First Principles was written by Thomas E. Ricks and published by Harper in 2020. You can purchase it on Amazon/Kindle and visit the author on social media and Amazon.
The author breathed life back into our founders and brought them back from the grave; much needed during these teetering times in America.
The argument can be made; having been alluded to by many citizens, politicians and journalists that we're living in "Two Americas", as was also mentioned by Martin Luther King Jr. in as early as 1967. The author, Thomas Ricks, ponders this question and more importantly wonders what kind of nation we've become and digs deeper into the question of did the founders design or intend it to be the way it is now? Ricks visited several libraries and resources, immersing himself in the philosophy and literature that shaped the founders' thinking. Also included in his research were letters they wrote to each other debating these crucial works—among them the Iliad, Plutarch’s Lives, and the works of Xenophon, Epicurus, Aristotle, Cato, and Cicero. One would think the founders would have spent much more time reading the books of English political philosophers like John Locke, who were more focused on the concerns of their own era. However, what was learned is that they were much more interested in the literature of the ancient worlds of Greece and Rome and how those societies would influence their thinking and the eventual birthing of The United States.
George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison; the four men who became the first Presidents Of The United States, studied the classical world extensively and their studious endeavors played an essential role into the formation of what would become The United States Of America. "First Principles follows these four members of the Revolutionary generation from their youths to their adult lives, as they grappled with questions of independence, and forming and keeping a new nation."
Because of the polarizing political climate of the past several years and the unending frenzy of hatred that it has spawned, I usually steer clear of the opinionated diatribe that is contained in many of these books, but this one was an exception. My hopes were that I would learn more about these four Presidents, who they were and what they cared about and what drove them to create the greatest democratic republic in the world. I was not disappointed. The author breathed life back into our founders and brought them back from the grave; an opportunity to learn from them; much needed during these teetering times in America.
During this gipping tale of the times and people who shaped our republic, I had a better understanding of how and what the founders and signers of the United States Constitution were thinking when they put their pens to paper. Likewise with the Declaration Of Independence. I learned of the surprising number of people who opposed these documents and I also learned of the doubts and the devout patriotism that even the founders openly expressed regarding what they had authored. All four men had their flaws but even so their brilliance shines on today, 245 years after the birth of our country.
Of the four presidents, I mostly enjoyed learning about Washington. A mostly uneducated man, broadly criticized regarding his tactics as Commander of The Revolutionary War, he found a way to win and to become the Father of our country.
If you are as dissatisfied with the current state of affairs in this country, as I am, and need to see things in a different perspective- try seeing the world as our founders did. You might just come away feeling much more optimistic about our future.
This is a must read!
I give First Principles 5 out of 5 stars.