By Gilbert B. Elwyn
We know them mainly from their visages staring at us form our money. Perhaps we have seen statues or sculptures. Then there are the stories – American lore – of George Washington and the cherry tree, Ben Franklin and his kite. But these are indeed the Founding Fathers of the United States. The farther removed from them in time that we become, unfortunately, the farther removed we also become from them in reality. They are no longer flesh-and-blood people, but legendary beings – men of myth. Even the recent revelations of Thomas Jefferson’s relationship with Sally Hemings do little to humanize him. After all, the gods occasionally ventured down from Mount Olympus to dally with the mortals.
Pultizer Prize winning historian Gordon S. Wood has written a book which breathes life back into these extra-ordinary men. His subtitle is indicative of the book. Together it reads: Revolutionary Characters: What Made the Founders Different.
The book allows the reader to see the founders as flesh-and-blood human beings and to see what made each of them “tick.” Only through knowing each background and motivation can we understand their thoughts and actions as, individually and interactively, they laid the groundwork for our democracy.