Founders as Fathers will appear in paperback in June 2016.
In exploring the many aspects of domestic life during the changing political atmosphere in 18th-century America, Glover provides great insight into the dynamics of the households of prominent Virginians and, by extension, the lives of leaders throughout the colonies. The stories of these gentlemen and their families show them not as the demigods we celebrate on patriotic holidays, but as men with concerns common to all fathers, then and now. Glover also provides a detailed portrait of 18th-century life in America: the mundane events — the warp and weft — that created the fabric of everyone’s life. The book is rich in detail that will provide context for anyone studying the dynamics of the period.
With an inventive twist on the “founding fathers” moniker, historian Glover (The Shipwreck that Saved Jamestown) probes the link between family and politics, but limits her focus to the lives of wealthy Virginians. Men like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, Glover persuasively argues, became the founders of a new country precisely because of their views on fatherhood and family and because they were family men. She moves briskly from the imperial crisis of the 1760s through the generation that followed the creation of the Constitution, demonstrating the importance of familial words and ideas to the launch of a new country, always keeping tight rein on her argument. It’s a sophisticated history peppered with tidbits from the private sphere: of particular interest is the chapter on the Virginians’ wrestle with the institution of slavery, especially because it benefited their own families and fortunes even while clashing with enlightened principles of freedom and independence. As a social historian, Glover covers gender as well as racial issues, exploring women’s roles in the family and the nation, and explaining how the founders viewed the inequality of women as part of the world’s natural order. Fans of these influential men should delight in this inventive addition to the historical literature. Illus.
A superb new perspective on America’s Founding Fathers.
Glover (The Shipwreck that Saved Jamestown: The Sea Venture Castaways and the Fate of America, 2008, etc.) explores the family lives of five remarkable Virginia planter-patriarchs who helped shaped the rebellion against England, commanded the Continental Army and led the early continental governments. At a time when fatherhood entailed responsibility for the well-being of their communities, their relatives and the social order, these dutiful gentry fathers ran their plantations, mastered their slaves and served in political office. Writing with authority, she traces the often overlooked private lives of elite men who preferred the joys of plantation life (“our own Vine and our own fig tree”) but deemed their revolutionary cause “a parental obligation.” These Virginians were Thomas Jefferson, who, like the others, inherited racial power as well as land, money and family ties; grief-stricken widower George Mason, who took care of the “lesser sort” through public service; Patrick Henry, who kept his insane wife in a basement storage room; James Madison, who struggled with a stepson’s drunkenness and gambling; and George Washington, who chose fathering a country over domestic life. Drawing on primary sources, Glover describes their rarefied lives of leisure and wealth and shows the many ways in which their political actions affected their domestic lives, and vice versa. The war prompted “a revolution in family values,” with fathers unable to exert their usual influence over a younger generation of declining virtue and morality. It also gave rise to a 19th-century world in which talent and achievement began to supersede the old hereditary power. For all that, women were still denied full civic participation (Jefferson’s granddaughter could not attend his University of Virginia), and slaves, deemed a critical part of these gentry families, remained slaves.
Well-written and immensely rewarding, this important book will appeal to both scholars and general readers.
Founders as Fathers won the 2015 book prize from the Missouri Conference on History.
With remarkable eloquence, Glover transports us back to the colonial era when a loyal British gentry thought only about the economics of improving their estate, educating heirs, and marrying off their daughters to worthy men. This chronicle follows the last generation of colonists by featuring five of the most famous Virginians, the women they married, and the families they raised into the most radical political upheaval ever to face their ancestry. Rather than isolate them in typical biographical fashion, Glover collectively selects facets from the lives of George Mason, Patrick Henry, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison. We are drawn into their world, their plans and ambitions, then sucked into a political vortex which throws them from their original course and into the annals of history.
Charlene Boyer Lewis, Journal of the Early Republic, Winter 2015:
“Too often, most Americans, including many historians, forget that the ‘‘Founding Fathers’’ were actually fathers—men with large households that included wives, children, relatives, and servants (who were often enslaved). As such, family concerns filled much of the time and thoughts of the men who would play leading roles during the Revolutionary and nation-building eras and, consequently, shaped their political careers and ideologies. Indeed, as Lorri Glover persuasively argues, ‘‘a familial context underlay the revolutionary generation’s civic ideals and political actions.” Much changed, both in terms of politics and family dynamics, over the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, and Glover nicely illuminates the strong and fascinating ‘‘connections between family values and revolutionary politics in the lives of the principal architects of the American Republic.” There was no separation between the private and the public for these founders.”
“Glover truly shines when she explores how the changing family values and worries over their own families’ welfare influenced the political careers and ideologies of her five men. Her insights on their thinking about and choices made concerning slavery and the Constitution are especially valuable.”
Philip Hamilton, American Historical Review, November 2015:
“Lorri Glover’s excellent new book, Founders as Fathers: The Private Lives and Politics of the American Revolutionaries, adds significantly to our understanding of the momentous changes generated by the American Revolution. She explores the domestic lives of Virginia’s most famous leaders (George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, George Mason, and Patrick Henry) and links their family experiences to their political activities. Asserting that “these Virginians became founders because they were fathers,” Glover argues that the revolution caused dramatic transformations both inside and outside their households. Indeed, “the founding fathers’ political actions had profound (if unintended) domestic consequences” and “the values cultivated in their plantation households shaped the [nation’s] founding documents.” Glover tells an engaging story that will help scholars better comprehend the decisions these leaders made as well as more fully grasp the fundamental correlation between the public and private spheres of eighteenth-century life.”
“Founders as Fathers is an outstanding book filled with many fine insights. Historians of the early republic, therefore, should heed Glover’s apt observation that “we cannot fully understand the revolutionary generation or the country they forged without going home with them.”
Cynthia A. Kierner, Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, 2014:
“In this engaging book, Lorri Glover argues that understanding the Founding Fathers requires paying serious attention to their family and domestic lives.”
“Founders as Fathers is a thoughtful and well-researched book that deserves a wide readership. The same audiences who so greedily consume biographies of Revolutionary leaders would do well to see these men from this different—thought not necessarily contradictory—perspective.”
Tennessee Technological University, Ohio Valley History Conference Keynote, October 2016
University of North Alabama, Lawrence J. Nelson Lecture, October 2016
Daily History Interview, July 2016
"George Washington’s Lessons on Discretion in Politics", Yale University Press Blog, June 2016
"Running We Know Not Whither, 1788 vs. 2016", Johns Hopkins University Press Blog, June 2016