The American Political Tradition and the Men Who Made it

The American Political Tradition and the Men Who Made it IntroductionThe founding fathers an age of realismThomas Jefferson the aristocrat as democratAndrew Jackson the rise of liberal capitalismJohn C Calhoun the Marx of the master class Abraham Lincoln

  • Title: The American Political Tradition and the Men Who Made it
  • Author: Richard Hofstadter
  • ISBN: -
  • Page: 410
  • Format: Paperback
  • IntroductionThe founding fathers, an age of realismThomas Jefferson, the aristocrat as democratAndrew Jackson the rise of liberal capitalismJohn C Calhoun, the Marx of the master class Abraham Lincoln the self made myth Wendell Phillips, the patrician as agitator The spoilsmen, an age of cynicism William Jennings Bryan, the democrat as revivalist Theodore RoosIntroductionThe founding fathers, an age of realismThomas Jefferson, the aristocrat as democratAndrew Jackson the rise of liberal capitalismJohn C Calhoun, the Marx of the master class Abraham Lincoln the self made myth Wendell Phillips, the patrician as agitator The spoilsmen, an age of cynicism William Jennings Bryan, the democrat as revivalist Theodore Roosevelt, the conservative as progressiveWoodrow Wilson, the conservative as liberal Herbert Hoover the crisis of American individualismFranklin D Roosevelt, the patrician as opportunistAcknowledgmentsBibliographical EssayIndex

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    About "Richard Hofstadter"

    1. Richard Hofstadter

      Richard Hofstadter was an American public intellectual, historian and DeWitt Clinton Professor of American History at Columbia University In the course of his career, Hofstadter became the iconic historian of postwar liberal consensus whom twenty first century scholars continue consulting, because his intellectually engaging books and essays continue to illuminate contemporary history.His most important works are Social Darwinism in American Thought, 1860 1915 1944 The American Political Tradition 1948 The Age of Reform 1955 Anti intellectualism in American Life 1963 , and the essays collected in The Paranoid Style in American Politics 1964 He was twice awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1956 for The Age of Reform, an unsentimental analysis of the populism movement in the 1890s and the progressive movement of the early 20th century and in 1964 for the cultural history, Anti intellectualism in American Life.Richard Hofstadter was born in Buffalo, New York, in 1916 to a German American Lutheran mother and a Polish Jewish father, who died when he was ten He attended the City Honors School, then studied philosophy and history at the State University of New York at Buffalo in 1933, under the diplomatic historian Julius Pratt As he matured, he culturally identified himself primarily as a Jew, rather than as a Protestant Christian, a stance that eventually may have cost him professorships at Johns Hopkins University and the University of California, Berkeley, because of the institutional antisemitism of the 1940s.As a man of his time, Richard Hofstadter was a Communist, and a member of the Young Communist League at university, and later progressed to Communist Party membership In 1936, he entered the doctoral program in history at Columbia University, where Merle Curti was demonstrating how to synthesize intellectual, social, and political history based upon secondary sources rather than primary source archival research In 1938, he joined the Communist Party of the USA, yet realistically qualified his action I join without enthusiasm, but with a sense of obligation My fundamental reason for joining is that I don t like capitalism and want to get rid of it I am tired of talking The party is making a very profound contribution to the radicalization of the American people I prefer to go along with it now In late 1939, he ended the Communist stage of his life, because of the Soviet Nazi alliance He remained anti capitalist I hate capitalism and everything that goes with it In 1942, he earned his doctorate in history and in 1944 published his dissertation Social Darwinism in American Thought, 1860 1915, a pithy and commercially successful 200,000 copies critique of late 19th century American capitalism and those who espoused its ruthless dog eat dog economic competition and justified themselves by invoking the doctrine of as Social Darwinism, identified with William Graham Sumner Conservative critics, such as Irwin G Wylie and Robert C Bannister, however, disagree with this interpretation.

    130 thoughts on “The American Political Tradition and the Men Who Made it”

    1. The title of this book is a touch misleading - what Hofstadter actually put together was twelve essays on American politicians - all but one of whom held office - who were present during various instrumental periods in American history, and endeavored to leap astride the coursers of public and political momentum and seek to direct the unruly and unpredictable beasts back towards the beaten path. Completed in 1947 when the author was but thirty - it's a young man's book he acknowledges in the pre [...]

    2. Richard Hofstadter was an eminent historian, who wrote well on significant issues. My favorite works of his focus on American political thought and the history of American politics.Some of the chapters reveal the nature of his effort. "The Founding Fathers: An Age of Realism"; "Thomas Jefferson: The Aristocrat as Democrat"; "John C. Calhoun: The Marx of the Master Class"; "Wendell Phillips: The Patrician as Agitator"; "Woodrow Wilson: The Conservative as Liberal"; "Franklin D. Roosevelt: The Pat [...]

