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America Afire: Jefferson, Adams, and the First Contested Election Paperback


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; 1St Edition edition (September 18, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0380806517
  • ISBN-13: 978-0380806515
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.5 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #835,204 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Bernard A. Weisberger is a distinguished teacher and author of American history. He has been on the faculties of the University of Chicago and the University of Rochester, is a contributing editor of American Heritage for which he wrote a regular column for ten years, has worked on television documentaries with Bill Moyers and Ken Burns, and has published some dozen and a half books as well as numerous articles and reviews. He lives in Evanston, Illinois, with his wife.

Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Ricky Hunter on December 28, 2001
Format: Paperback
Bernard A. Weisberger's America Afire (Jefferson, Adams, and the First Contested Election) is a both a marvelous tale and a wonderful slice of history. It covers similar ground (and the 1790's in America is probably one of the richest historical hunting ground around) as Joseph Ellis' Founding Brothers but in a more narrative fashion that will keep the reader gripped from beginning to end. One of the great joys of this books is that it is not strictly about the election of 1800 but, rather, about the decade that preceded it and resulted in the nail biter showdown between Jefferson and Adams (and then in bizarre twist betweem Jefferson and Burr). The book gets the story just right and manages to tell the sometimes complex tale in a comprehensible and straight forward manner to delight any reader. A nice introduction to this fascinating period of American history.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By "srm22" on December 12, 2001
Format: Paperback
America Afire provided a dramatic look at American history from the Constitutional Convention through the deaths of Adams and Jefferson. Weisberger gives a vivid account of lesser known stories of the era. He also tracks the political careers of men such as Hamilton and Burr. The book actually spends most of the time explaining the events leading up to the contested election of 1800 - but in doing so lays a rich framework that helps the reader appreciate how crucial the election was. The book was informative and a pleasure to read. I especially enjoyed the rivalry between Hamilton and Burr.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Greg Feirman on May 18, 2003
Format: Paperback
This book was exactly what I wanted. I thought I was buying an account of the 1800 election but the coverage is much broader. Repeat: this book is not just about the election but is a political history of the US from the Constitution (1787) through the election of 1800, with a chapter devoted to Jefferson's suceeding first term (1801-1804). Discussion of the actual campaigning and election of 1800 don't start being discussed until part V, pg 227. That is because this election was so hot and so important because of the seeds of political conflict and discord that had been sown in the previous 15 or so years, from the signing of the Constitution in 1787, through the administrations of George Washington and John Adams.
This is the story of the emergence of competing political parties, Federalists and Republicans, with competing ideas about how to interpret the Constitution and how to govern the young nation. Essentially, Federalists like Hamilton and Washington believed in a strong central government, possibly with a standing army and navy, a central bank, national debt to obtain a class of creditors interested in the well being of the US government, etc... Republicans, like Jefferson and Madision, believed in a weaker central government. Jefferson said it best in his March 4, 1801 inaugural address, "... a wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits.... and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government" (pg 283). So, when elected, Jefferson slashed the army and navy, cut back on embassies in less significant countries and tried to pay down the national debt (pgs 287-88).
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Eric Hobart VINE VOICE on May 14, 2006
Format: Paperback
The book America Afire bills itself as a story of the first contested American Election, which was supposed to be a race between the sitting President, John Adams, and the leading Republican of the day, Thomas Jefferson. In reality, much of the book addresses the issues of the day that led up to the election and precious little time is spent on the election wranglings and political mechanics themselves.

It is obviously necessary to present background information in a narrative such as this, but I believe that Weisberger went overboard with the background and did not delve deeply enough into the primary topic at hand - the race between Adams & Jefferson. Instead, we see a different rivalry taking shape that felt as though it was the primary topic for discussion in the book; the rivalary between two New Yorkers - Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr. It was certainly enjoyable to read the study about this rivalry, but it was hardly what I expected when I picked up this book.

However, my overall take is that I was disappointed in the titling of the book - it would have been much fairer to say that this was the story of American politics leading up to the election of 1800, with a brief afterword explaining the legacies of the election, but it is a useful read. If the reader is searching for an enhanced understanding of the devleopment of the two-party system leading up to the election of 1800, this is a great read. If the reader is searching for a good explanation of political history in the early republic years, this is a good (although somewhat superficial) book. If the reader is looking exclusively for a narrative about the election itself, either read chapters 12-13 of this book, or search out a different book that addresses the political maneuvering in greater detail.
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