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The Age of Federalism - Stanley Elkins

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Published: 23rd February 1995
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When Thomas Jefferson took the oath of office for the presidency in 1801, America had just passed through twelve critical years, years dominated by some of the towering figures of our history and by the challenge of having to do everything for the first time. Washington, Hamilton, Madison, Adams, and Jefferson himself each had a share in shaping that remarkable era--an era that is brilliantly captured in The Age of Federalism.
Written by esteemed historians Stanley Elkins and Eric McKitrick, The Age of Federalism gives us a reflective, deeply informed analytical survey of this extraordinary period. Ranging over the widest variety of concerns--political, cultural, economic, diplomatic, and military--the authors provide a sweeping historical account, keeping always in view not only the problems the new nation faced but also the particular individuals who tried to solve them. As they move through the Federalist era, they draw subtly perceptive character sketches not only of the great figures--Washington and Jefferson, Talleyrand and Napoleon Bonaparte--but also of lesser ones, such as George Hammond, Britain's frustrated minister to the United States, James McHenry, Adams's hapless Secretary of War, the pre-Chief Justice version of John Marshall, and others. They weave these lively profiles into an analysis of the central controversies of the day, turning such intricate issues as the public debt into fascinating depictions of opposing political strategies and contending economic philosophies. Each dispute bears in some way on the broader story of the emerging nation. The authors show, for instance, the consequences the fight over Hamilton's financial system had for the locating of the nation's permanent capital, and how it widened an ideological gulf between Hamilton and the Virginians, Madison and Jefferson, that became unbridgeable. The statesmen of the founding generation, the authors believe, did "a surprising number of things right." But Elkins and McKitrick also describe some things that went resoundingly wrong: the hopelessly underfinanced effort to construct a capital city on the Potomac (New York, they argue, would have been a far more logical choice than Washington), and prosecutions under the Alien and Sedition Acts which turned into a comic nightmare. No detail is left out, or left uninteresting, as their account continues through the Adams presidency, the XYZ affair, the naval Quasi-War with France, and the desperate Federalist maneuvers in 1800, first to prevent the reelection of Adams and then to nullify the election of Jefferson.
The Age of Federalism is the fruit of many years of discussion and thought, in which deep scholarship is matched only by the lucid distinction of its prose. With it, Stanley Elkins and Eric McKitrick have produced the definitive study, long awaited by historians, of the early national era.

