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The Price of Greatness

By: Jay Cost
Narrated by: Dan Woren
Length: 8 hrs and 10 mins
Categories: History, American
4.5 out of 5 stars (36 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

An incisive account of the tumultuous relationship between Alexander Hamilton and James Madison and of the origins of our wealthy yet highly unequal nation 

In the history of American politics, there are few stories as enigmatic as that of Alexander Hamilton and James Madison's bitterly personal falling out. Together they helped bring the Constitution into being, yet soon after the new republic was born, they broke over the meaning of its founding document. Hamilton emphasized economic growth; Madison the importance of republican principles.

Jay Cost is the first to argue that both men were right - and that their quarrel reveals a fundamental paradox at the heart of the American experiment. He shows that each man, in his own way, came to accept corruption as a necessary cost of growth. The Price of Greatness reveals the trade-off that made the United States the richest nation in human history and that continues to fracture our politics to this day.

©2018 Jay Cost (P)2018 Hachette Audio

Critic Reviews

"Jay Cost has managed to do the unthinkable. He's written an insightful account of the principles and practices of two great founding fathers, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, without savaging one or the other. This terrific book is destined to reshape our thinking about the key events of the early republic including the tragic break between Hamilton and Madison.... A must-read for those interested in a deeper understanding of two giants whose principles animate America's conflicted soul." (Stephen F. Knott, author of Alexander Hamilton and the Persistence of Myth)

"Thoughtful people differ concerning why so many of today's most talented writers on American history practice their craft outside academia. Thoughtful people agree, and this book demonstrates, that Jay Cost is among those writers." (George F. Will, Washington Post columnist)

"Jay Cost brings alive the profound dispute between Madison's republicanism and Hamilton's nationalism and helps us see why it still matters. At once a discerning scholar of political theory and a perceptive student of political practice, he is the perfect guide to this rich story." (Yuval Levin, author of The Fractured Republic and editor of National Affairs)

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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Principles in Tension

The principles of nationalism, liberalism and republicanism are each held dearly by Americans. However, these three can often act in conflict with each other. Cost does a superb job of showing how Madison and Hamilton disagreed on how to strike the appropriate balance between these principles, and how we can work toward finding that balance today. This is a fresh new take on the relationship between two highly important founders.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Focused Review of foundations

this is a pretty good review of the main split in the viewpoints of the founders of the United States. The three core principles and their conflicts are still present today, and underlie all important debate particularly about domestic issues.

so many people talk about what the founders believed, but so few really have any idea what they are talking about. you cannot simply look at the Constitution and understand the debate over it and the various political philosophies of the founders. these conflicts became readily apparent in The Early republic and were embodied by the Madison and Hamilton factions and their concepts and policies. This book is a focused and relatively brief way to learn a lot about that.

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Detailed history of a formative time

The narrator is good, but not very emotive. The research is great and very detailed without being boring. Hamilton and Madison both come off a incredibly human and yet so much more principled than so many politicians of today.

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A Better Understanding

The book was able to explain the relationship of Madison and Hamilton as two founders weith different visions of the Republic.