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Customer Review

on June 19, 2009
`Revolutionary Characters' is a worthy addition to the library of any American History buff, mainly for two reasons. Historian Gordon Wood's treatment of our founders is interesting, instructive, and imperative. Secondly, Mr. Wood is arguably this period's most cherished historian researching our founding, therefore his perspective on the character of some key founders matters given his disproportionate influence with other historians, influence I believe is well-earned.

Imperative because I believe we continue to have much to learn from these great men along with a scoundrel (Aaron Burr) - where Wood is one that supports the notion the framers were great men while serving up ample evidence supporting this thesis.

Ardent students of our founders will find Wood's treatment of Franklin, Washington, and Jefferson consistent with other respected historians and biographers while not providing any distinguishing perspective unknown to this type of reader. In fact, like Joseph Ellis' American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson, Wood also fails to provide a complete portrait of Jefferson's character. In Wood's defense he only has a chapter to depict a complex character like Jefferson while Ellis had an entire book and still was unable to capture all of him. The general reader who has not singularly studied these three framers will benefit and can rest assured their understanding conforms to the respected biographies of all three.

Wood's genius is especially revealed in his chapters on two of the most influential founding framers who often don't get the attention their influence deserves - Alexander Hamilton and James Madison. I believe Woods nails both, he also provides important new perspectives to each in a manner that allows one to understand how their impact still serves our country along with all modern-day liberal democracies and republics. These two chapters and the last chapter on public opinion during the founding are well worth our time and money. It is this aspect of the book that has me encouraging even the most studious scholar to read this book, if only for these three chapters.

Given Woods' past record of excellence, I'm looking forward to a more major work of his to be published later this year,
Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815 (Oxford History of the United States). Empire of Liberty will be incorporated into The Oxford History of the United States, which is the most respected multi-volume history of our nation. This series has already produced three Pulitzers of the seven volumes published.
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