The Founding Fathers reconsidered

Richard B. Bernstein, 1956-

Book - 2009

"This concise study reintroduces us to the history that shaped the founding fathers, the history that they made, and what history has made of them. It gives the reader a context within which to explore the world of the founding fathers and their complex and still-controversial achievements and legacies"--Provided by publisher.

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Oxford ; New York, NY : Oxford University Press 2009.
Main Author
Richard B. Bernstein, 1956- (-)
Physical Description
xviii, 238 p., [8] p. of plates : ill., map ; 22 cm
Includes bibliographical references (p. [187]-227) and index.
  • Preface
  • Chronology
  • Chapter 1. Words, Images, Meanings
  • Chapter 2. Contexts: The History That Made the Founding Fathers
  • Chapter 3. Achievements and Challenges: The History the Founding Fathers Made
  • Chapter 4. Legacies: What History Has Made of the Founding Fathers
  • Epilogue: The Founding Fathers, History, and Us
  • Appendix: The Founding Fathers: A Partial List
  • Acknowledgments
  • Notes
  • Further Reading
  • Index
Review by Choice Review

Legal and constitutional historian Bernstein (NYU) aims to "take the Founding Fathers down from their pedestals without knocking them down." Clearly written and with general readers in mind, Bernstein's account synthesizes much recent scholarship as he traces the history of the term "Founding Fathers," offers definitions of what it has meant over the years, and discusses those it has included and even those it ought to include. Expanding on Richard B. Morris's Seven Who Shaped Our Destiny (CH, Mar'74)--John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and George Washington--Bernstein's Founding Fathers inherited much from their British constitutional background at the same time that they struck out in new political directions. For Bernstein, the "Founding Fathers engaged in a creative argument between past and present about the future." The volume gives attention to historiographical issues, and a key chapter traces important historiographical trends, including the enduring impact of Charles A. Beard's work. An appendix offers a "partial list" of the Founding Fathers in three categories: those who signed the Declaration of Independence, the framers of the US Constitution, and "other" Founding Fathers (and Mothers). Summing Up: Recommended. All levels/libraries. M. G. Spencer Brock University

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Library Journal Review

Prolific historian Bernstein (adjunct, New York Law Sch.) follows up the brief biography Thomas Jefferson with another accessible work of popular history on a weighty topic. In intertwined biographical sketches that synthesize the scholarship of others from a bevy of primary and secondary sources, he succinctly summarizes the accomplishments of iconic early American statesmen and politicians. More interestingly, he also examines the conflicting and wavering legacies of these Revolutionary leaders and crafters of the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Bernstein stresses that the founders were noble but imperfect men, not flawless demigods, and his repeated references to the distinction of his approach in this regard can get tiring. Still, it's to his credit that he does not shy away from commenting on what he perceives as a lack of foresight and courage by the founders when crafting laws for the fledgling republic, most notably on the issue of slavery. The endnotes and bibliography are generously annotated, increasing this book's value as a useful starting point for further, more scholarly research. Recommended for general readers seeking an introduction to the legacies, political careers, and disparate roles of these men in the creation and early leadership of a new nation.-Douglas King, Univ. of South Carolina Lib., Columbia (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.