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In this brilliantly illuminating group portrait of the men who came to be known as the Founding Fathers, the incomparable Gordon Wood has written a book that seriously asks, What made these men great?”—and shows us, among many other things, just how much character did in fact matter. The life of each—Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Franklin, Hamilton, Madison, Paine—is presented individually as well as collectively, but the thread that binds these portraits together is the idea of character as a lived reality. They were members of the first generation in history that was self-consciously self-made—men who understood that the arc of lives, as of nations, is one of moral progress.
Gordon S. Wood is the Alva O. Way University Professor and professor of history at Brown University. He is the author of, among others, The Radicalism of the American Revolution, which won the Pulitzer Prize and the Emerson Prize. Wood contributes regularly to the New Republic and the New York Review of Books.