World Anew

The Federalist Papers

Generations of people—scholars and polidcians alike—have believed the Federalist papers to be the finest explanation of the principles that underlie the American government and the most accurate analysis of the intentions of those who designed it. More than that, the Federalist papers seem to many to have a timeless, transhistorical quality. The New York jurist Chancellor Kent con¬cluded that they ... Read More »

Realism and Idealism 8

But portraiture, statuary, and allegorical engravings did not intense mortification, was obliged to witness. “After dinner,” Adams later recorded in his autobiography, we went to the Academy of Sciences, and heard Mr. D’Alembert as Secretary perpetual, pronounce eulogies on several of their mem¬bers lately deceased. Voltaire and Franklin were both present, and there presendy arose a general cry that Monsieur ... Read More »

Realism and Idealism 7

Fragonard’s skill stands out in contrast to the other major allegor¬ical print of 1778, that of Antoine Borel. Drawn indepen¬dently of Fragonard’s, it has similar elements: Franklin is again in Roman costume (though now sandaled and wreathed); one hand is on the shoulder of America (now a half-naked female Indian); a protective Minerva swirls above (now a spear thrower against ... Read More »

Realism and Idealism 6

Nini’s final terra-cotta medallion, with Rousseau’s hat and a rather bland, plump Franklin without glasses, bearing under the cut of the shoulder a shield decorated with lightning and thunderbolts, was an enormous success, far greater than Chaumont could have hoped for. It was a sensation when it appeared for sale at a fashion¬able porcelain exhibit at Versailles, and it appealed ... Read More »

Realism and Idealism 5

Sixteen years later—long a resident of London, famed for his achievements in science, his literary skills, and his political promi¬nence—Franklin recast his image. The successful tradesman is left behind, and in two major portraits he emerges as the consummate man of science, the experimenter, the thinker, the ultimate philosophe. The Mason Chamberlin portrait (1762), whose details are here highlighted in ... Read More »

Realism and Idealism 4

So Franklin’s slack behavior became an adroit maneuver—half contrived, half the lucky product of his casual ways—which strengthened France’s support of America while it inhibited Britain’s war effort. Franklin could not have been more Machiavellian, shrewder in playing both ends off against the middle, or more skillful in exploit¬ing the balance of power. But America’s great historical moments— and the ... Read More »

Realism and Idealism 3

Franklin’s despair of his colleague’s judgment and behavior was warmly reciprocated. The two men had met before they joined forces in Paris, most intimately in 1776, as representatives to the so- called Staten Island Peace Conference. At that makeshift, futile meeting, accommodations had been such that they had had to share a bed, an event Adams recorded with good humor—how ... Read More »

Realism and Idealism 2

This was the essence of Gilbert’s view, the fruit of his research for the Institute’s remarkable seminar and of twenty-five years of involve¬ment in American life. But the book is not simply an essay in abstrac¬tions. It focuses on the importance of a single document, the Continental Congress’s draft treaty of 1776, which John Adams took with him to Europe ... Read More »

Realism and Idealism

That Felix Gilbert, a German-born and German-educated his¬torian of Renaissance Italy and Prussian politics should have published To the Farewell Address: Ideas of Early American Foreign Policy (1961) is one of the least likely events in American historiogra¬phy. That slim volume set the terms for an extended debate not only on the original character of American diplomacy but on the ... Read More »

Jefferson and the Ambiguities of Freedom 9

Similarly, he opposed political parties, on principle, because he believed that organized political machines generated arbitrary power, power for partisan groups—selfish, power-hungry cliques, which inevitably violated the public interest. It was therefore logical for him to declare, after the bitter presidential election of 1800, that “we are all republicans; we are all federalists,” since he could only think of the ... Read More »