HISTORY

Fears of a Setting Sun

Princeton Univ. Mar. 2021. 280p. ISBN 9780691210230. $29.95. HIST
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It’s comforting to believe that the Founding Fathers of the United States were convinced of the new union’s prospects for success. But that isn’t the case, as Rasmussen (political theorist, Syracuse Univ; The Infidel and the Professor) proves in this latest work. George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson all had serious doubts about the long-term viability of the fragile republic. Washington feared factionalism. Hamilton believed that states were too strong and the federal government was too weak. Adams lamented the lack of civic virtue among its citizens. Jefferson, an optimist most of his life, succumbed to fear in his later years that slavery would drive the country apart. Only Madison remained optimistic, though he had lived through the Missouri Compromise of 1820 and witnessed the ascension of the first populist president, Andrew Jackson, governing in a manner antithetical to his own. In telling the stories of these Founding Fathers, Rasmussen has produced a well-researched study that is a salutary read. He writes accessibly, explaining what motivated and worried each of these leaders. Concern for future generations and the fate of the republic is a recurring theme, and will also resonated with many readers today.
VERDICT Though Written primarily for history lovers, this thought-provoking book may strike a chord with others as well.

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