Fallen Founder: The Life of Aaron Burr

Fallen Founder: The Life of Aaron Burr

by Nancy Isenberg


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From the author of White Trash and The Problem of Democracy, a controversial challenge to the views of the Founding Fathers offered by Ron Chernow and David McCullough

Lin-Manuel Miranda's play "Hamilton" has reignited interest in the founding fathers; and it features Aaron Burr among its vibrant cast of characters. With Fallen Founder, Nancy Isenberg plumbs rare and obscure sources to shed new light on everyone's favorite founding villain. The Aaron Burr whom we meet through Isenberg's eye-opening biography is a feminist, an Enlightenment figure on par with Jefferson, a patriot, and—most importantly—a man with powerful enemies in an age of vitriolic political fighting. Revealing the gritty reality of eighteenth-century America, Fallen Founder is the authoritative restoration of a figure who ran afoul of history and a much-needed antidote to the hagiography of the revolutionary era.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780143113713
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 04/29/2008
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 560
Sales rank: 150,845
Product dimensions: 5.53(w) x 8.44(h) x 1.24(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

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.

Table of Contents

Preface     vii
Acknowledgments     xi
List of Illustrations     xvii
A Man of Promising Parts     1
To Concert with my Brother Officers     19
Such are the Letters I Love     55
An Unprejudiced Mind     85
A Certain Little Senator     129
The Statesman and the Soldier     177
The Ruin of the Vice President     223
Little Quid Emperor     271
Will O' Wisp Treason     319
That Stranger was Aaron Burr     367
Epilogue: He Used no Unnecessary Words     405
Notes     415
Index     523

