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The First Congress: How James Madison, George Washington, and a Group of Extraordinary Men Invented the Government Paperback – February 21, 2017

4.5 out of 5 stars 112 ratings

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Editorial Reviews


“Fergus M. Bordewich has transformed the recent multivolume collection of sources on the First Federal Congress into a lively narrative. . . . The First Congress is a perfect example of what a very good writer can do with these raw materials.” -- Carol Berkin, The New York Times Book Review

"The First Congress faced its daunting agenda with resourcefulness. . . . [Bordewich] provides clear and often compelling analyses of the problems that required varying doses of compromise and persuasion. . . . Readers will enjoy this book for making an intricate story clear and fascinating." -- David S. Heidler, The Washington Post

“Fergus Bordewich paints a compelling portrait of the first, critical steps of the American republic, a perilous time when Congress – a body that has proved naturally contentious and short-sighted – had to be wise, and it was. The First Congress deftly blends many voices and stories into an elegant and gripping tale of a triumph of self-government.” -- David O. Stewart, author of Madison's Gift: Five Partnerships That Built America and The Summer of 1787: The Men Who Invented the Constitution

“Bordewich’s account is well worth reading and brings to life the First Congress and its members. Gracefully written. . . . Bordewich provides a balanced assessment of the many achievements of the First Congress, while not overlooking its shortcomings.” -- Mark G. Spencer, The Wall Street Journal

“The story of how these flawed but brilliant men managed to put the theory of the Constitution into actual practice and create a functioning government is the subject of Fergus M. Bordewich's fascinating The First Congress." -- Tom Moran, The Chicago Tribune

"With his highly informative The First Congress, historian Fergus M. Bordewich joins the ranks of familiar authors like Joseph Ellis, David McCullough, Fred Kaplan and others, whose biographies and studies of early American history have captivated so many. . . . Bordewich combines fascinating biography with a detailed account of the three sessions of Congress that ran from 1789-1791 and established the institutions and protocols that we follow today." -- Tony Lewis, The Providence Journal

“Entertaining. . . . The colorful machinations of our first Congress receive a delightful account that will keep even educated readers turning the pages.”, Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Bordewich brings back to life the ‘practical, impatient, and tired politicians’ who transformed the parchment of the US Constitution into the flesh and blood of a national government. . . . Anyone curious about the origins of today’s much-maligned national legislature will marvel at this hair-raising story of stunning political creativity.” -- Richard A. Baker, US Senate Historian Emeritus and co-author of The American Senate: An Insider’s History

“Fergus Bordewich reminds us, with solid research and sprightly prose, that once upon a time Congress worked and leaders of the new nation understood that true patriotism requires that legislators actually get things done and keep the Government open for business. This book should be required reading for every member of Congress.” -- Paul Finkelman , Senior Fellow, University of Pennsylvania Program on Democracy, Citizenship, and Constitutionalism

“[A] highly readable and sweeping account of the First Federal Congress.” -- Kenneth R. Bowling, co-editor, First Federal Congress Project; Adjunct Professor of History, George Washington University; and author of Peter Charles L'Enfant

About the Author

Fergus M. Bordewich is the author of several books, among them America’s Great Debate: Henry Clay, Stephen A. Douglas, and the Compromise That Preserved the Union, which won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in history. His articles have appeared in many magazines and newspapers. He lives in San Francisco. Visit him at FergusBordewich.com.

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