Noblest Minds / Edition 1

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Ever since Douglass Adair convincingly demonstrated that a love of fame was central to the American founding, political scientists and historians have started to view the founders and their acts in a new light. In The Noblest Minds, ten distinguished scholars examine this passion for fame and honor and demonstrate for the first time its significance in the development of American democracy. The first two-thirds of the book is devoted to essays on individual founders, as the contributors consider the role of fame in the lives and political characters of Washington, Franklin, Madison, Jefferson, Hamilton, Adams, and Marshall. The remaining chapters analyze the founders' theoretical accomplishment in reviving political science, and explore the problem of honor in the modern world. Political scientists and American historians alike will find this book to be valuable and illuminating. What made the founding generation of American statesmen so outstanding? To answer this question, The Noblest Minds brings together a distinguished group of historians and political scientists to evaluate a neglected but compelling theory advanced nearly four decades ago by Douglass Adair. Adair argued that it was the 'love of fame' that moved many of the leading lights of the founding generation. Adair's thesis is the starting point for a series of searching essays on the role of fame in the lives of Adams, Franklin, Hamilton, Jefferson, Madison, Marshall, and Washington. These profiles also provide wide-ranging historical and philosophical reflections on the question of fame. What emerges from these essays is a more complex picture of the founding generation than that presented by Adair. While acknowledging the role of the love of fame, The Noblest Minds argues for the influence of other concerns such as honor, virtue, and the cause of liberty. This more complex picture of the founding generation provides a unique and rewarding vantage point from which to consider the question of 'character' in politics, which looms so large in contemporary political debate. It illuminates the differences between true fame and mere celebrity in such a way as to point to considerations that transcend both. Political scientists and American historians alike will find this book to be valuable and illuminating.

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Editorial Reviews

Harvey Flaumenhaft
This work is an important contribution to its field. . . . Contributes mightily to a rethinking of the foundations of politics. Students of politics have fully attended to fear and greed as low motives in human life; this work points the way toward a more adequate treatment of the specifically political motive of lofty ambition.
American Political Science Review
This collection would serve as excellent outside reading for courses in American political theory or for those that focus on the founding period.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780847686827
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
  • Publication date: 5/28/1999
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 248
  • Product dimensions: 0.56 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 6.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Peter McNamara is associate professor of political science at Utah State University, is the author of Political Economy and Statesmanship: Adam Smith and Alexander Hamilton on the Foundation of the Commercial Republic, as well as numerous articles.

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Table of Contents

Chapter 1 Fame, Founders, and the Idea of Founding in the Eighteenth Century Chapter 2 Ben Franklin, Hero Chapter 3 George Washington and the Life of Honor Chapter 4 John Adams and the Quest for Fame Chapter 5 "The Holy Cause of Freedom": The Libertarian Legacy of Thomas Jefferson Chapter 6 James Madison: Memory, Service, and Fame Chapter 7 Alexander Hamilton, the Love of Fame, and Modern Democratic Statesmanship Chapter 8 John Marshall and the "False Glare" of Fame Chapter 9 Fame and The Federalist Chapter 10 The Classical and Modern Liberal Understandings of Honor Chapter 11 Bibliography Chapter 12 Index Chapter 13 About the Contributors

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