GiN Reading Room: Founding & Founding Fathers

If you’re looking for all of the shelves in the GiN Reading Room, you’ll find them here.


The Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay

The Federalist Papers, written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay, brilliantly defend what was in their day a revolutionary charter–the Constitution of the United States. The Federalist Papers explain the complexities of a constitutional government its political structure and principles based on the inherent rights of man. Scholars have long regarded this work as a milestone in political science and a classic of American political theory.

The 5,000 Year Leap:  Principles of Freedom 101 by W. Cleon Skousen

(free audio link:  http://www.nccs.net/5000-year-leap/_jkgFoe95jlsf4poG/

Discover the 28 Principles of Freedom our Founding Fathers said must be understood and perpetuated by every people who desire peace, prosperity, and freedom. Learn how adherence to these beliefs during the past 200 years has brought about more progress than was made in the previous 5,000 years.

The Heritage Guide to the Constitution by Edwin Meese III

This guide is the first of its kind, and presents the U.S. Constitution as never before, including a clause-by-clause analysis of the document, each amendment and relevant court case, and the documents that serve as the foundation of the Constitution.

The Making of America:  The Substance and Meaning of the Constitution (follow-up book to the 5,000 Year Leap) by W. Cleon Skousen

Written in the form of a high school textbook, it unfolds the surprising background and the original meaning of our federal Constitution and shows how the Founders used these concepts to produce the strongest, most prosperous nation on earth.

Miracle at Philadelphia:  The Story of the Constitutional Convention May to September 1787 by Catherine Drinker Bowen and Kristen Underwood

Miracle at Philadelphia is Catherine Drinker Bowen’s classic history of the Federal Convention at Philadelphia in 1787, the stormy, dramatic session that produced the most enduring of political documents – the Constitution of the United States.

The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Constitution by Kevin Gutzman

In The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Constitution, readers will follow the Supreme Court as it uses the Constitution as a fig leaf to cover its blatant seizing of the people’s right to govern themselves through elections. Gutzman unveils the radical inconsistency between constitutional law and the rule of law, and shows why and how the Supreme Court should be reined in to the proper role assigned to it by the Founders.

A Patriot’s History of the U.S.:  From Columbus’s Great Discovery to the War on Terror by Larry Schweikart and Michael Patrick Allen

For the past three decades, many history professors have allowed their biases to distort the way America’s past is taught. These intellectuals have searched for instances of racism, sexism, and bigotry in our history while downplaying the greatness of America’s patriots and the achievements of “dead white men.” As a result, more emphasis is placed on Harriet Tubman than on George Washington; more about the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II than about D-Day or Iwo Jima; more on the dangers we faced from Joseph McCarthy than those we faced from Josef Stalin.

A Patriot’s History of the United States corrects those doctrinaire biases. In this groundbreaking book, America’s discovery, founding, and development are reexamined with an appreciation for the elements of public virtue, personal liberty, and private property that make this nation uniquely successful. This book offers a long-overdue acknowledgment of America’s true and proud history.

Founding Brothers:  The Revolutionary Generation by Joseph Ellis

An illuminating study of the intertwined lives of the founders of the American republic — John Adams, Aaron Burr, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and George Washington.

During the 1790s, which Ellis calls the most decisive decade in our nation’s history, the greatest statesmen of their generation — and perhaps of any — came together to define the new republic and direct its course for the coming centuries. Ellis focuses on six discrete moments that exemplify the most crucial issues facing the fragile new nation: Burr and Hamilton’s deadly duel, and what may have really happened; Hamilton, Jefferson, and Madison’s secret dinner, during which the seat of the permanent capital was determined in exchange for passage of Hamilton’s financial plan; Franklin’s petition to end the “peculiar institution” of slavery — his last public act — and Madison’s efforts to quash it; Washington’s precedent-setting Farewell Address, announcing his retirement from public office and offering his country some final advice; Adams’s difficult term as Washington’s successor and his alleged scheme to pass the presidency on to his son; and finally, Adams and Jefferson’s renewed correspondence at the end of their lives, in which they compared their different views of the Revolution and its legacy.

In a lively and engaging narrative, Ellis recounts the sometimes collaborative, sometimes archly antagonistic interactions between these men, and shows us the private characters behind the public personas: Adams, the ever-combative iconoclast, whose closest political collaborator was his wife, Abigail; Burr, crafty, smooth, and one of the most despised public figures of his time; Hamilton, whose audacious manner and deep economic savvy masked his humble origins; Jefferson, renowned for his eloquence, but so reclusive and taciturn that he rarely spoke more than a few sentences in public; Madison, small, sickly, and paralyzingly shy, yet one of the most effective debaters of his generation; and the stiffly formal Washington, the ultimate realist, larger-than-life, and America’s only truly indispensable figure.

His Excellency:  George Washington by Joseph Ellis

Drawing from the newly catalogued Washington papers at the University of Virginia, Joseph Ellis paints a full portrait of George Washington’s life and career-from his military years through his two terms as president. Ellis illuminates the difficulties the first executive confronted as he worked to keep the emerging country united in the face of adversarial factions. He richly details Washington’s private life and illustrates the ways in which it influenced his public persona. Through Ellis’s artful narration, we look inside Washington’s marriage and his subsequent entrance into the upper echelons of Virginia’s plantation society. We come to understand that it was by managing his own large debts to British merchants that he experienced firsthand the imperiousness of the British Empire. And we watch the evolution of his attitude toward slavery, which led to his emancipating his own slaves in his will. Throughout, Ellis peels back the layers of myth and uncovers for us Washington in the context of eighteenth-century America, allowing us to comprehend the magnitude of his accomplishments and the character of his spirit and mind.

