BOOK REVIEW: ‘The Founding Conservatives’

In this splendid narrative history centered largely in the years between the Declaration of Independence and the ratification of our Constitution, David Lefer, historian and professor at New York University’s Polytechnic Institute, points out that it was a chaotic period, in many ways not dissimilar to our own, “a time of war without end; of real estate crashes, rampant speculation, and mounting public debt; of popular outrage at bankers and merchants … of bitter disputes over taxation; and of such animosity between left and right that it frequently left Congress paralyzed for months on end.”

Given the turbulence and the recognizable similarities, writes Mr. Lefer, “it’s unsurprising that the Founders reacted more like us than their impassive marble likenesses would lead us to believe.” This will no doubt upset many of what Mr. Lefer calls “consensus historians.” But that, in part, may be one of his objectives.

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