Nancy Isenberg is the author of the New York Times bestseller White Trash: The 400-year untold history of class in America. She is the coauthor, with Andrew Burstein, of Madison and Jefferson. She is the T. Harry Williams Professor of American History at LSU, and writes regularly for Salon.com. Isenberg is the winner of the 2016 Walter & Lillian Lowenfels Criticism Award from the Before Columbus Foundation and was #4 on the 2016 Politico 50 list. She lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Charlottesville, Virginia.
In this flawed work about one of American history's most fascinating characters, Isenberg (history, Univ. of Tulsa; Sex and Citizenship in Antebellum America), an unabashed Aaron Burr apologist, attempts to restore her subject's reputation by investigating his political and personal conduct. She examines three major episodes in Burr's long, turbulent, and ultimately tragic life: his failed bid for the 1800 presidency, his escalating hostility toward Alexander Hamilton that culminated in the duel that ruined Burr's once-promising political career, and his trial for treason that ended in acquittal but forced him into exile. Burr is portrayed as an innocent victim of unsubstantiated slander, gossip, and enmity throughout his career as an attorney, a U.S. senator from New York, and vice president. It is an unconvincing and highly subjective portrait that raises more questions than it answers. Roger G. Kennedy's Burr, Hamilton, and Jefferson: A Study in Character is a superior title for general readers that provides objective analysis of Burr's political machinations and personal behavior. Milton Lomask's two-volume biography of Burr, now o.p., is the more scholarly work that libraries should possess. Not recommended.-Douglas King, Univ. of South Carolina Lib., Columbia Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
Does Burr belong in the pantheon of founding fathers? Or is he, as historians have asserted ever since he fatally shot Alexander Hamilton in a duel, a faux founder who happened to be in the right place at the right time? Was he really the enigmatic villain, the political schemer who lacked any moral core, the sexual pervert, the cherubic-faced slanderer so beloved of popular imagination? This striking new biography by Isenberg (Sex and Citizenship in Antebellum America) argues that Burr was, indeed, the real thing, a founder "at the center of nation building" and a "capable leader in New York political circles." Interestingly, if controversially, Isenberg believes Burr was "the only founder to embrace feminism," the only one who "adhered to the ideal that reason should transcend party differences." Far from being an empty vessel, she says, Burr defended freedom of speech, wanted to expand suffrage and was a proponent of equal rights. Burr was not without his faults, she concludes, but then, none of the other founders was entirely angelic, either, and his actions must be viewed in the context of his political times. As this important book reminds us, America's founders behaved like ordinary human beings even when they were performing their extraordinary deeds. Illus. (May 14) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
Full of insight and new research. An important and engaging account.--New York Times Book Review
A sterling biography.--Boston Globe Isenberg offers justice to a maligned man.--Wall Street Journal Isenberg's meticulous biography reveals a gifted lawyer, politician, and orator who championed civility in government and even feminist ideals, in a political climate that bears a marked resemblance to our own.--Washington Post