Eighteenth century Americans understood the concept of virtue differently than Americans today. At the creation of our American republic, citizens strongly valued civic virtue, a tradition that has deep roots in ancient Rome. Citizenship in the new republic, enshrouded in civic virtue, required civic obligations such as participation in the political process and placing the good of the republic before personal gain. Evidence of the centrality of this value can be seen through architecture, declarations of rights, art and more. Early Americans revered George Washington as the embodiment of civic virtue, imagining him as the modern Cincinnatus.
Professor Cornell is the author of two prize-winning works in American legal history. He is one of the nation’s leading authorities on early American constitutional thought. His work has been widely cited by legal scholars, historians, and has been cited by the U.S Supreme Court and several state supreme courts. Professor Cornell has also been a leading advocate of using new media to teach history and is the author of a new American history text book, Visions of America. This path breaking book uses visual materials to illustrate the competing visions that have shaped American history.
Saul Cornell, Professor of American History at Fordham University, examines the painting "The Death of General Warren at the Battle of Bunker's Hill" by John Trumbull, and he explains why civic virtue was on the minds of the militia in the Revolutionary War.