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Founding Partisans

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An interesting look at early American politics- Brands does a great job of using the Founding Father's own words to remind us that from the beginning, there have been serious questions between Americans about how they planned on running the country. Things were a lot more divided after the Revolutionary War than we might have realized and here Brands shows the development of differing political parties almost from day one. I was interested to see some of the early things they had to develop (and the different plans they thought about and rejected) for how to form governments, what role a Federal government should play vs state governments, etc. There was some explanation of the compromise that led to the Electoral College we still use for presidential elections, though I wish the explanation had been a little clearer.

The book was a little mixed for me. In some sections Brands gets super detailed and into the weeds on subjects that I'm not sure he needed to (Hamilton's banking schemes for instance). Then he'd talk about states choosing the president and be very brief about it. I think someone more heavily interested in early American history would enjoy the book more than I did, but the denseness made this one drag a bit for me. Still, a timely topic, even though I felt like I had to work for it.

I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

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Founding Partisans: Hamilton, Madison, Jefferson, Adams, and the Brawling Birth of American Politics

There are some people, regardless of political leanings, who place great reverence and importance upon the ‘Founding Fathers,’ their supposed ideals, and their actions & intentions as framers of the Constitution. There’s no doubt that these men did important work, but such deification tends to forget that they were exactly that: just men, fallible, opinionated, and prone to exactly the same kind of political and petty squabbling as we are today.

In “Founding Partisans,” author H.W. Brands largely uses the Founders’ own words to paint this more realistic, human portrait of the interactions and political arguments between these men. I think it really behooves us today, when arguing about constitutional rights or, more specifically, about how elements of the constitution were *intended*, to be reminded, as we are in this book, that the founders themselves strongly disagreed on many topics, that there was almost never consensus but negotiation, that in many cases nobody got exactly what they wanted.

The thing that I noted particularly about “Founding Partisans,” as I mentioned, is that a majority of the narrative is told by direct quotation of the founders’ writings and speeches, with little editorializing. That it is written with a largely neutral voice, allowing the subjects themselves to make their points and illustrate their differences and disagreements with one another, keeps the book from becoming overtly partisan itself. It also avoids the pitfall of so many popular historical biographies of being a bit too generous in characterizing its subjects; sometimes it’s more fun to read about the founders’ flaws and their snipping at one another than another loving ode.

Who is this book for? People who are really interested in the ‘deep lore’ of America’s founding and Constitution, who want to hear just as much about the things that *didn’t* happen due to disagreements as they want to hear about what *did,* and who don’t require any musical numbers or extensive speculating or editorializing to find those things interesting.

In the current day, anyone can look at the American government, with its parties and partisan fighting, and wonder how anything ever gets accomplished (if it does at all). What Brands shows us in ‘Founding Partisans’ is that, really, some things never change.

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A particular pet peeve of my lately is when people say, "This country has never been more divided!" Do you have any idea how badly Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton hated each other? Hamilton ended up dead over politics! You still don't believe the political divisions were bad in the U.S. before? Then let me point you at H.W. Brands' Founding Partisans. Never has a title been so apt.

Let me just get to the point. This book is fantastic. H.W. Brands is the type of author who makes anything interesting. He is one of the few authors whose books are automatic buys for me regardless of the subject. This one, in particular, might be his best yet. Brands weaves in an extraordinary amount of primary quotes. The book reads like a novel of the Founding Fathers being jerks to each other. It makes the narrative accessible to any reader who wants to know who hated who in the early U.S. It will never not be funny to me how badly John Adams hated Benjamin Franklin. How could someone hate Benny? Come read and find out.

(This book was provided as an advance copy by Netgalley and Doubleday Books.)

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This was incoherent and almost incomplete. Brands has been more miss than hit for his last several books and this was just not a great showing,

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The myth of a harmonious founding has been debunked pretty thoroughly, but it's shocking the United States survived at all! This book is a great reminder that our political system has been polarized and rancorous from the start, with no "golden age" to go back to.

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Thank you to Netgalley and the Publisher for this Advanced Readers Copy of Founding Partisans by H.W. Brands!

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If there's one thing H.W. Brand can be counted on, it is a well-written narrative. Here, he succeeds again. He does a great job making history readable for a wider audience. More academics should follow in his steps; they are few and far between.
I appreciate how Brands brings Hamilton back down to earth after being inflated (and sung about) for the last few years. His interpretation is evenhanded, and he sticks to the context of the time. Important in all of this was the question of viability of the state following independence. This is not to say that Brands agrees with Hamilton, nor should he, but he gets what the popularity has left out.
While this time is often portrayed as a great, patriotic age, Brands makes it clear that it was much more tumultuous and fragile than we like to think it was. His book does a great job at examining all of these issues and how they played out, in a way that ensured the future success of the United States.
Founding Partisans isn't his longest work, but he manages to really portray the importance of the age, with a striking relevance to today's political polarization. The greatest contribution that Brands gives us is that there is a way out of the animosity

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This is a very well researched and written book about the development of the Constitution, Bill of Rights and amendments during the early days of American history. The author makes great use of quotes from the main participants: James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. Brands details the back forth on a number of issues: what type of governmental model, terms of office, a national bank and many more. He also presents the development of the party system which some of the early founding fathers hoped to avoid. Overall, a well done history that is well worth the time to read and understand how our nation came to be from a political sense.

I received a free Kindle copy of this book courtesy of Net Galley and the publisher with the understanding that I would post a review on Net Galley, Goodreads, Amazon and my nonfiction book review blog. I also posted it to my Facebook page.

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