The Founding Fathers Reconsidered

( 8 )

Overview

"This concise study reintroduces us to the history that shaped the founding fathers, the history that they made, and what history has made of them. It gives the reader a context within which to explore the world of the founding fathers and their complex and still-controversial achievements and legacies"--Provided by publisher.
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The Founding Fathers Reconsidered

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Overview

"This concise study reintroduces us to the history that shaped the founding fathers, the history that they made, and what history has made of them. It gives the reader a context within which to explore the world of the founding fathers and their complex and still-controversial achievements and legacies"--Provided by publisher.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

Prolific historian Bernstein (adjunct, New York Law Sch.) follows up the brief biography Thomas Jefferson with another accessible work of popular history on a weighty topic. In intertwined biographical sketches that synthesize the scholarship of others from a bevy of primary and secondary sources, he succinctly summarizes the accomplishments of iconic early American statesmen and politicians. More interestingly, he also examines the conflicting and wavering legacies of these Revolutionary leaders and crafters of the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Bernstein stresses that the founders were noble but imperfect men, not flawless demigods, and his repeated references to the distinction of his approach in this regard can get tiring. Still, it's to his credit that he does not shy away from commenting on what he perceives as a lack of foresight and courage by the founders when crafting laws for the fledgling republic, most notably on the issue of slavery. The endnotes and bibliography are generously annotated, increasing this book's value as a useful starting point for further, more scholarly research. Recommended for general readers seeking an introduction to the legacies, political careers, and disparate roles of these men in the creation and early leadership of a new nation.
—Douglas King

From the Publisher
"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

"The Founding Fathers Reconsidered brims with insights and revelations, and the jargon-free prose is a genuine pleasure to read." —Journal of American History

"Prolific historian Bernstein (adjunct, New York Law Sch.) follows up the brief biography Thomas Jefferson with another accessible work of popular history on a weighty topic... Recommended for general readers seeking an introduction to the legacies, political careers, and disparate roles of these men in the creation and early leadership of a new nation."—Library Journal

"A logical and easily read examination of the history that made the Founders, the history they made, and what history has made of their handiwork."—Kansas Free Press

"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

"Bernstein's erudite and marvelously accessible take on the Founding Fathers is a gem. With masterful economy, wit, insight, and expertise, he makes a familiar story come newly alive in his portraits of the men who made the American Revolution and the early republic. This book should be on the shelf of anyone interested in America's founding era."—Annette Gordon-Reed, author of The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family and Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy

"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

"Bernstein offers his readers an engaging and erudite account of the men who carried the colonies down the path to Revolution and then took up the task of creating a new nation. In the process, he provides a history of how the founding fathers came to be both idealized and debunked and the role historians and historical events of the 19th and 20th centuries played in shaping the reputations of men like Washington, Jefferson, and Hamilton. This is a book with something important to say both to those new to the story of the nation's founding philosophy and those who have long been students of American politics and culture."—Carol Berkin, Presidential Professor of History, Baruch College & The Graduate Center, CUNY, and author of A Brilliant Solution: Inventing the American Constitution

"A masterly volume brimming with apt description and insightful analysis, The Founding Fathers Reconsidered respectfully brings America's most cherished heroes firmly down to earth."—History Book Club

"This is a sparkling book. The endnotes alonethe product of decades of serious study and thoughtful reflectionare 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

"Clearly written and with general readers in mind, Bernstein's account synthisizes much recent scholarship as he traces the history of the term 'Founding Fathers,' offers definitions of what it has meant over the years, and discusses those it has includeed and even those it ought to include...Recommended." —CHOICE Reviews

"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

"R.B. Bernstein provides a succinct and fair-minded overview of the controversies.... Bernstein's excellent overview will prove a helpful and impressive guide for the interested general reader."—Journal of Southern History

"A lucidly written and capably argued accomplishment...likely to satisfy the curiosity of readers looking for a brief and lively review of the Revolutionary Pantheon." — The Journal of Law and History Review

"Bernstein is a winning writer with style to burn." —The Historian

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199832576
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 9/1/2011
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 1,417,707
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

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.

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Table of Contents

Introduction

I. The History that Made the Founding Fathers
The State of the Union
Free-Born English Subjects
The Intellectual World

II. The History that the Founding Fathers Made
Independence
Constitution-Making
Federalism
Politics
Church and State
Equality, Inequality, and Slavery
America in the World

Part III. What History Made of the Founding Fathers
Ancestor Worship?
"Which Founding Father Are You?"
The Dead Hand of the Past: Original Intent

Conclusion
Notes
Chronology
Further Reading

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 8 )
Rating Distribution

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(3)

4 Star

(2)

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Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 16, 2009

    No discovery here

    The book attempts to cash in on the growing interest of Americana and falls short. At over 250 pages there is nothing insightful brought that is to light. One third of the book is acknowledgements and notes to other sources. This section is the most interesting part of the entire book.

    It is a rehash of the same old information although the title that implies more than it can deliver. Mr. Bernstein, who calls himself a constitutional historian and has made a career as an Adjunct Professor since 1991, needs focus in the substance of his work rather than an offering a misleading title that does not deliver. This book is a pass.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 20, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Disappointing; Nothing New

    The title implies some new or unique interpretation of the founding fathers and their legacy. This it really was not. The author adopted a typical approach and pitted two extreme schools of interpreting the founders -- godlike reverence against complete disgust/dismissal -- and proposed a middle way between them at the beginning. As the book progressed, Mr. Bernstein essentially summarized the way Americans have understood and received the founders throughout our history. This was fine as far as it went, but the book mostly failed to add anything new or unique to the historical conversation regarding that class of distinguished personages.

    His discussion towards the end of the book on the debate over original intent as a mode of jurisprudence was especially unsatisfying. He accurately conveyed the criticism of that school but neglected to examine or explain the response to that criticism, especially the fact that many of those who support "original intent" do not actually support it -- they support a school of "original meaning." To those who describe themselves as such -- the most prominent of which is Justice Antonin Scalia -- this distinction constitutes a significant difference.

    The one interesting segment was toward the beginning, where Mr. Bernstein went into an interesting and illuminating discussion of the history of early American constitutionalism. For those interested in the roots of our Constitution, which has stood the test of time, this portion is a worthy read.

    For those unfamiliar with the historical reaction to the founding fathers this book would be a solid, brief summary of that subject. For those already familiar with the topic and looking for some unique or new way of understanding the founders this book could be bypassed.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 24, 2012

    As someone who has not done a lot reading of American history I

    As someone who has not done a lot reading of American history I found this to be and interesting look at how the constitution was regarded as it was written, ratified, used and interpreted. It does add some dimension to the founding fathers personalities, but it's focus was really on those that wrote the constitution and mostly the constitution itself.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 21, 2012

    Highly Recommended

    This gave me a whole new perspective on the founding fathers. It was refreshing to see how diverse a group they were and how human. It also made me appreciate how hard it must have been for them to start this country and write the constitution. It makes me proud to be an American.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 2, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Little book good details reading.

    I've read about 50 pages and I find it interesting...sort of a launch pad for more Americana.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 29, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted March 24, 2012

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 25, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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