Founders: The People Who Brought You a Nation

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Historian Ray Raphael has chosen seven representative characters—some famous, some unknown—to anchor a sweeping new history of the entire Founding Era, from the beginnings of unrest in 1761 through the passage of the Bill of Rights thirty years later. Readers experience the Revolutionary War by following the lives of both George Washington and a private soldier in his army. America’s richest merchant, who rescued the nation from bankruptcy, goes head-to-head with a peripatetic revolutionary who incited rebellion in seven states. Rounding out the company is a richly nuanced cast of other characters, including Mercy Otis Warren, the most politically engaged woman of the times; a common village blacksmith; and a conservative slave owner, together with his abolitionist son. The culmination of Raphael’s extensive research into the history and meaning of our nation’s origins, Founders returns us to the dynamic roots of American patriotism.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

In this brisk narrative survey, Raphael offers a history of the events between the outbreak of colonial protest in the 1760s and the ratification of the Constitution in 1788. He does so through the lives of seven people, some, like George Washington, justly celebrated, others obscure. All seven and many others come alive in their acts and words, their stories serving as the spine of the book. No one will come away without a better idea of how social class, ideas, careers, ambitions and plain luck interwove themselves into the revolution carried on by an entire people. Raphael also weaves his tale around such staple themes of American history as the growth of popular sovereignty and westward expansion. From the author of A People's History of the American Revolution, none of this is surprising, nor is the skill of his pen. The book adds nothing to what's already known, but it will delight readers and no doubt add to their knowledge through a tale rarely told so well. 27 b&w illus. (May)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

Raphael (A People's History of the American Revolution; Founding Myths) again attempts to give credit to patriots whose contributions to the nation's founding are not celebrated or even widely known. Stars of this entertaining yet informative account include military bankroller Robert Morris, conservative politician and reluctant rebel Henry Laurens, blacksmith-turned-insurgent Timothy Bigelow, young and eager soldier Joseph Plumb Martin, rabble-rousing country doctor Thomas Young, and Puritan poet-turned-political commentator and historian Mercy Otis Warren. The final key player in this narrative is George Washington, and Raphael manages to put a fresh spin on his overly familiar story. The author relies heavily on primary sources, especially diaries, letters, and Martin's and Warren's published works, to craft a highly readable work of popular history that is sure to be a hit among readers who prefer to look at history from a bottom-up perspective. A worthy complement to Raphael's previous works, this is recommended for American history collections in all public libraries.
—Douglas King

Kirkus Reviews
Popular historian Raphael (Founding Myths, 2004, etc.) expands the traditional cast of America's founders and examines "the collective work of the Revolutionary Generation.""Great men get great praise; little men, nothing." So said Continental Army veteran Joseph Plumb Martin, one of the "little men" Raphael highlights in this highly readable history about the messy work of revolution and nation-building. The author reminds us that this was not merely the business of a few talented geniuses, but rather a collective enterprise that also engaged such people as Dr. Thomas Young, the political firebrand who gave Vermont its name, and Timothy Bigelow, a Worcester blacksmith whose armed resistance to the British preceded Lexington and Concord. The narrative features three other primary characters: Robert Morris, the financier whose personal credit sustained the Army; Henry Laurens, the South Carolina aristocrat and reluctant revolutionary; and Mercy Warren, Plymouth's poet and historian, who looked on disapprovingly as her countrymen betrayed the Revolution's ideals. Raphael orders their stories around well-known career markers of the founder, George Washington. As the author charts Washington's familiar progress, he checks in periodically with each of his six principals, updating us on their activities, their contributions to and sacrifices for their country, which included imprisonment, destitution and death. Even as he credits them, though, Raphael doesn't shy away from noting their vanity, contradictions and self-promotion. Cameos by "second-tier" founders-including James Otis, Ethan Allen, John Laurens (Henry's son), Thomas Paine and George Mason-and numerous others add color and contextto a narrative that covers more than 30 years and touches each section of the colonies. Mercifully free of any political agenda-there's no attempt to diminish the likes of Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Hamilton or Franklin-Raphael's scholarship and scrupulously fair treatment deepens our understanding and appreciation, of what our ancestors wrought. Splendid storytelling that effectively captures and humanizes the tumult of the Revolutionary Era.
From the Publisher

"Splendid storytelling that effectively captures and humanizes the tumult of the Revolutionary Era."
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781595584175
  • Publisher: New Press, The
  • Publication date: 8/31/2010
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 608
  • Sales rank: 1,436,576
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Ray Raphael has taught at a one-room public high school, Humboldt State University, and College of the Redwoods. His twelve books include Founding Myths, A People’s History of the American Revolution, and The First American Revolution.
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Table of Contents

List of Images vii

Introduction ix

Act I Resistance 1

1 Facing East and West 3

2 Liberty and Property-and No Stamps! 32

3 A Perfect Sense of Their Rights 51

4 A Violent Turn 76

5 Politics and Tea 102

Act II Revolution 125

6 The First American Revolution 127

7 Going Continental 154

8 Blows Must Decide 168

9 Rage Militaire 187

10 Liberty for All? 216

11 Independence 234

Act III War 261

12 Battle Lines 263

13 Home Rule-First Drafts 292

14 In Victory and Defeat 311

15 Falling Apart 336

16 Endgame 369

Act IV Nation 397

17 Settling Up 399

18 Desires and Discontents 419

19 New Rules 444

20 Lives and Legacies 493

Notes and Sources 519

Image Credits 573

Index 577

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