In this authoritative and engrossing full-scale biography, Walter Isaacson, bestselling author of Einstein and Steve Jobs, shows how the most fascinating of America's founders helped define our national character.Benjamin Franklin is the founding father who winks at us, the one who seems made of flesh rather than marble. In a sweeping narrative that follows Franklin's life from Boston to Philadelphia to London and Paris and back, Walter Isaacson chronicles the adventures of the runaway apprentice who became, over the course of his eighty-four-year life, America's best writer, inventor, media baron, scientist, diplomat, and business strategist, as well as one of its most practical and ingenious political leaders. He explores the wit behind Poor Richard's Almanac and the wisdom behind the Declaration of Independence, the new nation's alliance with France, the treaty that ended the Revolution, and the compromises that created a near-perfect Constitution. In this colorful and intimate narrative, Isaacson provides the full sweep of Franklin's amazing life, showing how he helped to forge the American national identity and why he has a particular resonance in the twenty-first century.
It was a contest of titans: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, two heroes of the Revolutionary era, once intimate friends, now icy antagonists locked in a fierce battle for the future of the United States. The election of 1800 was a thunderous clash of a campaign that climaxed in a deadlock in the Electoral College and led to a crisis in which the young republic teetered on the edge of collapse.Adams vs. Jefferson is the gripping account of a turning point in American history, a dramatic struggle between two parties with profoundly different visions of how the nation should be governed. The Federalists, led by Adams, were conservatives who favored a strong central government. The Republicans, led by Jefferson, were more egalitarian and believed that the Federalists had betrayed the Revolution of 1776 and were backsliding toward monarchy. The campaign itself was a barroom brawl every bit as ruthless as any modern contest, with mud-slinging, scare tactics, and backstabbing. The low point came when Alexander Hamilton printed a devastating attack on Adams, the head of his own party, in "fifty-four pages of unremitting vilification." The stalemate in the Electoral College dragged on through dozens of ballots. Tensions ran so high that the Republicans threatened civil war if the Federalists denied Jefferson the presidency. Finally a secret deal that changed a single vote gave Jefferson the White House. A devastated Adams left Washington before dawn on Inauguration Day, too embittered even to shake his rival's hand. With magisterial command, Ferling brings to life both the outsize personalities and the hotly contested political questions at stake. He shows not just why this moment was a milestone in U.S. history, but how strongly the issues--and the passions--of 1800 resonate with our own time.
In this engaging study of the much-loved statesman and polymath, Robert Middlekauff uncovers a little-known aspect of Benjamin Franklin's personality--his passionate anger. He reveals a fully human Franklin who led a remarkable life but nonetheless had his share of hostile relationships--political adversaries like the Penns, John Adams, and Arthur Lee--and great disappointments--the most significant being his son, William, who sided with the British. Utilizing an abundance of archival sources, Middlekauff weaves episodes in Franklin's emotional life into key moments in colonial and Revolutionary history. The result is a highly readable narrative that illuminates how historical passions can torment even the most rational and benevolent of men.
In 1761, at a boarding school in New England, a young Mohawk Indian named Joseph Brant first met Samuel Kirkland, the son of a colonial clergyman. They began a long and intense relationship that would redefine North America. For nearly fifty years, their lives intertwined, at first as close friends but later as bitter foes. Kirkland served American expansion as a missionary and agent, promoting Indian conversion and dispossession. Brant pursued an alternative future for the continent by defending an Indian borderland nestled between the British in Canada and the Americans, rather than divided by them.
By telling their dramatic story, Alan Taylor illuminates the dual borders that consolidated the new American nation after the Revolution. By constricting Indians within reservation lines, the Americans sought to control their northern boundary with the British Empire, which lingered in Canada. The border became firm as thousands of settlers established farms, held as private property, all around the new reservations. This struggle also pitted the federal government against the leaders of New York, competing to control the lands and the Indians of the border country. They contended for the highest of stakes because the transformation of Indian land constructed the wealth and the power of states, nations, and empires in North America.
In addition to land, the frontier contest pivoted on murders, which repeatedly tested who had legal jurisdiction: Indians or newcomers. To assert power, the contending regimes sought to try and execute Indians or settlers who killed one another. To defend native autonomy, however, the Indians asserted an alternative by "covering the graves" of victims with presents to console their kin. When the gallows replaced covered graves, the Indians lost their middle position as free peoples.
Taylor breaks with the stereotype of Indians as defiant but doomed traditionalists, as noble but futile defenders of ancient ways. In fact, the borderland Indians demonstrated remarkable adaptability and creativity in coping with the contending powers and with the growing numbers of invading settlers. Led by Joseph Brant, the natives tried to manage, rather than entirely to block, the process of settlement. Taylor shows that they did so in ways meant to preserve Indian autonomy and prosperity. Rather than sell lands for a song to governments, the Indians sought greater control and revenue by leasing lands directly to settler tenants. But neither the British nor the American leaders could accept Indians as landlords, as competitors in the construction of power from land in North America. Once a "middle ground," the borderland became a divided ground, partitioned between the British Empire and the American republic.
