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America Afire: Jefferson, Adams, and the First Contested Election Paperback – September 18, 2001
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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.
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Top Customer Reviews
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).Read more ›
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is probably the hardest read ever. it is so dam boring and useless. do not ever buy this bookPublished on February 20, 2014 by Nate
Bernard Weisberger's "America Afire: Jefferson, Adams and the First Contested Election" is a curious book. Read morePublished on December 15, 2007 by Marty McCarthy