The Dr. Strange of the American Revolution

Benjamin Rush was a strange, or a strangely gifted, man, and one of the youngest—at 30—to sign the Declaration of Independence.Painting by John Trumbull / Wikicommons

ascribe the Success of our Revolution to a Galaxy,” Benjamin Rush wrote to John Adams, in 1812. He wasn’t invoking the astrological. It was commonplace then to associate a bright assembly of people with the starry band in the night sky that Chaucer called “the Milky Wey.” Yet Rush crossed out “a Galaxy” and wrote in, perhaps for the sake of specificity, “an Illustrious band of Statesmen—philosophers—patriots & heroes.” Historian Jill Lepore has that, in the “comic-book version of history that serves as our national heritage, where the Founding Fathers are like the Hanna-Barbera Super Friends, Paine is Aquaman to Washington’s Superman and Jefferson’s Batman.” And. Fried replied, “Dr. Strange.”

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