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15 Works 1,631 Membros 33 Reviews 2 Favorited

About the Author

Fergus M. Bordewich is the author of several books, including America's Great Debate: Henry Clay, Stephen A. Douglas, and the Compromise That Preserved the Union, which won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in history. He lives in San Francisco. Visit him at FergusBordewich.com.

Obras de Fergus Bordewich


Conhecimento Comum



U. S. Grant has always been a punching bag for historians over the years who have generally accepted the Southern narrative on his life (drunk, corrupt and incompetent) with a grudging regard for his generalship. This book is a much needed reappraisal of his capable leadership and decency especially with regard to his leadership putting up a strong fight against the Klan and other hate groups in the South during Reconstruction for many years until the North loses it's will and things slide back toward the evil past.… (mais)
muddyboy | 1 outra resenha | May 12, 2024 |
Although the title of this book is somewhat misleading, as Ulysses S. Grant is something of a minor character, there is a lot of information about the early KKK, and anyone interested in American History will find this book a worthwhile read. Grant was a strong proponent of civil rights, but he’s not really the focus of the book. Bordewich does justice to Grant, detailing legislation he championed in support of civil rights, as well as the judges and cabinet members he appointed who helped make his vision a reality.

And it was a reality. Sort of. For a little while. The reader learns about many of the new elected officials, many newly emancipated, in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War, and the ways their activism pushed forward the civil rights agenda.

Unfortunately, but unsurprisingly, there’s a backlash, and it is this that forms the bulk of this book. Alongside the stories of brave people who fought for equal rights are the stories of people who believed in both segregation and subjugation, and the violence they perpetrated in pursuit of their goals. There are numerous descriptions of lynchings, assaults, brutality, and cruelty as the KKK became more organized.

Readers will learn the many ways in which the KKK of the 1860s and 1870s was different from what we now think of the Klan, and may be surprised to find out the Klan was essentially dormant from the late 19th century until the early 1920s, at which point it was increasing immigration that provided the impetus for the resurrection of the Klan into what we know today.

Readalikes: The Wars of Reconstruction: The Brief, Violent History of America’s Most Progressive Era by Douglas R. Egerton
The Ordeal of the Reunion: A New History of Reconstruction by Mark Wahlgren Summers
Ecstatic Nation: Confidence, Crisis, and Compromise, 1848-1877 by Brenda Wineapple
… (mais)
mzonderm | 1 outra resenha | Jan 26, 2024 |
I pulled this off the new books shelf because we really tend to overestimate the presidential effect on our law-making system and there aren't a lot of available books on this subject and era.

For good reason.

It's really a lot to cover and it's hard to make it all interesting. Not that this didn't have it's good moments and figures, Thaddeus Stevens at the forefront. But it also wasn't an easy read and you don't feel the attachment for the people as you would in, say, a book from McCullough or Doris Goodwin. Being history instead of fiction, the concluding ascension of Johnson to the role of president is rather anti-climactic and slightly depressing.

I was highly amused to recognize 18th-century versions of "Fake News," "Voter Fraud," and "President is overstepping boundaries." Some things about politics manage to stay the same.

Final note: the exchange of party beliefs and values between the past and the future is glaring. It is only too obvious that groups are influenced by individuals and that none is immune from past errors. Nor are they all incapable of laudable decisions.
… (mais)
OutOfTheBestBooks | Sep 24, 2021 |
On April 7, 2019, President Donald Trump effectively fired Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. In the aftermath, plenty of people debated whether the president should have fired Nielsen — but no one questioned whether he COULD. That silence, it turns out, is among the great many things America owes to the First Congress meeting from 1789 to 1791.

In a thoroughly readable history, Bordewich narrates the events great and small of the first two years of the U.S. Constitution, everything from famous debates to the illnesses and carriage-wrecks that America's leading statesmen endured during their attempts to establish a new government.

Personally, I found the lesser-known incidents described in the book's first half more fascinating than the better-known debates the Congress took up in its second and third sessions (the federal assumption of state debts, the battles over the site of the nation's capital, the creation of the Bank of the United States). The issue of presidential firing power is a key example — today, we take it for granted that political appointees serve at the pleasure of the president. But the members of the First Congress definitely did not. Many argued that it was the Senate, which confirmed appointees, that had the power to remove them. Others said that appointees could only be removed by impeachment, the only remedy specified in the constitution. It was only after a fierce debate during the creation of initial federal agencies that Congress settled on a president's power to remove people he appointed.

Similarly, while many people know that the early Congress passed the constitutional amendments that became the Bill of Rights, and history buffs know that the First Congress actually passed 12 amendments, one of which was approved much later and one is still eligible for ratification, Bordewich lays out the entire tortuous history: the hundreds of proposed amendments Congress dealt with, many of which aimed at wholesale transformation of the Constitution; James Madison's proposed list of not 10 or 12 but more than 20 amendments, including a long preamble to the Constitution; the fight over whether amendments should inserted into the Constitution or tagged on to the end; and the committees and deals that ultimately shaped the amendments Americans know today.

Bordewich also captures the flavor of key characters, from the unstoppable drive of Alexander Hamilton to the political dominance of James Madison, who at one point was both essentially at the helm of both the House of Representatives and the presidency as Washington's closest advisor, highlighted most amusingly in the time when Madison wrote Washington's address to Congress and then wrote the House's response back to Washington.

Above all, the debates Bordewich chronicles remain relevant today, both in substance and in form. Many of the issues dividing Americans today were present at the very beginning. The First Congress could be sharply divided over key issues — but found a way to compromise on the biggest ones when push came to shove. Today's Americans can find both inspiration and warning in this grubby and complex history of the precedents set at the very beginning of the American Republic.
… (mais)
dhmontgomery | outras 4 resenhas | Dec 13, 2020 |



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