Who Were the Founding Fathers?: Two Hundred Years of Reinventing American History

Overview

The history of our revolution will be one continued lye from one end to the other. The essence of the whole will be that Dr. Franklin's electrical rod, smote the Earth and out sprung General Washington. —John Adams to Benjamin Rush, April 4, 1790

From the beginning of the American Revolution to the very latest talk show and court case, Americans have argued over the Founding Fathers. Not only have we questioned the motives, meaning, and purpose of their actions, we have fought ...

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Overview

The history of our revolution will be one continued lye from one end to the other. The essence of the whole will be that Dr. Franklin's electrical rod, smote the Earth and out sprung General Washington. —John Adams to Benjamin Rush, April 4, 1790

From the beginning of the American Revolution to the very latest talk show and court case, Americans have argued over the Founding Fathers. Not only have we questioned the motives, meaning, and purpose of their actions, we have fought over who they actually were: only signers of the Declaration? soldiers on the front? women in the homes? slaves in the fields?

Who were the Founding Fathers?

America was founded relatively recently, and by people whose lives we can trace. Deciding what we think of the Founders also means determining what we stand for as a country. As labor unions and company lawyers, Confederates and Abolitionists, American Nazis and American Communists, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X have sought to speak for America, they too have defined and redefined the Founders.

In this lively, photo-filled look at the one question that has always been at the center of American life, author Steven Jaffe shows that the debate over the Founders is not so much about their time as it is the neverending search for the soul of our nation.

Steven H. Jaffe received his Ph.D. in American history from Harvard University, where he taught for eight years. Now senior historian at the South Street Seaport Museum, he lives with his wife and son in Brooklyn, New York.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Steven Jaffe casts a beam of sunlight on what is commonly misunderstood-that history is a dynamic, ever-changing reenvisioning of the past, teachers and students ought to love this book." —Gary Nash, Ph.D., Director, National Center for History in the schools and Co-chair, National History Standards Project

"What a great read! Jaffe takes on 200 years of revisionists in his meticulously researched, carefully written examination of our founding fathers." —Booklist, starred review

VOYA - Lola H. Teubert
Using opposing viewpoints through each era, movement, and age, the author traces the concepts of the Founding Fathers through history. The debate over the interpretation of the concepts could very well change as Americans persist in understanding the past. Written not as a biographical history of the lives of the Founding Fathers, the book demonstrates how the philosophies of an era have rendered different interpretations of those lives and events. Political disagreements over the past two hundred years have shaped Americans' views of the past. Just a few years after George Washington was celebrated as a second Moses, he was severely criticized in Democratic-Republican newspapers as a villain. After his death in 1799, most accusations against George Washington were forgotten. While President Franklin D. Roosevelt admired Thomas Jefferson as the apostle of opportunity and equality for the common man and woman, opposing Republicans and conservative Democrats proclaimed Jefferson as defender of individual liberties and the right to be wealthy, against the encroachment of big government and labor. Writers also help shape opinions of our country's founders. Poet William Carlos Williams, like D. H. Lawrence, expressed discontent with modern American life by blaming the Founding Fathers for creating a soulless society devoted to money-making. In 1913 in his book An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution, historian Charles A. Beard began a trend of "debunking" or arguing that selfish motives lurked behind the Founding Fathers and supposedly public-spirited leaders. In his novel Burr (Random House, 1973), published at the height of Watergate, Gore Vidal also "debunked" the illustrious Founders, making a hero out of the "black sheep" Aaron Burr, who dueled with and killed Alexander Hamilton. Jaffe's format and writing make the wealth of information available to good middle school readers, junior high and high school students. It may be a bit difficult at times due to the jumping back and forth in history; however, there is a good index. This well-researched book is an invaluable reference tool as a chronological sketch of American history, which also demonstrates how there is no single version of the lives of the men who founded a new nation, dedicated in principle to equality, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. If possible, purchase a circulating copy also. Index. Photos. Biblio. Source Notes VOYA Codes: 5Q 4P M J S (Hard to imagine it being any better written, Broad general YA appeal, Middle School-defined as grades 6 to 8, Junior High-defined as grades 7 to 9 and Senior High-defined as grades 10 to 12).
School Library Journal
Gr 6 Up-In this unique and provocative historical treatment, Jaffe examines various ways of looking at Washington, Jefferson, and Adams, etc., and shows how opinions of these individuals shape the way we Americans see ourselves as a nation. This walk through U.S. history considers numerous questions and principles at every stop, showing students how, in every era, leaders have reinterpreted what the founders did and who they were in order to suit their own purposes and advance their own agendas. As an introduction to how history really functions, this book works very well. Some background knowledge of chronological events is helpful but nonessential. The text clips along at a lively pace, accompanied by interesting, seldom-seen archival cartoons and reproductions that illustrate the points. A fine way to encourage critical thinking and get young people to examine the societal values that we all take so much for granted.-Connie Parker, Cuyahoga County Public Library, Cleveland, OH
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780805031027
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
  • Publication date: 10/28/1996
  • Edition description: REV
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 160
  • Age range: 12 - 15 Years
  • Product dimensions: 7.52 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 0.96 (d)

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