In the pantheon of our republic’s founders, there were many outstanding individuals. And yet each of them-Franklin, Hamilton, Adams, Jefferson, and Madison- acknowledged Washington to be his superior, the only indispensable figure, the one and only “His Excellency.” Both physically and politically, Washington towered over his peers for reasons this book elucidates. His Excellency is a full, glorious, and multifaceted portrait of the man behind our country’s genesis, sure to become the authoritative biography of George Washington for many decades.

The Real Benjamin Franklin:  The True Story of America’s Greatest Diplomat, Vol. 2 by Andrew M. Allison, W. Cleon Skousen, and M. Richard Maxfield

There are many Benjamin Franklins. Or at least he has taken on many different forms in the history books and conversations of the last two centuries. Some historians have shown us an aged statesman whose wise and steadying influence kept the Constitutional Convention together in 1787, while others have pictured a chuckling prankster who couldn’t resist a funny story. More recently, a certain brand of biographers and journalists have conjured up sensational tales of a lecherous old diplomat in his seventies who enjoyed illicit affairs with adoring young French women. And a few years ago Franklin even reappeared as a British spy! Some of these myths are now being repeated and embellished in school textbooks and educational television programs.

Which of all these Benjamin Franklins, if any, is real? This book is an attempt to answer that question. Or, more accurately, it is an attempt to let Franklin himself provide the answer. The Real Benjamin Franklin makes no effort to develop another fresh interpretation of the Sage of Philadelphia. Instead, it seats us across the table from the one person who really knew Benjamin Franklin- -that is, Franklin himself- -and gives him an opportunity to explain his life and ideas in his own words. Part I of this book details his exciting biography, and Part II includes his most important and insightful writings. In both sections, Franklin’s words are carefully documented from original sources.

The Real George Washington by Jay A. Parry and Andrew M. Allison

Why, after two centuries, does George Washington remain one of the most beloved figures in our history? The Real George Washington answers that question by giving us a close look at this man who became the “father of our country” and the first American President. But rather than focus on the interpretations of historians, the book tells much of his exciting story in his own words.

In Part I you’ll meet a man who —

1. lost his father at age 11 and nearly joined the British navy at 15.
2. was ambushed in the French and Indian War , receiving bullets through his coat and hat but escaping without injury.
3. held together a destitute army through the long and terrible winter at Valley Forge.
4. resisted plans to make him king and an army plot to take over the government.
5. made the Constitutional Convention credible by his presence and helped win ratification of the Constitution by his support.
6. sacrificed his desire for a quiet retirement to serve as the first President, and, while serving, set a valuable precedent of constitutional governance .

Part II of the book brings together the most important and insightful passages from Washington’s writings, conveniently arranged in alphabetical order by subject matter.

The Real Thomas Jefferson by Andrew M. Allison, W. Cleon Skousen, M. Richard Maxfield, and K. Delynn Cook

Jefferson is the central figure in American history, and…he may yet prove to be the central figure in modern history. So stated noted historian Henry Steele Commager. And as the English novelist Samuel Butler once wrote, Though God cannot alter the past, historians can. His observation is especially applicable to our changing perceptions of great historical personalities, most of whom are relentlessly reinterpreted by each new generation of biographers. It is doubtful whether many of these renowned characters of yesteryear would even recognize themselves in some of the publications devoted to them today.

There is no better example of this kind of metamorphosis than Thomas Jefferson, author of the American Declaration of Independence and third President of the United States. Since his death in 1826 he has been alternately vilified and deified in numerous forms by writers of varying motivations. In The Real Thomas Jefferson, by allowing Jefferson to explain his life and ideas in his own words, we have tried to ensure that his spirit, not ours, will breathe in these pages- -so that all who read them will become acquainted with Jefferson himself, not another second-hand interpretation of him. His biography appears in Part I, and Part II brings together the most insightful passages from his writings, arranged by subject.

Washington‘s Crossing (Pivotal Moments in America’s History) by David Hackett Fischer (winner of the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for History)

Six months after the Declaration of Independence, the American Revolution was all but lost. A powerful British force had routed the Americans at New York, occupied three colonies, and advanced within sight of Philadelphia. George Washington lost ninety percent of his army and was driven across the Delaware River. Panic and despair spread through the states.

Yet, as David Hackett Fischer recounts in this riveting history, Washington-and many other Americans-refused to let the Revolution die. Even as the British and Germans spread their troops across New Jersey, the people of the colony began to rise against them. George Washington saw his opportunity and seized it. On Christmas night, as a howling nor’easter struck the Delaware Valley, he led his men across the river and attacked the exhausted Hessian garrison at Trenton, killing or capturing nearly a thousand men. A second battle of Trenton followed within days. The Americans held off a counterattack by Lord Cornwallis’s best troops, then were almost trapped by the British force. Under cover of night, Washington’s men stole behind the enemy and struck them again, defeating a brigade at Princeton. The British were badly shaken. In twelve weeks of winter fighting, their army suffered severe damage, their hold on New Jersey was broken, and their strategy was ruined.

Fischer’s richly textured narrative reveals the crucial role of contingency in these events. We see how the campaign unfolded in a sequence of difficult choices by many actors, from generals to civilians, on both sides. While British and German forces remained rigid and hierarchical, Americans evolved an open and flexible system that was fundamental to their success. At the same time, they developed an American ethic of warfare that John Adams called “the policy of humanity,” and showed that moral victories could have powerful material effects. The startling success of Washington and his compatriots not only saved the faltering American Revolution, but helped to give it new meaning, in a pivotal moment for American history.


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One Response to GiN Reading Room: Founding & Founding Fathers

  1. Pingback: Grassroots in Nebraska Recommended Reading List | Grassroots in Nebraska

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