In this landmark work of history and winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Joseph J. Ellis explores how a group of greatly gifted but deeply flawed individuals--Hamilton, Burr, Jefferson, Franklin, Washington, Adams, and Madison--confronted the overwhelming challenges before them to set the course for our nation.The United States was more a fragile hope than a reality in 1790. During the decade that followed, the Founding Fathers--re-examined here as Founding Brothers--combined the ideals of the Declaration of Independence with the content of the Constitution to create the practical workings of our government. Through an analysis of six fascinating episodes--Hamilton and Burr's deadly duel, Washington's precedent-setting Farewell Address, Adams' administration and political partnership with his wife, the debate about where to place the capital, Franklin's attempt to force Congress to confront the issue of slavery and Madison's attempts to block him, and Jefferson and Adams' famous correspondence--Founding Brothers brings to life the vital issues and personalities from the most important decade in our nation's history.
Over the course of the eighteenth century, race came to seem as corporeal as sex. Kirsten Fischer has mined unpublished court records and travel literature from colonial North Carolina to reveal how early notions of racial difference were shaped by illicit sexual relationships and the sanctions imposed on those who conducted them. Fischer shows how the personal--and yet often very public--sexual lives of Native American, African American, and European American women and men contributed to the new racial order in this developing slave society.
Liaisons between European men and native women, among white and black servants, and between servants and masters, as well as sexual slander among whites and acts of sexualized violence against slaves, were debated, denied, and recorded in the courtrooms of colonial North Carolina. Indentured servants, slaves, Cherokee and Catawba women, and other members of less privileged groups sometimes resisted colonial norms, making sexual choices that irritated neighbors, juries, and magistrates and resulted in legal penalties and other acts of retribution. The sexual practices of ordinary people vividly bring to light the little-known but significant ways in which notions of racial difference were alternately contested and affirmed before the American Revolution.
Fischer makes an innovative contribution to the history of race, class, and gender in early America by uncovering a detailed record of illicit sexual exchanges in colonial North Carolina and showing how acts of resistance to sexual rules complicated ideas about inherent racial difference.
Drawing on extensive knowledge of Native American history, the author searches for the truth about the four-hundred-year-old disappearance of England's first colony in North America and the fate of Roanoke's doomed settlers.
A riveting historical mystery of Colonial America by the author of "Nathaniel's Nutmeg"
In April, 1586, Queen Elizabeth I acquired a new and exotic title. A tribe of Native Americans, "savages," had made her their weroanza-a word that meant "big chief." The news was received with great joy, both by the Queen and by her favorite, Sir Walter Ralegh. His first American expedition had brought back a captive, Manteo, whose tattoed face and otter-skin cloak had caused a sensation in Elizabethan London. In 1857, Manteo was returned to his homeland as Lord and Governor, along with more than 100 English men, women and children.In 1590, a supply ship arrived at the colony to discover that the settlers had vanished.
For almost twenty years the fate of Ralegh's colonists was to remain a mystery. When a new wave of settlers sailed to America to found Jamestown, their efforts to locate the lost colony were frustrated by the mighty chieftain, Powhatan, father of Pocahontas, who vowed to drive the English out of America. Only when it was too late did the settlers discover the incredible news that Ralegh's colonists had survived in the forests for almost two decades before being slaughtered in cold blood by Powhatan's henchmen. While Sir Walter Ralegh's "savage" had played a pivotal role in establishing the first English settlement in America, he had also unwittingly contributed to one of the earliest chapters in the decimation of the Native American population.
Four journeys by early Americans Mary Rowlandson, Sarah Kemble Knight, William Byrd II, and Dr. Alexander Hamilton recount the vivid physical and psychological challenges of colonial life. Essential primary texts in the study of early American cultural life, they are now conveniently collected in a single volume.For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.
In this dazzling work of history, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author follows Benjamin Franklin to France for the crowning achievement of his career
In December of 1776 a small boat delivered an old man to France." So begins an enthralling narrative account of how Benjamin Franklin-seventy years old, without any diplomatic training, and possessed of the most rudimentary French-convinced France, an absolute monarchy, to underwrite America's experiment in democracy.
When Franklin stepped onto French soil, he well understood he was embarking on the greatest gamble of his career. By virtue of fame, charisma, and ingenuity, Franklin outmaneuvered British spies, French informers, and hostile colleagues; engineered the Franco-American alliance of l778; and helped to negotiate the peace of l783. The eight-year French mission stands not only as Franklin's most vital service to his country but as the most revealing of the man.
In "A Great Improvisation," Stacy Schiff draws from new and little-known sources to illuminate the least-explored part of Franklin's life. Here is an unfamiliar, unforgettable chapter of the Revolution, a rousing tale of American infighting, and the treacherous backroom dealings at Versailles that would propel George Washington from near decimation at Valley Forge to victory at Yorktown. From these pages emerge a particularly human and yet fiercely determined Founding Father, as well as a profound sense of how fragile, improvisational, and international was our country's bid for independence.