VIRGINIA: a state some have lavishly praised and others have bitterly denounced, when neither attitude was completely justified by actuality; a land much loved, long abused, and often misunderstood; an area in which extremes flourish more readily than means, and in which the past is not allowed to die.
Virginia: that "symbol for romance throughout the world of English speech," according to Alfred North Whitehead; that Commonwealth which "looks forward in a consciousness of her responsibility to justify her past," according to Douglas Southall Freeman; that cultural unit which provides the visitor with an experience "almost as definite as to cross the English Channel," according to T. S. Eliot.
Many of the Old Dominion's citizens are irrationally proud of their birthright, and completely in accordance with John Esten Cooke's claim that "Virginians have objected in all times to being rubbed down to a uniformity with the rest of the world." But they seldom stop to analyze or document this assumed uniqueness. These essays attempt to scrutinize closely one aspect of the Virginia mind -- its tendency towards hero worship -- and answer such questions as these: how and why have Virginians chosen four men as their leading heroes? How have they preserved their memory and exonerated them from attack? What qualities do the heroes have in common?
To the Rockefeller Foundation, for a summer grant which enabled me to study aspects of hero worship in America, and to the Virginia Historical Society, for permission to use this material which first appeared in the Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, I am deeply indebted.
MARSHALL W. FISHWICK
Washington and Lee University February, 1951