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The Age of Federalism: The Early American Republic, 1788-1800
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The Age of Federalism: The Early American Republic, 1788-1800

4.03  ·  Rating Details ·  181 Ratings  ·  22 Reviews
When Thomas Jefferson took the oath of office for the presidency in 1801, the United States had just passed through twelve critical years, years dominated by some of the towering figures of our history and by the challenge of having to do everything for the first time. Washington, Hamilton, Madison, Adams, and Jefferson himself each had a share in setting the nation's impo ...more
Paperback, 944 pages
Published February 1st 1995 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published February 23rd 1993)
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A.J. Howard
Feb 10, 2012 A.J. Howard rated it it was amazing
Look in almost any grade-school American History textbook and you'll find, highlighted in bold, the term "the Revolution of 1800, referring to the fourth U.S. Presidential election. In these hypothetical textbooks, you'll find an explanation referring to the electoral victory of Thomas Jefferson over John Adams, and how the peaceful transition between two opposing parties demonstrated the strength of the new American democratic tradition. This isn't false, the peaceful transition between the Ada ...more
Superb. Crisply organized and elegantly, indeed wittily, written. The Age of Federalism is, to be sure, an old-fashioned blow-by-blow political history -- but it's a splendid one, enriched with intriguing disquisitions on social and geopolitical context.

The thesis is straightforward. Elkins and McKitrick believe that the struggle between Federalists and Republicans in the 1790s was a version of the old Court-Country rivalry of eighteenth-century England. The Federalists, they argue, were not so
Mar 27, 2011 Lindsay rated it it was amazing
This book is a beast. There is really no other way to say it. It took me forever to finish. Not because it was poorly written or boring, quite the opposite in fact. I was continuously impressed by the amazing quality of the writing and the fact that the information imparted was incredibly interesting. Fascinating vignette after fascinating vignette, I truly enjoyed reading this book. Don't be daunted by the 750 pages of writing (with an additional several hundred of notes), this is the type of b ...more
Dec 10, 2008 Jc rated it really liked it
A very dense work, definitely for the very serious history reader. A complete graduate-level course on the first decade or so of the Republic. It does expect you to know what it is talking about before reading it, no easy outlines of history here. But, if you can dig through it you will know a lot about how this country got off the ground. Definitly not for everyone, certainly not light reading, but more than worth it if you can do it. Shows the early republic to be a time not of mystical "fathe ...more
Mar 17, 2009 Robert rated it it was amazing
Though a little dry, this is by far the most comprehensive book I have read about the political history of the Washington and Adams administrations. Instead of focusing only on the well-known principals, local political trends, social pressures, and international events are brought together to give a thorough understanding of the era. The authors seem to have sought to create a work that can stand beside Adams's history of the Jefferson and Madison administrations (or at least its two-volume abr ...more
B. Hallward
This is a thoroughly excellent history of the early American republic that at its best brings a remarkable clarity to complex political and economic issues, particularly the working out of early forms and administrative procedures, the aims of Hamilton's economic policies, and the political realities under which treaties with England and France were reached. It is a somewhat old-fashioned history -- objectivist in tone and unselfconsciously concerned with a only a small political elite even in a ...more
Aaron Crofut
May 07, 2014 Aaron Crofut rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
I absolutely loved this book. Elkins and McKitrick do a wonderful job putting the reader in the heady and exciting days of our nation's birth, when both possibilities and pitfalls seemed endless. This book is engaging and enjoyable; it's a thousand pages, but I never found myself wishing it was shorter. If anything, I would like to find similarly detailed accounts of every twelve year period in American history. But this is the big time, the big show, the time when America was new, when the tone ...more
Lauren Albert
May 30, 2011 Lauren Albert rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history-american
All I can say is "whew." I must admit it was tough going--not a broad history but a very narrow detailed one--as it covers in great detail the political life of only 12 years of time in the early Republic. One of the most interesting things for me in reading it was the authors' critical view of some of the Founding Fathers--men who are more often than not subjects of hagiographic readings of their lives. They really really dislike Jefferson and think Adams ridiculous.

