Best Revolutionary War/FFathers Book?


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Son of Liberty
May 4, 2004, 10:31 PM
What's your pick for the best RWar/ Founding Father Book?

Liked Angel in the Whirlwind, John Adams, others but need a new one.

Remember the Sons of Liberty!

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another okie
May 4, 2004, 11:00 PM
There are many good books about them, but why not read their own words? The Federalist Papers and the anti-Federalist papers, for example. I like the Modern Library edition of The Life and Selected Writings of Thomas Jefferson. Richard Hofstadter's collection titled "Great Issues in American History" is a wonderful collection of writings important in American life. If you really want to understand the period there is an old Odyssey Press collection called "Colonial and Federalist American Writing" edited by George Horner and Robert Bain. It has everything - sermons, history books written during colonial times, indian capture narratives, almanacs, and magazine articles.

I guess my favorite introductions to the times themselves are Miracle in Philadelphia (can't remember the author) and Joseph Ellis, "Founding Fathers." There are huge biographies of Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, and Adams. To me nothing can replace the multivolume biography of Jefferson by Dumas Malone. Only something as big as that can make you understand how many different talents and skills that man had. The equivalent for Washington is (if I remember correctly) the Flexner biography, which is extremely thorough, though rather boring. Most historians would still vote for Van Doren's biography of Franklin, even though it's about 70 years old.

TheBluesMan
May 4, 2004, 11:08 PM
I assume you've already read the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Don't forget to read the Articles of Confederation.

I agree with Okie's suggestion of the Federalist and the Anti-Federalist papers. It is a great place learn more about the thought process behind the formation of our government.

As far as a book about the FF, I suggest Founding Brothers by Joseph J. Ellis. The book starts out with the story of the duel between Hamilton and Burr. Very interesting insights and background on that practice.

Also, David McCullough's book about John Adams is known to be very good.

4v50 Gary
May 4, 2004, 11:15 PM
I especially enjoyed Private Yankee Doodle by Joseph Plumb Martin. It's a first hand account by a private who fought for our liberty and is on available in paperback at any Revolutionary War National Park Site.

If you're interested in the Saratoga Campaign, the papers of Baroness Charlotte Fredericka von Reidesel (Letters and Journals Relating to the War of American Independence and the Capture of German Troops at Saratoga) is good.

If you want a modern historian's view, Scheer & Rankin's Rebels and Redcoats is good reading as is Richard Wheeler's Voices of 1776.

Now, if you want to get into some nitty gritty, John Buchannan's The Road to Guildford Courthouse is an excellent account of the Southern Campaign. Lawrence Babit's Devil of a Whipping is about the best account of the Battle of Cowpens. If you read Babit, you'd probably want to read Tarleton's account too (and read between the lines). Lyman Draper's "King's Mountain and its Heroes" is an old but very respectable account that I enjoyed.

El Tejon
May 4, 2004, 11:50 PM
And now for the dry legalistic side [:D], I recommend beginning with these for general overview:

The Framing & The Fathers of the U.S. Constitution--Farrand

The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution--Bailyn

On the Constitution of the United States--Story

I would then move onto the source material of the Constitution (as Professor Kaplan told me in grad skul, "don't believe your mother if she tells you about it, you goyim putz, you; go read it yourself."):

TREATISE(S) ON CIVIL GOVERNMENT, Locke

DISCOURSES CONCERNING GOVERNMENT, Algernon Sidney

POLITICAL WORK, James Harrington

SIX BOOKES OF A COMMONWEALE, Jean Bodin

INSTITUTES, Coke

COMMENTARIES, William Blackstone

SELECT DOCUMENTS OF ENGLISH CONSTITUTIONAL HISTORY, Adams & Stephens

THE ENGLISH FACE OF MACHIAVELLI: A CHANGING INTERPRETATION, Rabb

THE ART OF WAR and THE PRINCE, Machiavelli

CICERO'S SOCIAL AND POLITICAL THOUGHT, Wood

POLITICS, Aristotle

THE ANGLO-SAXON CHRONICLES

THE BIBLE

If you want some books about the War for Independence, how about (gun-related), A PEOPLE NUMEROUS AND ARMED, Shy or FIREARMS IN AMERICAN HISTORY, Sawyer?:D

I just finished A LEAP IN THE DARK by John Ferling that came out last year. Both claws up from El Tejon.:)

I have other recommendations. Looking for anything in particular (biography, SES histories, militree, etc.)???

atek3
May 5, 2004, 12:58 AM
"What the anti-federalists were for."

Really depressing, every horrible prediction of the anti-federalists about the fate of the US constitution has come to pass. Every 'loophole' exploited, every "elastic clause" stretched beyond the point of natural breakage. Reading "Hologram of Liberty", Boston explains that this was precisely the intention of the Hamilton's among the founding fathers. Adopt a piece of parchment with insufficient bulwarks against the expansion of federal power and you sow the seeds for...THE EXPANSION OF FEDERAL POWER".

atek3

Benjamin
May 5, 2004, 02:00 AM
James Madison, last of the founders by Drew McCoy. I'm biased because I got to know him over the course of 2 years, but Madison was an interesting and important character, and McCoy did a good job in his coverage.

Are you looking for a survey sort of book, or something with a narrower focus?

johnc522
May 5, 2004, 02:08 AM
Lots of good titles above, I would add Richard Brookhiser's recent bio of Governeur Morris, he was a key financier of the Revolution, and also a MAJOR ladies' man. and I saw a review of a new bio of Alexander Hamilton, I think by Chernow, got a good notice.

HBK
May 5, 2004, 02:38 AM
Benjamin, you knew James Madison? Is your last name Franklin? :p

Baba Louie
May 5, 2004, 08:53 AM
The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin by HW Brands... excellant. A second vote for Ellis' Founding Brothers, The Revolutionary Generation and McCullough's John Adams, Ellis' American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson , Cappon's The Adams-Jefferson Letters: The Complete Corrrespondence Between Thomas Jefferson and Abigail and John Adams ... and somewhere I've got a book on Washington I loaned to my parents, I'll try to find it as well.

I only wish I knew this kind of stuff when I was younger (or was interested in this kind of stuff at that age). Look up reviews on any of the above books and you'll find 4 or 5 stars each and the sound advice to add them to your library. I agree with those words of wisdom.

Ben Shepherd
May 5, 2004, 10:45 AM
You can get the federalist and anti federalist papers on computer disc from GOA for around 6 bucks. Money well spent.

DonP
May 5, 2004, 11:29 AM
Two good novel treatments of the era are Howard Fast and April Morning, the story of Lexington and Concord, told through the eyes of a 14 year old boy.

He also wrote The Crossing, the story of Washington's Christmas attack on Trenton. Both books are easy and enjoyable reads and use a lot of well researched data as background.

The other is The Colonial Experience, by Daniel J. Boorstin. He was the former Librarian of congress and his book, on how the early colonies were shaped by their religious backgrounds; Pennsylvania by the Quakers, Maryland by the Catholics etc. is really interesting.

There is a section on how the Quakers at one point handed over control "Temporarily" to the Lutherans, since their faith forbade them to raise an army to deal with the Indian problems out on the frontier in Pittsburgh. Then, when the Indian issue was settled, they never quite got around to turning the state back over to the Quakers.

Very interesting read on how each colony was shaped by its religious background and how the early colonial leaders were very nervous of having other states impinge on their religious attitudes.

All three are available as books on tape for you drivers out there.

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