George Washington's New Clothes

200 years on, the 'inferior endorsements' that Washington brought to the first Presidential inauguration can be seen, Esmond Wright argues, as extraordinarily successful in setting constitutional precedents that have endured in the United States.

The first thorough assessment of the independent United States by an outsider was published by Alexis de Tocqueville in 1835 (first volume) and 1840 (second volume), as Democracy in America.

During his lifetime (1805-1859), de Tocqueville's own country had four violent changes of government, and in his father's lifetime (1772-1858) there were seven. By contrast in these years the independent United States had none.

De Tocqueville's admiration for the United States is not surprising. His father and mother escaped the guillotine only because of the fall of Robespierre; while incarcerated, his father's hair turned white; his maternal great-grandfather Malesherbes, aged seventy-three, who had come out of retirement to defend the king before the Convention, was guillotined for his loyalty; and so were his grandparents, and a number of his cousins and his aunts.

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