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The Founding Conservatives: How a Group of Unsung Heroes Saved the American Revolution Hardcover – June 13, 2013

4.5 out of 5 stars 48 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“David Lefer’s narrative is readable, engrossing, and fair-minded, and it presents an aspect of America’s origins that enriches our understanding of the nation’s past and of its present.”
—JAMES FALLOWS
 
“David Lefer has done a wonderful service by focusing attention on the conservatives among our founders, such as John Dickinson. In doing so, he shows that American conservatism has deep historical roots and that some of today’s ideological disputes were being waged in the early days of our republic. The lessons he draws are relevant not just to conservatives but to all Americans.”
—WALTER ISAACSON, author of Steve Jobs and Benjamin Franklin
 
“David Lefer’s The Founding Conservatives is a tirelessly researched and superbly writ­ten account of how America’s first conservatives endowed our revolution with ballast and vision, often in surprising ways that resonate to this day. A timely reminder that extremism in the defense of liberty is no virtue, moderation in the pursuit of justice no vice.”
—KEVIN BAKER, author of America: The Story of Us
 
“David Lefer has done a civic service in unearthing a largely forgotten group of revolutionary patriots who not only played key roles in achieving American inde­pendence but, in advance of Burke and the French Revolution, laid the groundwork for a distinctively New World version of conservatism.”
—FRED SIEGEL, author of The Prince of the City; senior fellow, Manhattan Institute
 
“This lively, erudite book frees the founders from currently popular anachronistic categorizations and in the process provides a fresh new perspective on American conservatism. That there is something in this book to annoy just about everyone is its great and inestimable virtue.”
—SUSAN JACOBY, author of Freethinkers
 
“As a historian, David Lefer is a terrific storyteller. The Founding Conservatives takes us on a fun and unique ride through the birth of the United States while building a case for the real DNA of American conservatism.”
—KEVIN MANEY, author of The Maverick and His Machine

“A compelling argument for a new appreciation of America’s founding conservatives. Lefer shows how these men, far from obstructing change or opposing the Revolution, sought to channel and direct our nation’s develop­ment so it could succeed for centuries to come. This book reminds us that conservatives have never been the ‘party of no’ but rather the voice of reason and an idealism tempered by the practical.”
—LARRY SCHWEIKART, coauthor of A Patriot’s History of the Modern World, vols. 1 and 2

About the Author

David Lefer is a professor at New York University’s Polytechnic Institute, where he directs the Innovation and Technology Forum. Previously a journalist, he worked for the New York Daily News, for the China News in Taiwan, and as a coproducer of the PBS talk show The Digital Age. He collabo­rated with Sir Harold Evans in the research and writing of They Made America, a bestselling history of American innovation.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Sentinel (June 13, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1595230696
  • ISBN-13: 978-1595230690
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.4 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #881,990 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A must-read for conservatives and liberals alike, The Founding Conservatives sheds new light on the genealogy of American conservatism.
As a political scientist with an undergraduate degree in history, I applaud this insightful new book. Two chapters are particularly useful: Chapter 1, "Crown and Country, pellucidly traces the early evolution of conservative and liberal traditions through 17th and 18th Century British politics; Chapter 24, "We the People," provides the clearest analysis of the framers' intentions in drafting successive versions of the Constitution I've seen--newly valuable material essential to any national debate on the meaning of our foundational document. The texts that accompany the carefully researched illustrations are apt and enlightening.
A timely and engaging book--and not to be missed.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This history of the unsung heroes of our nation's founding is a must read. David Lefer weaves together political philosophy, personalities, events and much more -- including great insights -- with such ease that the reader can forget how new much of this information is. Many of our more well-known founders, such as John Adams, also come alive as we see them from a new perspective. This work belongs on our bookshelves alongside other insightful works about the revolutionary period and, in fact, is a worthwhile compliment to Joe Ellis' Revolutionary Summer (also published this month) in which Ellis points to John Dickinson, one of the unsung heroes of this book, as one of the "leading players" of the Continental Congress. This well-researched, well-written book is a valuable addition to our knowledge of the period. I might say ground-breaking, but this is my first review. It is also a fun read.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'm not a history buff or a political activist. But I do like understanding how the world has come to be what it is today. This book is truly enlightening and shows us how events in the history we were never taught have shaped politics today. With each chapter, little lightbulbs go off in my head as I learn everything from the root meanings of words we flippantly exchange in political debates to the life and influence of one John Dickenson who I had never come across in history books. David Lefer writes in a flowing prose that draws the reader into his time machine so that you can experience history rather than read it. Absolutely fantastic book regardless of your personal political ideology.
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By ML on June 15, 2013
Format: Hardcover
This read is an unexpected joy of discovering unsung heroes.

The collection of characters who happen to be critical to historians makes for a fun book and a lot of intelligent insight. It's a truly fascinating and unlikely set of stories that entertain and happen to be true. The book is well crafted and makes their patriotism interesting and as relevant to our time and our thinking about current issues as it was to their tension filled day to day lives.

The story carried me through as much jeopardy as any of the best action packed stories of today. I suggest you look into this remarkable book - the writing is elegant, the characters unexpectedly real and the story is amazing.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Just finished this book on formerly unheralded conservative figures of the American Revolution, and was surprised and delighted by it. This book is different than what I expected -- in a good way -- because it does four really different things really well:
1. Story: although the American Revolution seems familiar, Lefer tells terrific stories of lesser-known figures and episodes that shaped the Revolution, that are as dramatic and as moving as much the better-known turning points (Valley Forge, etc.). The events and commentary by the participants themselves are woven together with pace, insight, and emotion, while balanced by an overall perspective and narrative.
2. Interpretation: this is where this book is really original. Not only does Lefer identify little known figures in the American Revolution, he convincingly makes a number of strong arguments why their contributions can be considered together as conservatives, and why the American contribution to conservatism was crucial.
3. Scholarship: Lefer deftly describes past historical work, and explains clearly how this scholarship has shaped our current views of the Revolution and Founding Fathers.
4. Relevance: Lefer throughout the book draws comparisons between our modern partisan battles and the debates of the past. In this sense, I found the book quite fair and optimistic in its outlook, because these past examples show that it is possible for principled disagreement and political debate to lead to practical compromises that were often better solutions than what was suggested by either extreme.

A great book that has sent me off to read more about this period, and one that I plan to read again.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I never liked history much in school but in the past few years I've switched to books like "1776" and "Guns, Germs and Steel" for summer reading. "The Founding Conservatives" is a top-notch addition to this category. As a page-turner it equalled "1776" and it answered some puzzles I took away from that book, like how on earth you could raise an army to fight your home country's army *without* declaring independence from it. As an ex-Republican, I found a lot of food for thought here about how conservatism has changed since the Revolution. Highly recommended.
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