The Founding Fathers Reconsidered

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  • Edition: Revised
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2011-09-01
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press

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The Founding Fathers Reconsideredis 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. 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. "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 "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 "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 "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 "This is a sparkling book. The endnotes alonenullthe product of decades of serious study and thoughtful reflectionnullare 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

Author Biography

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

Table of Contents

Prefacep. ix
Chronologyp. xiii
Words, Images, Meaningsp. 3
Contexts: The History That Made the Founding Fathersp. 12
Achievements and Challenges: The History the Founding Fathers Madep. 39
Legacies: What History Has Made of the Founding Fathersp. 115
The Founding Fathers, History, and Usp. 168
The Founding Fathers: A Partial Listp. 177
Acknowledgmentsp. 181
Notesp. 187
Further Readingp. 221
Indexp. 228
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

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