The Founding Fathers Reconsidered
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The Founding Fathers Reconsidered

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Here is a concise, scholarly, yet accessible overview of the brilliant, flawed, and quarrelsome group of lawyers, politicians, merchants, military men, and clergy known as "the Founding Fathers"-who got as close to the ideal of the Platonic "philosopher-kings" as American or world history has ever seen. In The Founding Fathers Reconsidered, R. B. Bernstein reveals Washington, Franklin, Jefferson, Adams, Hamilton, and the other founders not as shining demigods but as imperfect human beings-people much like us-who nevertheless achieved political greatness. They emerge here as men who sought to transcend their intellectual world even as they were bound by its limits, men who strove to lead the new nation even as they had to defer to the great body of the people and learn with them the possibilities and limitations of politics. Bernstein deftly traces the dynamic forces that molded these men and their contemporaries as British colonists in North America and as intellectual citizens of the Atlantic civilization's Age of Enlightenment. He analyzes the American Revolution, the framing and adoption of state and federal constitutions, and the key concepts and problems-among them independence, federalism, equality, slavery, and the separation of church and state-that both shaped and circumscribed the founders' achievements as the United States sought its place in the world. Finally, he charts the shifting reputations of the founders, both as a group and as individuals, and examining the specific uses to which interpreters of the Constitution have put the Founding Fathers, along with the problems besetting this "jurisprudence of original intent." A masterly blend of old and new scholarship, brimming with apt description and insightful analysis, this book offers a persuasive account of how the Founding Fathers were formed, what they did, and how generations of Americans have viewed them.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 238 pages
  • 147.32 x 218.44 x 27.94mm | 498.95g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 12 black and white halftone illustrations
  • 0195338324
  • 9780195338324
  • 1,182,044

About R. B. Bernstein

R. B. Bernstein is Distinguished Adjunct Professor of Law at New York Law School, and has written, edited, or co-edited nineteen books on American constitutional and legal history, including Thomas Jefferson.show more