I imagine that the book wou
Oct 24, 2010 Marc rated it really liked it
Wow. I'm almost as impressed with myself for finishing this behemoth as I am with the thing itself. Make no mistake--this is some dense stuff (the small, single-spaced print means it's much longer than advertised), but just fascinating. I used to fancy myself reasonably well-informed regarding early American history, but after reading this I know that wasn't true (it's truer now). There's lots of great stuff here, including fascinating portraits of, Hamilton, Madison, and others, and great cover ...more
Mar 21, 2008 Tom rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The current batch of know-nothings ought to be forced to read this book, not to mention any other buffoon batting the phrase "founding fathers" around like a volleyball.
Igor Faynshteyn
Sep 05, 2013 Igor Faynshteyn rated it it was amazing
This is not a typical popular history book. It is not merely a historical narrative, reciting major events, dates and historical figures in chronological order. Rather, it is a deep, penetrating, interpretive and scholarly political history of the first 12 years after the ratification of the US Constitution in 1788. I found it impossible to read this book without finding myself constantly thinking, re-reading passages and really focusing in on details. To say that this book is different from 99% ...more
Feb 23, 2017 Jim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Age of Federalism is the result of a thirty-year collaboration between Elkins and McKitrick, called by their colleagues “the Batman and Robin of American historical scholarship.” The work earned the prestigious Bancroft prize for American history in 1994. Instead of American exceptionalism and unabashed equality, the author’s insights into the Washington, Adams, and Jefferson administrations show a complicated and divisive era as America grew out of infancy. The narrative benefits from stron ...more
Jan 27, 2015 Rj rated it it was ok
Of late I have been plodding through Stanley Elkins & Eric McKitrick's The Age of Federalism: The Early American Republic, 1788-1800 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993). Elkins and McKitrick's study is a 925 page study of Federalism and the politics, culture and society of the early Republic. It is one of those books that would have proved invaluable while studying for my comprehensives, but at the same time would have seemed to heafty to wad through in the space of time alloted. The b ...more
May 30, 2012 Michael rated it it was amazing
This tome (nearly 1000 pages) is a masterpiece of the minute researching of topics, and displaying them in a way that keeps every page turning. Broken into relatively short chapters, The Age of Federalism directly covers only twelve years of American history, but makes a solid case that it was the most important twelve years our country ever experienced. The writing is very good and the authors bring a wry sense of humor that comes across despite the obvious seriousness which they bring to their ...more
Uwe Hook
Jul 19, 2014 Uwe Hook rated it really liked it
If you ever wondered how the USA developed after an 8 year revolution followed by 4 years of debate surrounding our constitution, then this is the book. Very well written, but filled with immense reference material, TAoF is a monumental, scholarly work that should become high school reading material and at the least read in every college. Culturally, economically and politically - the USA was not an assured thing. If you ever wondered what the founding fathers thought about political parties, re ...more
Eric Atkisson
Nov 24, 2014 Eric Atkisson rated it really liked it
Easily the best book I've read on the Federalist period. The only issue that prevented me from giving it 5 stars was its massive length; while I appreciated the authors' thoroughness, there were some digressions that could have been trimmed out. Still, the quality of their research and writing was excellent, and overall it was a great read.
Jul 03, 2013 LDuchess rated it liked it
Library copy--reading section on Hamilton. (Returned to lib. without finishing--book is HUGE, even tho' interesting).
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Geoffrey Swain
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Drew rated it it was ok
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Sherry Myers
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Parker Douglas
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Stanley M. Elkins was a historian of late 18th and antebellum America. He attended Harvard University and Columbia University, where he earned his doctorate in 1958. He was an assistant professor of history at the University of Chicago from 1955-1960 before becoming faculty at Smith College in 1960, where he was the Sydenham Clark Parsons Professor Emeritus of History until his death.
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“The state legislatures, as Madison and many another viewed them, had become a babel of narrow-minded parochial concerns, their members men of selfish interests and untutored understanding, oblivious of minority rights, passing unjust laws (such as legal tender acts whereby debts people owed each other could be paid in worthless currency), and all unchecked by any overriding vision of the public good or what it might consist of.” 0 likes
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