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Thomas Jefferson designed his own tombstone, describing himself simply as "Author of the Declaration of Independence and of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, and Father of the University of Virginia." It is in this simple epitaph that R.B. Bernstein finds the key to this enigmatic Founder--not as a great political figure, but as leader of "a revolution of ideas that would make the world over again." In Thomas Jefferson, Bernstein offers the definitive short biography of this revered American--the first concise life in six decades. Bernstein deftly synthesizes the massive scholarship on his subject into a swift, insightful, evenhanded account. Here are all of Jefferson's triumphs, contradictions, and failings, from his luxurious (and debt-burdened) life as a Virginia gentleman to his passionate belief in democracy, from his tortured defense of slavery to his relationship with Sally Hemings. Jefferson was indeed multifaceted--an architect, inventor, writer, diplomat, propagandist, planter, party leader--and Bernstein explores all these roles even as he illuminates Jefferson's central place in the American enlightenment, that "revolution of ideas" that did so much to create the nation we know today. Together with the less well-remembered points in Jefferson's thinking--the nature of the Union, his vision of who was entitled to citizenship, his dread of debt (both personal and national)--they form the heart of this lively biography. In this marvel of compression and comprehension, we see Jefferson more clearly than in the massive studies of earlier generations. More important, we see, in Jefferson's visionary ideas, the birth of the nation's grand sense of purpose.
The Founding Fathers is a concise, accessible overview of the brilliant, flawed, and quarrelsome group of lawyers, politicians, merchants, military men, and clergy known as "the Founding Fathers"--who got as close to the ideal of the Platonic "philosopher-kings" as American or world history has ever seen. R. B. Bernstein reveals Washington, Franklin, Jefferson, Adams, Hamilton, and the other founders not as shining demigods but as imperfect human beings--people much like us--who nevertheless achieved political greatness. They emerge here as men who sought to transcend their intellectual world even as they were bound by its limits, men who strove to lead the new nation even as they had to defer to the great body of the people and learn with them the possibilities and limitations of politics. Bernstein deftly traces the dynamic forces that molded these men and their contemporaries as British colonists in North America and as intellectual citizens of the Atlantic civilization's Age of Enlightenment. He analyzes the American Revolution, the framing and adoption of state and federal constitutions, and the key concepts and problems that both shaped and circumscribed the founders' achievements as the United States sought its place in the world. Finally, he charts the shifting reputations of the founders and examines the specific ways that interpreters of the Constitution have used the Founding Fathers. A masterly blend of old and new scholarship, brimming with apt description and insightful analysis, this book offers a digestible account of how the Founding Fathers were formed, what they did, and how generations of Americans have viewed them. ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.
The Founding Fathers is a concise, accessible overview of the brilliant, flawed, and quarrelsome group of lawyers, politicians, merchants, military men, and clergy known as "the Founding Fathers"--who got as close to the ideal of the Platonic "philosopher-kings" as American or world history has ever seen. R. B. Bernstein reveals Washington, Franklin, Jefferson, Adams, Hamilton, and the other founders not as shining demigods but as imperfect human beings--people much like us--who nevertheless achieved political greatness. They emerge here as men who sought to transcend their intellectual world even as they were bound by its limits, men who strove to lead the new nation even as they had to defer to the great body of the people and learn with them the possibilities and limitations of politics. Bernstein deftly traces the dynamic forces that molded these men and their contemporaries as British colonists in North America and as intellectual citizens of the Atlantic civilization's Age of Enlightenment. He analyzes the American Revolution, the framing and adoption of state and federal constitutions, and the key concepts and problems that both shaped and circumscribed the founders' achievements as the United States sought its place in the world. Finally, he charts the shifting reputations of the founders and examines the specific ways that interpreters of the Constitution have used the Founding Fathers. A masterly blend of old and new scholarship, brimming with apt description and insightful analysis, this book offers a digestible account of how the Founding Fathers were formed, what they did, and how generations of Americans have viewed them. ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.
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