukian style of weeks past. I found parts of the history of preservation fascinating. One thing I especially liked was the was the description of preservation in the antebellum period. The focus on preserving buildings for patriotic purposes was fascinating. I wonder how much the emphasis on preserving sites connected to great men or events in our past can be connected to the veneration of saints and holy places in Europe. While the Catholic church was a minority throughout much of the antebellum their was still a tendency to deify elements of our nations past – especially the founding fathers. The tendency to canonize our nations founders was especially true of George Washington who was often portrayed as a divinely appointed emissary.
The agitation of the Mt. Vernon Ladies Association is a good example of what might be termed an American ‘cult of the saints.’ The founding fathers–and especially Washington–had already been baptized into the narrative of our nations sacred history and mission. The Mt. Vernon Ladies Association–which seems to have been part of the broader evangelical reform movement–took the step of not only canonizing Washington, but of also extending his sainthood to his place of residence.