Review quote

"Read Bernstein's book if you can. It's both a reminder of how fallible the Founding Fathers were--and yet how good they still look to us nearly a quarter of a millennium later." -- Andrew Cohen, The Atlantic"The Founding Fathers Reconsidered brims with insights and revelations, and the jargon-free prose is a genuine pleasure to read." --Journal of American History "Prolific historian Bernstein (adjunct, New York Law Sch.) follows up the brief biography Thomas Jefferson with another accessible work of popular history on a weighty topic... Recommended for general readers seeking an introduction to the legacies, political careers, and disparate roles of these men in the creation and early leadership of a new nation."--Library Journal"A logical and easily read examination of the history that made the Founders, the history they made, and what history has made of their handiwork."--Kansas Free Press"Unsurpassed in his knowledge of the vast literature on the subject, Bernstein is admirably suited to the task. He is also an efficient retailer, having packed a great deal of informed exposition and wise commentary into a small, compact book of just over 250 pages."--New England Quarterly"Bernstein's erudite and marvelously accessible take on the Founding Fathers is a gem. With masterful economy, wit, insight, and expertise, he makes a familiar story come newly alive in his portraits of the men who made the American Revolution and the early republic. This book should be on the shelf of anyone interested in America's founding era."--Annette Gordon-Reed, author of The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family and Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy"Even in the wake of innumerable learned commentaries on the subject, Bernstein manages to shed new light on the work of the men who framed the Constitution... The brief sketches of the various framers are likewise masterful and, Bernstein's focus on how their disagreements continued to play out in constitutional showdowns for decades to come--indeed down to the present--lends depth often lacking in treatments of the era."--Virginia Quarterly Review"Bernstein offers his readers an engaging and erudite account of the men who carried the colonies down the path to Revolution and then took up the task of creating a new nation. In the process, he provides a history of how the founding fathers came to be both idealized and debunked and the role historians and historical events of the 19th and 20th centuries played in shaping the reputations of men like Washington, Jefferson, and Hamilton. This is a book with something important to say both to those new to the story of the nation's founding philosophy and those who have long been students of American politics and culture."--Carol Berkin, Presidential Professor of History, Baruch College & The Graduate Center, CUNY, and author of A Brilliant Solution: Inventing the American Constitution"A masterly volume brimming with apt description and insightful analysis, The Founding Fathers Reconsidered respectfully brings America's most cherished heroes firmly down to earth."--History Book Club"This is a sparkling book. The endnotes alonethe product of decades of serious study and thoughtful reflectionare worth the volume's price. Scholars and thoughtful lay readers alike will find The Founding Fathers Reconsidered a rich and rewarding work." --Claremont Review of Books"Bernstein has something quite helpful to offer-a succinct and engaging discussion of the founders that contextualizes them both in their time and ours and shows how their actions and legacies have been interpreted in the popular and scholarly discourse... In little more than 150 pages, he manages to draw out some of the most interesting and pivotal moments of the founding, describe them in ways that will make them accessible to students, and then show how the ideas they represented are still relevant today. The breadth of scholarly and mainstream topics and ideas Bernstein invokes to illustrate his points is truly impressive." --Jane E. Calvert, Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography"Bernstein eloquently discusses the contributions, struggles, flaws and virtues of the seven key founders throughout the book... a thoughtful, accessible read that will appeal to broad audiences looking for an introduction to the founding era... and the basis for the enduring debates that shape our understanding of the founding era and constitutional controversy." --Mark Rush, Law & Politics Book Review"Clearly written and with general readers in mind, Bernstein's account synthisizes much recent scholarship as he traces the history of the term 'Founding Fathers, ' offers definitions of what it has meant over the years, and discusses those it has includeed and even those it ought to include...Recommended." --CHOICE Reviews"This book's great strength is in accomplishing what its author set out for it it to be: a graceful, manageable introduction to some of the best recent scholarship on the Founding Fathers and the issues that surround them." --American Nineteenth Century History"R.B. Bernstein provides a succinct and fair-minded overview of the controversies.... Bernstein's excellent overview will prove a helpful and impressive guide for the interested general reader."--Journal of Southern History"A lucidly written and capably argued accomplishment...likely to satisfy the curiosity of readers looking for a brief and lively review of the Revolutionary Pantheon." -- The Journal of Law and History Review"Bernstein is a winning writer with style to burn." --The Historian A finalist for the George Washington Book Prize"Prolific historian Bernstein (adjunct, New York Law Sch.) follows up the brief biography Thomas Jefferson with another accessible work of popular history on a weighty topic... Recommended for general readers seeking an introduction to the legacies, political careers, and disparate roles of these men in the creation and early leadership of a new nation."--Library Journal"A logical and easily read examination of the history that made the Founders, the history they made, and what history has made of their handiwork."--Kansas Free Press"Unsurpassed in his knowledge of the vast literature on the subject, Bernstein is admirably suited to the task. He is also an efficient retailer, having packed a great deal of informed exposition and wise commentary into a small, compact book of just over 250 pages."--New England Quarterly"Bernstein's erudite and marvelously accessible take on the Founding Fathers is a gem. Withshow more

Table of contents

THE HISTORY THAT MADE THE FOUNDING FATHERS ; THE STATE OF THE UNION ; FREE-BORN ENGLISH SUBJECTS ; THE INTELLECTUAL WORLD ; THE HISTORY THAT THE FOUNDING FATHERS MADE ; INDEPENDENCE ; CONSTITUTION-MAKING ; FEDERALISM ; POLITICS ; CHURCH AND STATE ; EQUALITY, INEQUALITY, AND SLAVERY ; AMERICA IN THE WORLD ; ANCESTOR WORSHIP? ; "WHICH FOUNDING FATHER ARE YOU?" ; THE DEAD HAND OF THE PAST: ORIGINAL INTENT ; CONCLUSION ; NOTES ; CHRONOLOGY ; FURTHER READINGshow more

Rating details

213 ratings
3.41 out of 5 stars
5 14% (30)
4 34% (72)
3 36% (77)
2 11% (24)
1 5% (10)
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