October 31, 2014 / by admin / American History / No Comments

Revolutionary Characters: What Made the Founders Different

Revolutionary Characters: What Made the Founders Different

Gordon S. Wood

Language: English

Pages: 336

ISBN: 0143112082

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


In this brilliantly illuminating group portrait of the men who came to be known as the Founding Fathers, the incomparable Gordon Wood has written a book that seriously asks, "What made these men great?" and shows us, among many other things, just how much character did in fact matter. The life of each—Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Franklin, Hamilton, Madison, Paine—is presented individually as well as collectively, but the thread that binds these portraits together is the idea of character as a lived reality. They were members of the first generation in history that was self-consciously self-made men who understood that the arc of lives, as of nations, is one of moral progress.

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Admirable Sayings of This Great Man, Never Before Published by Any of His Biographers (Philadelphia, 1829), 23. CHAPTER 3: THE TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS OF THOMAS JEFFERSON This chapter is drawn from an essay with the same title in Peter S. Onuf, ed., Jeffersonian Legacies (Charlottesville, VA: University Press of Virginia, 1993), and is used with permission. 1. Lincoln to H. L. Pierce and others, April 6, 1859, in Roy P. Basler, ed., Abraham Lincoln: His Speeches and Writings (Cleveland: World

hero. He did not resemble Alexander, Caesar, Cromwell, or Marlborough; his military achievements were nothing compared with those Napoleon would soon have. Washington had no smashing, stunning victories. He was not a military genius, and his tactual and strategic maneuvers were not the sort that awed men. Military glory was not the source of his reputation. Something else was involved. What was it? Washington’s genius, Washington’s greatness, lay in his character. He was, as Chateaubriand said,

spy working for the British. Despite these difficulties, he succeeded admirably. He was the greatest diplomat America has ever had. Not only did he bring the monarchy of Louis XVI into the war on behalf of the new Republic, but during the course of that long war he extracted loan after loan from an increasingly impoverished French government. No other American could have done what he did. He brought to France an established reputation as a great scientist and philosopher, the native genius who

Lincoln declared on the eve of the Civil War. By setting forth the explosive idea that “all men are created equal,” said Lincoln, Jefferson had created “a rebuke and a stumbling block” to the appearance of all future tyranny and oppression. “The principles of Jefferson,” said Lincoln, “are the definitions and axioms of free society.”1 Almost from the beginning Jefferson has been a symbol, a touchstone, of what we as a people are supposed to be; he has become someone invented, manipulated, turned

important public figures. The number of political pamphlets multiplied at an ever-increasing rate, and in some urban areas in the years before the Revolution such writings were being used with particular effectiveness in election campaigning. Indeed, three-quarters of everything published in America between 1639 and 1800 occurred in the last thirty-five years of the eighteenth century.11 All these developments were bringing Americans to the edge of a vast transformation in the nature and size of

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