A group portrait of America's first four presidents from Virginia focuses on a series of key historical episodes that illustrate how the myriad leadership roles of Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe promoted transcendental, if contradictory, national views about freedom and equality.
Cheney, a former second lady of the United States, is a careful student of history with a discerning eye ... [Cheney] has an appealing narrative voice ... She writes of political passion dispassionately, with well-tempered anecdotes and salient facts ... the author does not play favorites and never obscures the founders’ flaws ... Throughout the book, secondary players help enrich Cheney’s story ... designed more to engage than to break new ground. The author elects not to tap treatments of the founding era by a rising generation of professional historians who give pronounced attention to political energies bubbling up from below. Still, the narrative offers informed, exacting characterizations of the uncertain political alliances, strained interactions and ideological growing pains that elites of the post-revolutionary decades put the country through. As a work of history, the book is a disciplined, agreeably constructed synthesis. As a human interest story it is no less agreeable.
Bringing these men together as a group draws attention to how their thought and action unfolded in response to new challenges and dispels any illusion that they were a monolithic bloc. Cheney is an adept writer who makes no wrong steps. Perfect for history buffs, though little new ground is tread.
... accessible ... Though readers well-versed in the era won’t learn much new, Cheney selects anecdotes wisely and writes gracefully. The result is an informative introduction to four of America’s most important founding fathers.