Age of Federalism; The Early American Republic, 1788-1800 / Edition 1

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Overview


When Thomas Jefferson took the oath of office for the presidency in 1801, America had just passed through twelve critical years, years dominated by some of the towering figures of our history and by the challenge of having to do everything for the first time. Washington, Hamilton, Madison, Adams, and Jefferson himself each had a share in shaping that remarkable era--an era that is brilliantly captured in The Age of Federalism.
Written by esteemed historians Stanley Elkins and Eric McKitrick, The Age of Federalism gives us a reflective, deeply informed analytical survey of this extraordinary period. Ranging over the widest variety of concerns--political, cultural, economic, diplomatic, and military--the authors provide a sweeping historical account, keeping always in view not only the problems the new nation faced but also the particular individuals who tried to solve them. As they move through the Federalist era, they draw subtly perceptive character sketches not only of the great figures--Washington and Jefferson, Talleyrand and Napoleon Bonaparte--but also of lesser ones, such as George Hammond, Britain's frustrated minister to the United States, James McHenry, Adams's hapless Secretary of War, the pre-Chief Justice version of John Marshall, and others. They weave these lively profiles into an analysis of the central controversies of the day, turning such intricate issues as the public debt into fascinating depictions of opposing political strategies and contending economic philosophies. Each dispute bears in some way on the broader story of the emerging nation. The authors show, for instance, the consequences the fight over Hamilton's financial system had for the locating of the nation's permanent capital, and how it widened an ideological gulf between Hamilton and the Virginians, Madison and Jefferson, that became unbridgeable. The statesmen of the founding generation, the authors believe, did "a surprising number of things right." But Elkins and McKitrick also describe some things that went resoundingly wrong: the hopelessly underfinanced effort to construct a capital city on the Potomac (New York, they argue, would have been a far more logical choice than Washington), and prosecutions under the Alien and Sedition Acts which turned into a comic nightmare. No detail is left out, or left uninteresting, as their account continues through the Adams presidency, the XYZ affair, the naval Quasi-War with France, and the desperate Federalist maneuvers in 1800, first to prevent the reelection of Adams and then to nullify the election of Jefferson.
The Age of Federalism is the fruit of many years of discussion and thought, in which deep scholarship is matched only by the lucid distinction of its prose. With it, Stanley Elkins and Eric McKitrick have produced the definitive study, long awaited by historians, of the early national era.

Covering a wide variety of concerns--political, cultural, economic, diplomatic, and military--the authors provide a sweeping historical account of America's first years, weaving biographical insights with keen analysis and reflection. A definitive, long-awaited study of the early national era. Illustrations.

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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
Noted historians Elkins (emeritus, Smith College) and McKitrick (emeritus, Columbia U.) provide an analytical survey of the first 12 years of the US under the Constitution (1788-1800) that captures the personalities and issues of the young nation with clarity, authority, and feeling. Both scholarly and accessible, and likely to become a classic. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195093810
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 2/28/1995
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 944
  • Product dimensions: 9.31 (w) x 6.25 (h) x 1.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Stanley Elkins is the author of Slavery: A Problem in American Institutional and Intellectual Life, and is Professor of History at Smith College. Eric McKitrick is the author of Andrew Johnson and Reconstruction, and is Professor of History Emeritus at Columbia University.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Modes of Thought and Feeling in the Founding Generation 3
Ch. I Legitimacy 31
Ch. II Finance and Ideology 77
Ch. III The Divided Mind of James Madison, 1790: Nationalist Versus Ideologue 133
Ch. IV The Republic's Capital City 163
Ch. V Jefferson and the Yeoman Republic 195
Ch. VI Jefferson as Secretary of State 209
Ch. VII The Emergence of Partisan Politics: The "Republican Interest" 257
Ch. VIII The French Revolution in America 303
Ch. IX America and Great Britain 375
Ch. X The Populist Impulse 451
Ch. XI The Retirement of Washington 489
Ch. XII John Adams and the Dogma of "Balance " 529
Ch. XIII Adams and Hamilton 581
Ch. XIV The Settlement 643
Ch. XV The Mentality of Federalism in 1800 691
Notes 755
Index 911
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 3 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 14, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    I thought this was the definitive study of the Federalist era. W

    I thought this was the definitive study of the Federalist era. What I likeded about this book is the authors viewpoint of Thomas Jefferson. If i remember right their opinion of Jefferson is not very high. If efforts to discredit Washington Jefferson, while Secretary of State upported French Ambassadors who wanted to drag the new republic into a war with Great Britain. All this was going on while he was Washington's Secretary of State. He became allmost paranoid that the Federalist were conspiring to destory the new Government and create a monarchy. This fear was enhanced when Americans became so caught up in the French Revolution. Americans were bitterly divided over this issue. Eventually Jefferson became the leader of the first opposition party. It was a very troubled era. for the new country. The authors certainly did the research and it was very well writtien. I thought this was a very exceptional work and gave it a five star rating.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 13, 2009

    Age of Federalism loses college reader

    Stanley Elkins and Eick McKitrick's "Age of Federalism" is certainly a well-researched, well-conceived narration of the events, motivations, and conflicts which created our American Republic. The book, however, fails to grab the average reader with any sort of engaging writing. While rich in detail and accurate and abounding in fact, the book is written very densely and plainly, lacking a prosaic style which could captivate or inform a reader for 700 pages.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 19, 2005

    An amazing book

    I'm only through the first 127 pages but I am hooked. This book goes into extensive detail about how the US Federal Government came into existance. It delves into thinking behind major decisions such as how the Cabinet was formed, how Congress and the Executive Branch were to interact with each other, how the Federal Govt assumed the entire debt of each state...and on and on...Absolutely fascinating reading.

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