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The Founders at Home: The Building of America, 1735-1817 Hardcover – November 11, 2013
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The Founding Fathers have provided plenty of fodder for fiction and nonfiction alike. In this series of biographical sketches, Magnet has taken a different and wholly original tack. In addition to reviewing what this group of luminaries said and wrote about the concepts of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, he also shows how they lived and how the homes they designed, cherished, and inhabited reflected the values and ideals they claimed for themselves and desired for their fellow countrymen. Individual profiles of William Livingston, Arthur Lee, Henry Lee, Richard Henry Lee, George Washington, John Jay, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison also include detailed descriptions of their hearths and homes. This collective biography has crossover appeal, featuring enough new information to satisfy both Revolutionary-era enthusiasts and architectural buffs. - Margaret Flanagan
“The Founders at Home is rich in insight, wit, and wisdom about the men who created America. It’s superb—a pleasure to read on every page.” - Thomas Fleming, author of The Intimate Lives of the Founding Fathers
“Myron Magnet has produced an excellent book from this excellent idea: We can better understand the Founders, who shaped how we live, if we better understand how they lived in the homes they designed and social circles that radiated from those homes. The American Revolution, he argues, was a success because of its moderation, and this virtue suffused the Founders’ lives.” - George F. Will, author of One Man’s America: The Pleasures and Provocations of Our Singular Nation
“Americans have long admired our Founders from a respectful distance. Now author Myron Magnet pulls us closer, into the framers’ homes and minds, so that we suddenly see not only what drove them but also how very much we share with those first Americans. Accurate, skillful, and utterly charming.” - Amity Shlaes, author of The Forgotten Man
“The Founders of the American Revolution avoided the excesses of other major revolutions, not just because of their seminal ideas but also because they were practical, good men, both at work and at home. Myron Magnet, in this strikingly original thesis, shows how the protection of liberty and property were natural extensions of the way the Founders organized their families and homes. We owe him thanks for this timely reminder that how we live and what we think should not be antithetical, but properly complementary.” - Victor Davis Hanson, author of A War Like No Other
“The Founders at Home is a fascinating exploration of America’s Founding Fathers at the most intimate level. Highly original and intensely absorbing—Myron Magnet has produced an outstanding work of historical research.” - Amanda Foreman, author of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire
“Masterful…a work of scholarship and a labor of love.” - Michael Goodwin - The New York Post
“Does the world need yet another book on the American Founders? Yes, indeed: this one…. Mr. Magnet is an accomplished member of the cast of amateurs who have picked up the popular-history franchise that the American academic community tossed away…his book is a labor of love.” - James Grant - The Wall Street Journal
“An excellent and fluid writer, Magnet succeeds in proving his point that these were more than residences; they were an expression of the personalities of their remarkable owners. The Founders at Home provides an interesting, entertaining, and informative way of looking at their lives and their world.” - John Steele Gordon - Commentary
“Entertaining and illuminating… Myron Magnet has done an exemplary job of portraying our fascinating founders both as remarkable individuals and as members of a flawed and quarrelsome team that still somehow managed to give life and meaning to the America we are blessed with today.” - Aram Bakshian Jr. - The American Spectator
“Delightful… The Founders at Home is subtitled “The Building of America, 1735–1817.” “Building” is a pun: All the men he writes about left homes that, centuries later, are still intact and visitable. But, by a shrewd selection of subjects, Magnet also covers the construction of a country, from first thoughts to finishing touches—from the Zenger trial to the Battle of New Orleans. His cast of characters allows him to erase the dichotomy between overexposure and obscurity. The heavyweights are well represented: Washington, Hamilton, Jefferson, Madison. But joining them are Founders most of us have barely or never heard of: William Livingston, the Lees of Stratford Hall, sober John Jay. The Founders at Home gives the pleasures of biography, while putting us back in the texture and complexity of a world.- Richard Brookhiser - National Review
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Not unexpectedly, most of the book is conventional biography of the subjects, but the architectural influence is always the highlight of each biography. Author Myron Magnet makes the read sparkle with clear prose and insightful observations and conclusions about his subjects. Chapter 7 on Hamilton captures the accomplishments, genius and zeal of Hamilton as well as most authors can manage in a full biography. And Chapter 10 on Madison offers a number of suggestions that explain Mr. Madison's political and philosophical shift away from Federalist to Republican and away from key arguments he had made earlier as one of three contributors (under the pseudo-name) "Publius", in "The Federalist". In Chapter 2, Magnet presents an inexplicably FAR more sympathetic portrait of Arthur Lee than the bitter, obstreperous, and quarrelsome account usually presented by other historians. Read Lee himself in, The Founders on the Founders: Word Portraits from the American Revolutionary Era. (How does any biographer "fall in love" with Arthur Lee?; see Richard Henry Lee of Virginia: A Portrait of an American Revolutionary) Still... this is a thoroughly recommended read - either as a start for these subjects, or following the read of complete biographies of the subjects. For a similar treatment of architecture in history also see Professor Ryan K. Smith's impressive: Robert Morris's Folly: The Architectural and Financial Failures of an American Founder.
The kindle edition contains a number of illustrations and drawings that aid in the read in hardcopy format. The e-ink (non Fire) kindle struggles with resolution to adequately reproduce many of the illustrations. The publisher saved a few hours of copy editing by NOT linking the page-citations to the notes: an odd way of bilking the e-book format, and unfortunate for those who frequently follow a note to learn more, or where! Of course the index is similarly unlinked, giving the e-book all of the cumbersomeness of a paper book and ignoring the advantages of an electronic publication. e-book publication quality for thoroughly 20th century W.W. Norton Co., ★★☆☆☆ - what in the world were they thinking?