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Jefferson and Hamilton: The Rivalry That Forged a Nation    by John Ferling order for
Jefferson and Hamilton
by John Ferling
Order:  USA  Can
Bloomsbury, 2013 (2013)
Hardcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Tim Davis

Here is a sad fact: Most Americans have only a superficial knowledge of Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, and their pivotal and adversarial roles in American history.

For example, few Americans know very much at all about Alexander Hamilton. As the man who might be the more infamous of the two founders (at least to most people), especially given his fatal duel with Aaron Burr, Hamilton left his permanent imprint on American political science, particularly as it concerns debates about the roles of a central government, a financial system, and commercial enterprise.

At the same time, while most Americans can tell you a bit more about Thomas Jefferson (i.e., they will almost always cite his authorship of the Declaration of Independence and his relationship with the slave Sally Hemmings), few Americans are familiar with the complex depth of Jefferson's espousal of personal equality, which some would label as being a bit ironic, and his steadfast commitment to expansive national growth. Moreover, Americans would be hard-pressed to tell you how those issues and others led Jefferson to become Hamilton's fierce political opponent.

It is interesting to note, by way of digression, that both of these late 18th century politicians have been significant influences upon late 20th century presidential thinking: Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush frequently aligned themselves to Hamiltonian approaches; John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton were particularly clear about their embrace of Jeffersonian principles.

But, finally, to state the matter more succinctly, anyone's hope of understanding America in the 21st century requires knowledge of the ways in which Jefferson and Hamilton were so significant to the shaping of American government, society, and economics in the 18th and 19th centuries. As an aid to that understanding, here is a highly recommended new book that will be invaluable to all readers.

Written in clear, crisp expository prose by John Ferling, author of numerous books focusing on the American Revolution, and professor emeritus of history at the University of West Georgia, this exhaustively detailed study of Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton is a valuable new look at a unique era - and two singular personalities. Moreover, although this book is a scholarly presentation that may seem to be aimed at a specific, academic audience, everything presented by Professor Ferling should be accessible and interesting to general readers.

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