    3. Strangely, Hofstadter wasn't particularly proud of this book; he considered it a young man's work, not the work of a serious scholar. But because of this fact, it is his most accessible work to the educated, non-specialist public. It is probably his most-read book, and it repays reading with wit, humor, and not a small amount of trenchant criticism and original thought.Hofstadter was writing during the era of consensus history—when the modern consensus on American history had coalesced around [...]

    4. Hofstadter writes very well and makes big claims, which is a pleasant change from a lot of contemporary history. The book's general thesis - that the American Political Tradition is by and large an ongoing defense of the property rights of the well-off - seems correct. The book itself lags a bit. It's odd but understandable that the worst chapters are about people who are just transparently evil and or idiots; he's at his best as a debunker (i.e Andrew Jackson was no champion of the oppressed) a [...]

    5. brilliant historical synthesis and commentary. the title of the book is a bit misleading (as hofstadter himself admits; it was not his original choice); rather than a full synopsis of "the american political tradition", the book is really a series of fascinating, well written, and insightful political biographies of some of the most important americans in history. each chapter could stand alone as an essay, and as a collection they make for one of the better non-fiction books i've read.

    6. This isn't so much a comprehensive summary of the political history of the United States, so much as it is a series of biographical sketches which sets out to demonstrate that despite party differences and sometimes intense personal animosity, all leading political figures in the history of the United States fall within the same 'Political Tradition.' Specifically: the belief that the function of Government should be as the protector of free enterprise, the protector of equality of opportunity, [...]

    7. I started this one before the election, expecting a kind of salute to the "Good" American consensus that a Clinton presidency would have continued. When Trump won, I almost immediately cast it aside I didn't wanna read any bromides about the fundamental decency of the American people or the evolution of the American idea or the creativity of American leadership or any of that shit. I picked it up again once my mind settled down to discover an ironical, cutting, provocative work of intellectual h [...]

    8. An excellent book on the the political history of our country from the days of the founders to the presidency of FDR, Hofstadter truly has written a history of our country that every American should read and be proud of and every historian probably wishes he had written. His prose is brief, well formulated, and easily readable, a problem in Sean WIlentz's "The Rise of American Democracy." Also, he analyzes each of the major figures of American political history in a way that can only be describe [...]

    9. A beautifully written book that is heavy on analysis and opinion and light on historical research. Histories of this sort are fun to read, but I doubt there was ever any reason to write them (other than to pass the time, which is an excellent reason to do anything). You'll walk away from TAPT with a lot of talking points about important American politicians that subsequent historians have qualified into irrelevance in the fifty years since its publication.

    10. The American Political Tradition Book Review Richard Hofstadter (1916-1970) received his PhD in History from Columbia University in 1942. Soon after, he decided to pursue a writing career and study the history of politics. In his seventh published book, Hofstadter wrote his most acclaimed piece, The American Political Tradition (1948). In it, he gave his own analysis of America’s most prominent political figures. This work recalls events through American history that have changed how people th [...]

    11. A witty, insightful, learned, scathing, eminently readable debunking of hagiographic myths about American political leaders. Sometimes Hofstadter’s barbs, however well constructed and intellectually sharp, are myopic and unfair (calling Lincoln nothing more than an opportunist seems a bit much). But still, the central concept that political divisions in American history are relatively superficial in comparison to the deeply engrained pragmatism, reverence for wealth and property, and political [...]

    12. Reading older but well-written works of history is always fascinating: a snapshot of their perception of the times, and what they thought rang through to the then-present day. Lasch’s introduction to my edition, though itself dated, does a swell job locating this at the beginning of history’s turn away from Beard’s exclusively-economic interpretations of the American Revolution and more. My favorite chapters/essays were those on the “duds” and losers of American History like Bryan and [...]

    13. I'm a huge fan of Richard Hofstadter's work, so it is not surprising that I thoroughly enjoyed The American Political Tradition. Described as a "kind of intellectual history of the assumptions behind American politics," the book is a series of sketches of major American political figures, from the Founders to Franklin D. Roosevelt. I found those on Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln and Herbert Hoover very interesting and enlightening. Of course, one of the joys of any Hofstadter work is his outsta [...]

    14. Long essays on 10 sometimes angry, sometimes inspirational, sometimes straight up awful men who influenced American politics and thinking. There are also two essays more about the times and culture during the creation of the United States and its post-Civil War issues, which occasionally feel a bit like Woolf's 'Time Passes' chapter in To the Lighthouse. Hofstadter is quickly becoming my favorite American historian.

    15. This is more like a series of biographies than iris it is a book on American Political Traditions. Many of the individuals portrayed in the Berkeley appear to be superficial and opportunistic. Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, & F.D.R. Appears to have been somewhat superficial, impressionable and self-promoting. Hoover and Calhoun appear to be rigid and limited by their own world views.

    16. So it looks from 1948. A perspective that leaps over all American wars and views men's efforts to avoid, or exploit, wars' similar calamities. (A pet thesis for RH is that war is the nemesis of liberal consensus, and progressivism its dilation.) For Charles Olson, who worked in the Office of War Information until about 11 months before the great man, FDR, died, U.S. participation in the war had been a mistake made in spite of the people, who not-uncommonly were divided about the various theaters [...]