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Fallen Founder: The Life of Aaron Burr 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
troutrivers More than 1 year ago
As an example of the headline, I had forgotten that Burr was the Vice President of the United States when he faced Alexander Hamilton in the infamous duel. And as VP, a few weeks after the duel he was the presiding officer of the United States Senate. The author is very sympathetic to Burr - and as such she is in the minority, both amongst historians as well as amongst Burr's contemporaries. But - all the charges against Burr were refuted in open trials - maybe it is correct to return him to a place of honor amongst the founding generation? Read, and read some more, and decide for yourself.
AJdeFaria More than 1 year ago
For history lovers for sure. Clearly written, well researched and an enlightened view of a vice-President who has been maligned far too long. History has too be objective and report both sides of an historical figure. Too often, person's go disgraced when they don't stand up and speak or write for themselves in the face of critics or foes. Perhaps we need to reassess without bias what a person's true contribution to our history is. Read it!
TRB55 More than 1 year ago
well written and worth the price
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Really enjoyed this thoughtful, well-researched reconsideration of Burr.  History has largely ignored the reasons why he was such a rising young star among the founding generation, in favor of unquestioning acceptance of his villainy.  This book restores some well-deserved luster to his oft-maligned reputation. In the end, we are left with a more plausible human replete with myriad accomplishments and failures, in lieu of the villainous caricature of American mythology. Refreshing read!
RVAbookLover84 More than 1 year ago
VERY VERY biased book. There are some historical inaccuracies blatantly stated and throughout the whole book rails on how historians poetry other founding fathers and in the same breath does the very same with Burr! Its unbelievable! I got this book because I wanted a different perspective, however I am blown away at the pro-Burr anti-Hamilton sentiment the author consistently portrays. This book is infuriating to read as a historian myself.
Othemts on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This biography attempts to make up for two-centuries of scholarship on Aaron Burr that¿s been informed by myth and fiction. Isenberg makes Burr¿s case ¿ while not ignoring his mistakes and flaws ¿ as one of the important leaders of the early United States republic, albeit one whose career ended in failure. Not only that, but since his posterity has had no supporters, much of what is taught about Burr comes from the writings of his political rivals Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson. Isenberg also makes it clear that Burr had many positive qualities that have been overlooked: a war hero in the Revolution, an excellent lawyer, an intellectual, a feminist, an innovative political campaigner and someone who often refused to play the game of sycophancy nor venomously maligning his political rivals. These last traits though honest would hurt him in both his military and political careers as less noble figures would claw their way past him.In this book Hamilton comes across as the Fox News pundit of the Federal period willing to wield his poison pen to bear false witness against his political rival. Jefferson on the other hand is intent on building a Virginia dynasty and while willing to have Burr get him votes from New York did not want to lose power to the Northern Democratic-Republican Party. Isenberg explores all the famed events of Burr¿s life ¿ the contested election of 1800, the duel with Hamilton, and the western filibuster ¿ and Burr comes out looking pretty good in all of them, at least on a relative scale. For if Burr is ever immoral, corrupt, or dishonest he is no more so (and often less so) than his contemporaries who have much better historical reputations.Isenberg¿s final paragraph sums it best: These were our founders: imperfect me in a less than perfect nation, grasping at opportunities. That they did good for our country is understood, and worth our celebration; that they were also jealous, resentful, self-protective and covetous politicians should be no less a part of their collective biography. What seperates history from myth is that history takes in the whole picture, whereas myth averts our eyes from the truth when it turns men into heroes and gods.
linedog1848 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I found this book to be a solid winner. Isenberg's writing style is easy and engaging, and she tells a compelling story largely vindicating Burr not only from his reputation as murderer, traitor, and libertine, but also vindicating him from his undeserved obscurity compared to others of the period. Though through extensive reading on the Revolutionary period I had some idea of the importance of Aaron Burr, this book fully confirmed my perception that Burr was as worthy of a prominent place in our memory as Hamilton, Madison, Jay, and Marshall (if admittedly not as prominent a place as Franklin or Washington).On first reading this book, a serious amateur historian may find Isenberg's story to be too favorable to Burr. At times, parts seem to cross from historical revelation to personal advocacy on Burr's behalf. DO NOT BE FOOLED! Isenberg made what I feel was a great decision to allow the narrative to push into advocacy in order to maintain the coherence and flow of the work. But Isenberg provided over 115 pages of notes on her truly remarkable research; each and every time I read something that seemed to depart even slightly from academic objectivity, I referenced the notes, where without fail I not only found the authors detailed description of the source, but where Isenberg also frankly and honestly described alternate views and refuting evidence just as fully sourced as her own opinions.In the end, I found this writing decision very good. Isenberg bog her readers down with extensive references and discussion of all alternative views, she just laid out her case. At the same time, she respectfully acknowledged alternative opinions, showing a great deal of respect for her readers and presenting a confident style by providing us all the sources we need to decide for ourselves.Excellent book. I rate this in the league of David McCullough's "John Adams," true standouts in a genre full of solid, intelligent work.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Nancy Isenberg has a very nice writing style -- very smooth, very fluid. Be that as it may, the author fails in her attempt to rehabilitate Aaron Burr's reputation. It has the pitch and deft touch of revisionist propaganda: Oh, he wan't THAT bad.' Well, yes he was. But if you're a feminist, and/or relish sympathy for the devil, you-will-love . . . this book. And Feminism is the one PC sicpassim you can count on to greet you in every fluid, apologetic chapter though, I must confess, it's odd that late seventeenth and early eighteenth century mores seem to be ignored with the exception of the duel at Weehawkin. That said, given the times and the totality of circumstacnes juxtaposed beside Burr's supposed feminism, not to mention his Ephialtesian mind-set, in the final analysis, or so it seems, Isenberg reveals a startling paradox: testosterone really does matter. To exonerate Burr as the scoundrel he is often made out to be or to plead that he is only one of many who was victimized by other Children of the Enlightenment or, perhaps, 'not so bad' as compared to the other Founding Fathers well, then, the narrative should have caught the wave and particle connections through the the prism of the founding era rather than from the singular angle of the 21st century's moral relativism. Isemberg's writing style is very, very nice. But -- at least for me -- she vandalized, what should have been a fine piece of work, with too much of the 'F' word.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago