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The Intimate Lives of the Founding Fathers

Average Rating 3.5
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  • Posted December 29, 2009

    Fascinating revisit to U.S. history

    Absorbing. A very different look at the founding fathers. A great read as each biography is substantial and stands independently.
    Humanizes the subjects. Perhaps the most interesting chapter relates
    how Jefferson has been re-invented by numerous biographers in the
    183 years since his death; it makes one think of Harry Truman whose
    poll standings made it impossible for him to run for re-election in
    1952, but is now considered a "near great" president. "History"
    is not an absolute, but is constantly changing. Well researched. Fleming is a past president of the Society of American Historians.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 5, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    The Inti­mate Lives of the Found­ing Fathers by Thomas Flem­ing

    The Inti­mate Lives of the Found­ing Fathers by Thomas Flem­ing is a his­tory book which tells about the lives of six famous men from the per­spec­tive of their rela­tion­ship with the women in their lives. I do love books which tells us more his­tory from the “trenches”, after all, there are very few big events which aren’t made of small, per­sonal moments.

    The Inti­mate Lives of the Found­ing Fathers by Thomas Flem­ing is what one might call “his­tory light”. While there was no new infor­ma­tion revealed in the book, it is a won­der­ful intro­duc­tion to more seri­ous works which deal with the Found­ing Fathers, their poli­cies and how the rela­tion­ships with other influ­enced their work (which still has ram­i­fi­ca­tions to this day) and their policies.

    Mr. Flem­ing does not view the Found­ing Fathers as untouch­able his­tor­i­cal fig­ures, but as men of flesh and blood who lived, loved, laughed, hurt and got­ten hurt. The author’s research is excel­lent and his writ­ing style is enjoyable.

    Those who only learned about these six giants of Amer­i­can pol­i­tics in school are bound to get a bit of shock. George Wash­ing­ton had a crush on this neighbor’s wife, Alexan­der Hamil­ton com­mit­ted flat out adul­tery, Ben­jamin Franklin had a child out of wed­lock and left his wife to frolic in Paris.

    While the men of this book are in the title, the real stars are the women, espe­cially Abi­gail Adams and Dol­ley Madi­son. These two for­mi­da­ble women seemed to have an equal mar­i­tal rela­tion­ship in today’s stan­dards. Both James Madi­son and John Adams relied on their wives for strength and advice. The let­ter exchange between John and Abi­gail Adams shows a remark­able woman who could hold her own in deep philo­soph­i­cal and polit­i­cal dis­cus­sion with her hus­band and a match to his wit which is only recently began to be appre­ci­ated. Mr. Flem­ing calls those two first ladies “Pres­i­den­tresses”, a term which some might use (mostly not in a com­pli­men­tary fash­ion) to other first ladies who seemed to call the shots behind the scenes (Edith Wil­son, Eleanor Roo­sevelt and more recently Hillary Clinton).

    A whole sec­tion is ded­i­cated to the tire­some sub­ject of Thomas Jefferson’s rela­tion­sh­iop with his slave Sally Hem­ings. The author seems to think that the affair never hap­pened, he might be right as he bring forth very con­vinc­ing, well researched rea­sons as to why (regard­less of the recent plethora of soap-opera type TV hype). How­ever, I find myself amused by argu­ment for either side in this affair. First, I sim­ply don’t care about an affair which a hap­pened 250 years ago, sec­ond I’m more inter­ested in what the affair might or might not mean in the grand scheme of things.

    The Inti­mate Lives of the Found­ing Fathers is a fas­ci­nat­ing glimpse into the pri­vate lives of these famous Amer­i­cans. The per­sonal tid­bits are, for me, what makes his­tory come alive from the past.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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