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Founding Feuds: The Rivalries, Clashes, and…

Founding Feuds: The Rivalries, Clashes, and Conflicts That Forged a Nation

by Paul Aron

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This year I have been trying to read more books about the POTUS. No particular reason, it's just something I've always felt I wanted to know more about, but never did any self-learning on the subject since it tends to be so dry.

Being honest, this is the kind of writing that turned me off of it for so many years. Even though the subject of the book itself should be really interesting (feuds amongst the founding fathers, comeon!), the writing is very dry and failed to keep me interested.

However, if you are someone who can read books with pages of quotes and mater-of-fact writing, then you will probably enjoy this one. It wasn't in a style I was able to enjoy, but there really are a lot of interesting stories here. And the book is pretty short so it's not like a textbook that drags on and on. The information is laid out in a succinct way, though that could be part of the problem.

Copy courtesy of Sourcebooks, via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. ( )
  GoldenDarter | Sep 15, 2016 |
One comes away from "Founding Feuds: The Rivalries, Clashes, and Conflicts That Forged a Nation," almost with the belief that our typically-sainted Founding Fathers were really nothing more than a bunch of cantankerous, ambitious self-aggrandizers who were easy to take offense and ever-ready to aim their acid tongues at their opponents, not caring even if their vitriol spilled over into character assassination.

Of course, if anyone has read David Mccullough's celebrated biography of John Adams or Ron Chernow's equally honored biography of Alexander Hamilton, he would know that both of them could be difficult men. But Thomas Paine? George Washington? Thomas Jefferson???

Indeed, of all portrayed in the book, Jefferson probably comes off looking the worst, if for no other reason that in the popular mind the author of the Declaration of Independence is thought to have himself been the living embodiment of all the ideals contained therein--fairness, equality, the elevation of the common man. No, it turns out, Jefferson was no saint. He was just a man--a man very good at passive-aggression, and sometimes not even very passive.

By the length and detail of the footnotes, "Founding Feuds" is a well-researched book. Its drawback is that it focuses on such a number of conflicts that arose among the leaders of our early republic that the author cannot give much more of snapshot of any one of them. Certainly, he cannot fill in all the complexities of relationship that finally led Aaron Burr to duel Alexander Hamilton, as Chernow does in his biography; nor can he detail the immense complexities of the Adam-Jefferson "first friends, then enemies, then reconciled friends again" relationship.

But Paul Aron states up-front that he has an agenda in presenting this book. If those of us today are discouraged by the extreme negativity and personal attacks exhibited in contemporary discourse, we should be aware that nothing new is happening here. The broadsides that were published by one antagonist against another in America's beginnings as a nation were as nasty as any we see today--it's just that two hundred years ago, communications were poor and few saw what was written in the papers of the times. What effect might there have been if Hamilton had had Facebook, or if Jefferson could tweet?

And the fact of the matter is that, as much as our political forefathers could show the heat of their anger and brandish a cutting word, their cantankerousness and their ambition is not what simply defined them. They fought as hard as they did for their viewpoints as they contested with their contemporaries because, in the end, they cared for their country and what it might become. Jefferson, for instance, championed rule by the people, while Adams saw the need to maintain order. America lives between the tensions of its competing ideals, and the fact that each ideal had its champions--as loudly as they sometimes disagreed--made the country stronger because of it. ( )
  kvrfan | Aug 19, 2016 |
Overall a good book, though the formatting was a bit goofed up on my kindle. I love anything historical though and I found this to be an insightful, entertaining read in which I learned a lot. I love this time period and any books to do with it. Well done, well researched. I would recommend it. 4 out of 5 stars. ( )
  Beammey | Feb 13, 2016 |
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