Regular price: $31.49

Membership details Membership details
  • A 30-day trial plus your first audiobook, free.
  • 1 credit/month after trial – good for any book, any price.
  • Easy exchanges – swap any book you don’t love.
  • Keep your audiobooks, even if you cancel.
  • After your trial, Audible is just $14.95/month.
OR
In Cart

Publisher's Summary

The First Congress was the most important in US history, says prizewinning author and historian Fergus Bordewich, because it established how our government would actually function. Had it failed - as many at the time feared it would - it's possible that the United States as we know it would not exist today.

The Constitution was a broad set of principles. It was left to the members of the First Congress and President George Washington to create the machinery that would make the government work. Fortunately, James Madison, John Adams, Alexander Hamilton, and others less well known today rose to the occasion. During two years of often fierce political struggle, they passed the first 10 amendments to the Constitution; they resolved bitter regional rivalries to choose the site of the new national capital; they set in place the procedure for admitting new states to the union; and much more. But the First Congress also confronted some issues that remain to this day: the conflict between states' rights and the powers of national government; the proper balance between legislative and executive power; the respective roles of the federal and state judiciaries; and funding the central government.

©2016 Fergus Bordewich (P)2016 Tantor

Critic Reviews

"[T]he colorful machinations of our first Congress receive a delightful account that will keep even educated readers turning the pages." ( Kirkus)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    30
  • 4 Stars
    15
  • 3 Stars
    5
  • 2 Stars
    0
  • 1 Stars
    0

Performance

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    30
  • 4 Stars
    11
  • 3 Stars
    2
  • 2 Stars
    1
  • 1 Stars
    0

Story

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    30
  • 4 Stars
    12
  • 3 Stars
    1
  • 2 Stars
    0
  • 1 Stars
    0
Sort by:
  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Often excellent, sometimes flawed

Many interesting facts. Excellent combination of legislative history and biography. Fascinating portrayals of many congressmen, including some who are not well-known today. Too simplistic and too many errors when attempting to contextualize the 1st Congress regarding later developments in constitutional law or US politics.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Jean
  • Santa Cruz, CA, United States
  • 03-05-18

Compelling

The author utilized the First Federal Congress Project to write this book. The Project has cataloged nearly all the diaries, letters and newspaper accounts relating to the proceedings of the Congress of 1789-1791. As we discovered with Bordewich’s book, the project is a gold mine for historians. The key actions of the Congress were the ratification of the Constitution and the creation and passage of the Bill of Rights. They also decided on how the government should function, cabinet positions etc.

This book is well written and meticulously researched. Bordewich has the ability to place the reader right into the scene. I felt as if I was suffering the hot cramped meeting rooms right alongside Madison, Adams and Washington debating each Amendment and the Bill of Rights. I found the section about how they determined the amount of power the president should have most interesting. They said they trusted George Washington but what about some president in the future who wants to become a dictator. It became clear to me that the issues that the men wrestled with in 1790 still have resonance today. The book is easily readable and I found it most enlightening. I have read other books by Bordewich and find him great at writing descriptive details.

The book is thirteen hours. Sean Runnels does an excellent job narrating the book. Runnels has won five Earphone Awards and has narrated a number of Audie Award winning audiobooks. He is also an actor.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

A critical story, well-told

I've wanted to read more on the subject for years. In spite of the era being well covered, I've not before seen a focus on the first congress, which operated with no precedent on which to lean. I personal learned a lot. The writing is very good and the spoken version well done.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Roger
  • South Orange, NJ, United States
  • 12-26-17

Intricate Analysis of Novel Challenges

Bordewich has written a thorough analysis of the challenges faced by the new government, for many of which there was no precedent. Many of the participants therefore looked to classical theory for guidance. One lesson from such theory was that a powerful government could be used against the people, and therefore many Americans feared a strong government. This lesson was countered by the experiences under both the Continental and Confederation Congresses, which convinced many that a strong government was needed to deal with other nations and to protect the nation from external pressures.

Much of the story of the First Congress involves reconciling the conflicts inherent in the two lessons, one looking internally and the other externally. The theoretical answer, contained in the Constitution, is the division of power. The monumental achievement of the First Congress was breathing life into our system of checks and balances.

Bordewich also makes emphasizes how much slavery was already a divisive issue--one with no apparent solution and already threatening to become the defining issue in the new nation. Because the politicians could not envision a solution, it became easier for them to ignore the issue than to address it. This of course would make the problem worse and eventually mean that only force could resolve the issue.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful