American Aurora: A Democratic-Republican Returns / Edition 1

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200 Years ago a Philadelphia newspaper claimed George Washington wasn't the "father of his country." It claimed John Adams really wanted to be king. Its editors were arrested by the federal government. One editor died awaiting trial.

The story of this newspaper is the story of America.

In this monumental story of two newspaper editors whom Presidents Washington and Adams sought to jail for sedition, American Aurora offers a new and heretical vision of this nation's beginnings, from the vantage point of those who fought in the American Revolution to create a democracy—and lost.

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Editorial Reviews

Esmond Wright
Richard Rosenfeld's story, which reads almost like fiction…is revisionist history, fresh from its thorough grounding in the sources, brilliantly conceived and written. It is a remarkable retelling of the early years of the United States….This is an original work of history and told by a master storyteller.
Los Angeles Times Book Review
Kirkus Reviews
Here is a view of America's postrevolutionary era so subversive it makes Gore Vidal look like a traditionalist: John Adams wants to be king, George Washington is a hypocrite, a standing army is a mercenary force. Yet it's not fiction—well, not totally. It is based on the Philadelphia Aurora, a newspaper founded by Benjamin Franklin's grandson, Benjamin Bache, and whose political barbs, according to independent historian Rosenfeld, led to the passing of the Sedition Act of 1798. Rosenfeld constructs a narrative in the voice of William Duane, Bache's successor, punctuated by excerpts from the Aurora itself, as well as other records of the time and the responses of those politicians targeted by the paper. The result is an odd agglomeration of texts and framing narrative, centering on the growing hostility between America and France in 1798. The bellicose Adams is castigated for an eerily familiar locution: "We are told we must go to war [with France] in order to prevent war." Despite its ungainliness, this volume leaves one wondering why we have no such spirited paper as the Aurora today.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312194376
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 9/15/1998
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 1012
  • Product dimensions: 6.32 (w) x 9.14 (h) x 2.21 (d)

Meet the Author

Richard Neil Rosenfeld, the son and grandson of printers, was born in Boston in 1941. He is an independent scholar who lives in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. He holds degrees from Yale, Columbia, and Boston Universities, is a Councillor at American Antiquarian Society, and is an Associate Fellow at Yale's Timothy Dwight College.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 30, 2002

    Civil Liberties-Who Holds The Reins

    Juxtaposition of narrative and actual headlines from late 1700's gives this well researched book more credence than writers of other works enjoy (redefining history from way up here--2002).

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 15, 2000

    One of the most powerful books I've ever read.

    I read this more than a year ago, and can't provide a meaty review, but I wanted to pass along that this is really one of the most powerful books I've ever read. Sure, its format is wierd (alternating actual clips from contemporary Philadelphia partisan newspapers with 'narration' by the editor of the Aurora, William Duane. (This narration is 'plausible fiction.') However, it works. Nobody (except professional historians) would bring themselves to read just the newspaper bits - which are truly fascinating. If you want to see what a truly partisan political atmosphere is like, and why we don't want to go there, read this book. If you want to see how political parties got started and why, read this book. If you wanted to read history from the viewpoint of 'the other side,' read this book. If you have a lot of free time on your hands, read this book. It is well worth it!

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