"Thorough and well written account of this important time period in our nation's history."--Stephen S. Katz, Community College of Philadelphia "Their fine book should long stand as a standard work on the 1790s and will be essential reading for all interested in early US politics....They provide a clear and powerful analysis of the Federalists in government, and how they managed o do themselves in....They provide a lively commentary on individuals and events. Their account of the XYZ Affair is highly entertaining....We must be grateful to Elkins and McKitrick for exercising their skill and wit so effectively on some of US historu's most prominent and important political losers."--Times Higher Education Supplement (London) "A massive synthesis of the recent literature in traditional American history, The Age of Federalism will probably replace John C. Miller's The Federalist Era as the definitive work on the 1790s."--International Journal of the Classical Tradition "This book is a delight to read and provides an elaborate and valuable account of high politics in the era of Federalism....A valuable and highly readable treatment of high politics in the Early Republic. The book is essential reading for anyone interested in the national politics of that era."--The American Journal of Legal History "The writing is very engaging....It is simply a great book."--Southern Partisan "An impressive achievement. Stanley Elkins and Eric McKitrick have produced an original, scholarly and sparkling account of this nation's first crucial decade under the Constitution. The book combines meticulous historical analysis with a sweeping narrative in which the founding fathers emerge as believable people--at crucial moments wise, vain, petty, ambitious, confused, imaginative, courageous, self-righteous, passionate and stubborn."--Los Angeles Times Book Review "Excellent treatment of the period 1788-1800. Well written and documented."--David H. Wicks, Mississippi Valey State University "Clearly the most thorough one-volume treatment of the period in print. It's a delight to read and the notes are a bibliographical gold mine."--Reverand Jas. Connelly, University of Portland "A 'user friendly' journey through a crucially important and often misinterpreted period."--Dr. Paul Doutrich, York College of Pennsylvania "This is an exceptional book -- one of the finest studies of the period produced in the past quarter century."--John M. Belohlavek, University of South Florida "This is very much a long awaited volume, one which puts to rest so much of what our profession tends to accept as "received wisdom" concerning the new United States in the 18th century."--Gerald Michael Schnabel, Bemidji State University "A rare work that should appeal to lay readers and scholars alike. Its assessments of men and motives are shrewd, even biting, but balanced, and it recounts events and choices with admirable care."--The Chicago Tribune "Two renowned historians apply their talents to the history of the United States during the administrations of George Washington and John Adams. It's all here--Hamilton's financial plans, the capital fight, the Jay crisis, the Quasi-War. But the book is much more than a mere chronicle of the parties and politics of the period 1789-1801. The authors thoroughly embed their account in the political culture of the time. They explore America's dominant republican ideology more fully here than in any other source, making the book this generation's standard interpretive study....It will reward even seasoned professionals with its insights, coverage, and reflections."--Library Journal "Skillfully written and intensively researched."--Milwaukee Journal "Among the many wonders of The Age of Federalism, Stanley Elkins and Eric McKitrick's panoramic record of the ermgence of modern politics in the US, is how these noted historians reconcile such contradictory accounts of America's national origin. By treating the messy business of politics as equal to the high-toned struggles over constitutional philosophy, the authors allow readers to see how grand ideals cohabited with narrow self-interest in the minds of the Founders. One finishes this book with the sense that the men who created the American political order were both larger than life and tragically flawed, sometimes far-sighted geniuses and sometimes blundering fools....[A] splendid book."--The Christian Science Monitor "Any notions that the era from 1788 to 1800 lacked for consequence are thoroughly dispelled by this utterly absorbing account....Here are fresh readings of familiar figures from John Adams to George Washington, invigorating interpretations of items from 'The Federalist Papers' to the XYZ Mission, reflective ideas on the nature of the democracy and the psychology of those who built it....This is profoundly insightful, instructive and entertaining political history."--The State, Columbia, South Carolina "This magisterial, detailed history of the early American republic through 1800 reminds us that the 'Founding Fathers' were revolutionaries, full of volatile passions that cemented or shattered friendships and shaped their cultural orientations....Full of vibrant portraits of the Federalists and their opponents, this outstanding, provocative chronicle sheds much new light on the emergence of American partisan politics."--Publishers Weekly "Magnificent....A first-rate piece of scholarship and a fine rendition for generalists, covers the 1790s, from the First Congress (oft likened to a second constitutional convention) to the 'revolution' of 1800....The era here bursts with intellectual animation, a rare example of authors writing authoritatively and adeptly for two audiences. Let's hope Elkins and McKitrick appear again on history's pro-am tour."--Booklist "Comprehensive treatment of the period that stresses political, social, economic, and ideological concerns, not just political developments."--Frederick H. Campbell, Colorado College "This splendid book reflects many years of research and thought on the part of two distinguished scholars."--Norman K. Risjord, The Journal of Southern History

Acknowledgmentsp. vii
Introduction Modes of Thought and Feeling in the Founding Generationp. 3
Legitimacyp. 31
Finance and Ideologyp. 77
the Divided Mind of James Madison, 1790: Nationalist Versus Ideologuep. 133
the Republic's Capital Cityp. 163
Jefferson and the Yeoman Republicp. 195
Jefferson as Secretary of Statep. 209
the Emergence of Partisan Politics: the """"Republican Interest""""p. 257
the French Revolution in Americap. 303
America and Great Britainp. 375
the Populist Impulsep. 451
the Retirement of Washingtonp. 489
John Adams and the Dogma of """"Balance""""p. 529
Adams and Hamiltonp. 581
the Settlementp. 643
the Mentality of Federalism in 1800p. 691
Indexp. 911
Table of Contents provided by Publisher. All Rights Reserved.

ISBN: 9780195093810
ISBN-10: 019509381X
Audience: Professional
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 944
Published: 23rd February 1995
Country of Publication: US
Dimensions (cm): 23.32 x 15.7  x 4.24
Weight (kg): 1.16