Federalist accounts of U.S. history are like fluoride in the water: no strong taste or odor, its something you grow up ingesting in order to strengthen the civic faith of America's citizens. But forget about Valley Forge, "I can not tell a lie," and all the other federalist propaganda you soaked up in civics class and consider for a moment that George Washington was a bald-faced liar and a poor military leader, that Benjamin Franklin was the true "father of his country" who fought with crypto-monarchists Alexander Hamilton and John Adams to preserve republican institutions, and that the Constitution drafted in 1787 was a sorry compromise of the revolution's ideals and an inadequate basis for republican government.
All these heresies and more are vigorously argued and defended in Richard N. Rosenfeld's revisionist account of America's revolutionary history American Aurora. Rosenfeld recounts the controversies surrounding constitutional debates and the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 through the pages of The Philadelphia Aurora, a radical newspaper of the 1790s. Packed with original source material and plenty of footnotes, Rosenfeld's history is contentious--even inciteful--and it demonstrates the rich textual history of the United States both in terms of the newspapers he draws from and the story he tells in this expansive narrative history.
From Library Journal
Contemporary Americans longing for a return to civility in public life will be quite amazed when they read the press accounts of the early years of the Republic. Independent scholar Rosenfeld, in an innovative approach to the historical record, uses daily clips from Philadelphia newspapers to portray the early struggles over civil liberties. The Aurora, edited first by Benjamin Bache, grandson of Benjamin Franklin, and then by William Duane, led the fight for greater freedoms. Competitor papers, The Porcupine's Gazette and Gazette of the United States, advocated greater government powers. The arguments between the different factions, including editors and politicians, were heated, vituperative, and sometimes physical. In addition to press accounts, letters from leading figures of the time and the Annals of Congress are quoted. Rosenfeld creates a fictional voice for editor Duane, who tells the story in the present tense and provides context for the original source material. A remarkable and innovative work of history that belongs in most libraries.?Judy Solberg, George Washington Univ., Washington D.C.
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