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|Ch. 1||Alexander Hamilton : the enlightenment fulfilled|
|Ch. 2||John Adams : the enlightenment transcended|
|Ch. 3||Thomas Jefferson : romantic America|
Posted May 27, 2013
If you believe that people reveal themselves by the way they deliberate about practical matters, as Aristotle said, then you might find this book on Hamilton, Adams and Jefferson the most revealing biography of them available. The author does not abstract their thinking out of the context of problems they had to deal with and the rival opinions they had to contend with, as some political theorists do. Nor does he reduce their thinking to a reflection of the environment in which they thought and acted, as some historians do. He interprets the thinking and character and public deeds of these three statesmen against the background of a richly well-informed, insightful and precise conception of the Enlightenment. He shows how each revised his earliest Enlightenment beliefs----for example, unqualifiedly republican (Hamilton), optimistic on the benefits of diffused learning (Adams), hopeful but in the end unsuccessful in proposing reforms in the spirit of the moderate Enlightenment (Jefferson). Where each ended up after fundamentally revising his original beliefs, without ever joining the Counter-Enlightenment, cannot be summarized in familiar terms. To understand them, we would first have to learn where they started and what they went through in re-thinking their originial convictions. Doing that is, to my mind, the greatest merit of this book. The descriptions of it on this site from Publishers Weekly and The Library Journal are imprecise and misleading in treating it as a conventional history-book. They do not identify, I believe, what is distinctive about it---that it provides three finely insightful (but still arguable) analyses of how serious thought (and re-thinking) combined with character guided the statesmanship of Hamilton, Adams and Jefferson as founders of the United States.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 14, 2012
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