    17. Although the title reveals the dated nature of this book (the Men Who Made America, Dammit!), I'd still say this book is worth reading for political historians and other students of politics. I liked it well enough. Hofstadter tells the story of the American political tradition through 12 biographies of major American figures and the eras they represented. He retells the biographies in engrossing detail, capturing the political styles and philosophies of these figures in compelling ways. I parti [...]

    18. Who are John C. Calhoun and Wendell Phillips? If you don't know you might want to pick up a copy of Hofstadter's book, American Political Tradition. If you have never read Hofstadter, or heard of him, he is an American historian and intellectual who has written several books on the socio-political state of America. Hofstadter in The American Political Tradition presents in mini-biographical form the lives and importance of several American politicians and how they shaped American political tradi [...]

    19. This is a great book, and an especially great book to read in a presidential election year. Hofstadter's clear-eyed examination of the basic values of the American tradition cuts through all the pap and empty platitudes of campaign rhetoric. He follows this aim with a series of mini-biographies that trace the development of the republic from Jefferson through FDR. The prose is lively and passionate, and Hofstadter takes little pains to clothe his scorn in the dispassionate language of academic c [...]

    20. Not at all what I was expecting, but a great read none the less. Instead of a comprehensive narrative, this book is twelve essays about the men who shaped American politics. Hofstadter is fair, too fair in some cases, but it allows you to learn about many important figures without alot of the modern poltical baggage attached. If you're short on time the Andrew Jackson, Spoilsmen, Wilson, Hoover & FDR essays are excellent and not too long.

    21. Though it is a mid-Twentieth Century text, Hofstadter shows right off in the introduction that he has an intuitive grasp of the American mind: "Since Americans have recently found it more comfortable to see where they have been than to think of where they are going, their state of mind has become increasingly passive and spectatorial. Historical novels, fictionalized biographies, collections of pictures and cartoons, books on American regions and rivers, have poured forth to satisfy a ravenous a [...]

    22. Hofstadter was a bit ashamed of this book and with somewhat good reason. It is an iconoclastic work in which certain "great" politicians are taken to task and their weaknesses exposed, sometimes with love (Jefferson, Lincoln) and sometimes bitterly (Theodore Roosevelt, Bryan). The connecting theme is moderation, but not so much in praise of it as a discussion of its limitations, particularly in terms of left-wing politics. Hofstadter later wrote that this moderation theme was accidental and over [...]

    23. Like the best intellectual histories, this presents the past as one great and ongoing conversation, one with high stakes and unplumbable depths. What distinguishes it though is the conversation is not one between traditional thinkers in the grand style, but between a series of American politicians. Hofstader does not even focus all his attention on those political theorizers like Thomas Jefferson and Woodrow Wilson; he gives equal weight to those less often examined for their intellectual underg [...]

    24. This helped me get aquainted with some of the historical trends and personalities of America. Hofstadter is a little bit more defaming in it than he might otherwise be expected to be. He even makes the point in the afterword that if he had the chance, looking back years later, that he'd want to change something on every page. Call that scholar's remorse.But what this book does do is start to dig in to the personalities and poltical stature of some of the bigger and lesser known people out there. [...]

    25. Try as he might, the author never actually succeeds in discrediting the wolfish aspect of capitalism. It is still necessary in generating wealth, and also destructive of society. The liberal alternative to Karl Marx's analysis is barely even there. If capital is a universal acid, socialism is basic. Society cleanses and purifies. It is the soap of money. Sweat of the brow is still the only way to make it. Still, the only true cleaning agent in life is the blood of Christ, and without it soap wil [...]

    26. Well written. Irresponsibly broad, but compelling. Some chapters hold up better than others. The chapters on Jefferson, Calhoun, and Wilson are masterpieces. The chapter on Jackson dwelt to a fault on Hofstader's own estimation of the man (negative), and the chapter on Lincoln was too ambitious. Hofstadter did not yet have enough historical remove to fully consider FDR, and the book ends with a whimper. Personal note: I found this 1950s paperback edition on the stoop next to my building. Well wo [...]

    27. I found it dry, but interesting for pointing out what was terrible about every major political figure in American history. Nobody gets off lightly. In the end, it reads as one-sided as the completely laudatory biographies of the same figures. Major accomplishments are not mentioned or downplayed, and the required hypocrisies of politics are written as major moral or ideological failings.I'd consider it important reading as one of many books about American political history for the serious reader [...]

    28. As I get older, rather than getting drunk and burning and blowing up things, I find myself drawn to read a work of American history around Independence Day.Apparently, Hofstadter thought little of this book, a youthful work, because it was without the subtlety and considered judgement that he came later in life to value. I think that's bosh. For the non-specialist, it's a very engaging read of character studies of major American political figures. Each chapter is succinct, lively, and irreverent [...]

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