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by Andrew S. Trees

The American Revolution swept away old certainties and forced revolutionaries to consider what it meant to be American. Andrew Trees examines four attempts to answer the question of national identity that Americans faced in the wake of the Revolution. Through the writings of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison, Trees explores a complicated political world in which boundaries between the personal and the political were fluid and ill-defined. Melding history and literary study, he shows how this unsettled landscape challenged and sometimes confounded the founders' attempts to forge their own--and the nation's--identity.

Trees traces the intimately linked shaping of self and country by four men distrustful of politics and yet operating in an increasingly democratic world. Jefferson sought to recast the political along the lines of friendship, while Hamilton hoped that honor would provide a secure foundation for self and country. Adams struggled to create a nation virtuous enough to sustain a republican government, and Madison worked to establish a government based on justice.

Giving a new context to the founders' mission, Trees studies their contributions not simply as policy prescriptions but in terms of a more elusive and symbolic level of action. His work illuminates the tangled relationship among rhetoric, politics, self, and nation--as well as the larger question of national identity that remains with us today.

Download The Founding Fathers and the Politics of Character epub
ISBN: 0691122369
ISBN13: 978-0691122366
Category: History
Subcategory: Americas
Author: Andrew S. Trees
Language: English
Publisher: Princeton University Press (January 9, 2005)
Pages: 232 pages
ePUB size: 1493 kb
FB2 size: 1356 kb
Rating: 4.9
Votes: 314
Other Formats: docx lrf rtf lrf

Some reviewers say that popular history is inevitably bad history. Dr. Trees shows that this need not be the case. The Founding Fathers and the Politics of Character combines thorough scholarship with a writing style that is accessible to the non-historian. While it would be better to have a more in-depth knowledge of the main subjects (Jefferson, Adams, Hamilton, Madison) going in than one would receive in a typical education, this is not absolutely essential. Trees does a wonderful job of getting us into the "heads" of the individuals described, showing us how their behavior flows from their mindsets (see also Freeman's Affairs of Honor, another personal favorite of mine that would serve as a excellent supplemental work). What is most interesting is how the individuals were often unable to live up to their stated aims and stances. In effect, they often flouted their own stated beliefs. Jefferson certainly engaged in a great deal of behavior that would be considered underhanded, if not treasonous, while professing his friendship. Hamilton engaged in some dishonorable behavior while promoting the concept of honor. Trees shows us these contradictions, while avoiding sermonizing or name-calling. He lets the writings of the indivdual, and the documented history, show how the contradictions stood or were explained away. It was poignant to read how the individuals described did not change with the changing times, either unable or unwilling to do so. Dr. Trees has given us required reading for every founding era buff.
Andrew Trees assumes the reader has a fairly in-depth knowedge of the events and important people of the Revolutionary period, so it might be difficult for someone new to the subject to grasp the context of what he writes. Trees is a ponderous writer who has some difficulty bringing life to his topic. Essentially he seems to be an academic writing for other academic types. Despite the difficulty in poring through his writing style, his analysis is fascinating. He examines the very different prisms through which four of the most important men of the period viewed the establishment of our government. I found the section on Jefferson quite difficult to follow, but that might be because Jefferson himself was filled with contradictions. The sections on Hamilton, Adams and Madison were quite scholarly in their analysis of how each man's personal beliefs drove their lives and decisions. Trees has presented a succinct analysis of the personal belief systems of these four men, how their beliefs influenced them and subsequently how they influenced the direction our young Republic took in the 1790's.
Dr. Trees does an amazing job of providing insight into the true characters of our founding fathers, and humanizes the seemingly distant figures in a delightfully elegant fashion. This book is a true work of art! Bravo!
Provides an excellent portrait of the leading personality traits of Jefferson, Hamilton, Adams, Madison and Washington and puts much needed emphasis on the significant role that perception and self-perception of character and reputation played in the formative stages of U.S. History.
This book is, by far, the best comparative study of the founders that I have ever read. It is beautifully written and compelling.