American Dialogue: The Founders and Us

7 CDs. Books on Tape. Oct. 2018. 8:30 hrs. ISBN 9780553550795. $40. digital download. HIST
Ellis (Ford Foundation Professor of History, Mount Holyoke Coll.; American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson) here discusses the views of four of the Founding Fathers on ideas and issues that are equally relevant in our modern society: Jefferson on racism, Adams on economic inequality, Washington on American foreign policy, and Madison on the interpretation of the Constitution. Washington is covered with tact, amusement, and deep reflection. Ellis points out repeatedly the multitude of character flaws and personal demons of Jefferson, who considered his presidency such an irrelevant part of his life that he didn't even have it inscribed on his tombstone. Adams feared our government would snowball slowly into oligarchy if we did not learn from history and educate ourselves about the fallibility of man. Ellis makes the case that Madison was the pinnacle figure in creating what would become the law of the land. Arthur Morey, himself an award-winning narrator, gives an excellent reading of this work. His baritone voice is clear, his pacing steady and easy to follow, and his inflection near perfect for the text.
VERDICT All libraries, both public and academic, should consider. ["Ellis's compelling historical examples and astute analysis will raise questions and ignite debate. This work should be read by academics and general readers alike": LJ 10/1/18 starred review of the Knopf hc.]
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