America Afire by Bernard A. Weisberger
Jefferson, Adams, and the Revolutionary Election of 1800

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Synopsis

"Bernard Weisberger has once again brought the past to life. If you want to experience the crossfire of intellectual and political ferment at the dawn of our Republic, open these pages and start ducking."
--Bill Moyers

America Afire is the powerful story of the election of 1800, arguably the most important election in America's history and certainly one of the most hotly disputed. American self-government was still an endangered experiment seventeen years after the War of Independence had been won. As 1800 dawned, the sacrifices and fraternity of "the spirit of '76" had vanished, replaced by bitter and angry rivalries. Former allies Adams and Jefferson, president and vice president, now Federalist versus Republican, squared off in a vicious contest to win the fourth presidential election under the Constitution.

The Constitution was still new and untried. The young republic lacked a cohesive national identity, the strength to confront aggressive foreign powers in a world racked by war and revolution, and a stable system for working out political differences electorally. Political parties were new, unforeseen, and unwelcome creations. Small wonder that no one was prepared for the partisan warfare that threatened to rage out of control. Or for the broken friendships, scandals, riots, slanders, beatings, and jailings -- elements of a crucial and perilous election that sparked a constitutional crisis and threats of civil war.

Ultimately, the surprise is not that problems arose, but that the United States emerged from them a stronger nation. For when Adams stepped down from the presidency peacefully in 1801, it was the first time in modern history that a leader had voluntarily turned over power to his political enemy. This was truly a revolution and a triumph for democracy "made in America."

Scrupulously researched and eminently readable, America Afire tells the tale of a watershed event in American history and lends a valuable new perspective on the early years of the United States, as well as the genesis and nature of our political system.

 

About Bernard A. Weisberger

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Bernard A. Weisberger is a distinguished teacher and author of American history. He has been on the faculties of the University of Chicago and the University of Rochester, is a contributing editor of "American Heritage" for which he wrote a regular column for ten years, has worked on television documentaries with Bill Moyers and Ken Burns, and has published some dozen and a half books as well as numerous articles and reviews. He lives in Evanston, Illinois, with his wife.
 
Published September 19, 2000 by William Morrow. 352 pages
Genres: History, Political & Social Sciences, War. Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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A vivid political history of the earliest and most unstable years of the American republic.

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Publishers Weekly

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Being released in time to mark the 200th anniversary of the election of 1800 won't be much of a selling point for this disappointing volume. It relates what Weisberger describes as one of the most mud

Oct 02 2000 | Read Full Review of America Afire: Jefferson, Ada...

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