Revolutionary Characters: What Made the Founders Different

Revolutionary Characters: What Made the Founders Different

Gordon S. Wood

Language: English

Pages: 336

ISBN: 0143112082

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


In this brilliantly illuminating group portrait of the men who came to be known as the Founding Fathers, the incomparable Gordon Wood has written a book that seriously asks, "What made these men great?" and shows us, among many other things, just how much character did in fact matter. The life of each—Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Franklin, Hamilton, Madison, Paine—is presented individually as well as collectively, but the thread that binds these portraits together is the idea of character as a lived reality. They were members of the first generation in history that was self-consciously self-made men who understood that the arc of lives, as of nations, is one of moral progress.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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easy to change human nature, as to oppose the strong current of the selfish passions. A wise legislator will gently divert the channel, and direct it, if possible, to the public good.” This realistic view of human nature was one of the ties he had with Washington. Although Hamilton assumed that nearly everyone else was self-interested ( Washington was an exception), he himself always remained extraordinarily scrupulous in maintaining his personal disinterestedness and freedom from corruption. Let

of the United States, as yet did not want to get involved in making long-term mortgage loans to farmers; to do so would tie up money for too long a time, as the bank waited for the land-based loans to be paid back. But that soon changed, for most farmers and entrepreneurs needed long-term credit, and in spite of opposition from Hamilton and the Bank of the United States, these mostly northern Jeffersonian Republicans went wild in chartering state banks, hundreds of them, that issued million of

people cannot long be free under a government that consists of a single legislature.” The timing of the first volume was fortunate, and although it was actually an apology for America’s balanced state constitutions, the book and the new federal Constitution became linked in people’s minds.32 Those who took the time to probe Adams’s reasoning, however, soon found many contradictions with radical American thought as it had developed by 1787. Some even in their admiration saw that the book, as

ingratitude and obloquy—because my vanity whispers I ought to be one of those fools and ought to keep myself in a situation the best calculated to render service.”35 (In 1797 Hamilton was accused of having been involved in corruption, using his office for private purposes, when he was secretary of the treasury earlier in the decade. In order to explain why he had paid money to a Mr. Reynolds in 1791, he had to reveal that he had had an affair with Mrs. Reynolds and that Mr. Reynolds was

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