AMERICAN HISTORY BOOKS by HARLOW GILES UNGER
Richard Henry Lee and
The Call for American Independence
Richard Henry Lee was the first to call for independence, and the first to call for union. He was "father of our country" as much as George Washington, securing the necessary political and diplomatic victories in the Revolutionary War.
Lee played a critical role in holding the colonial government together, declaring the nation's independence, and ensuring victory for the Continental Army by securing the first shipments of French arms to American troops. Next to Washington, Lee was arguably the most important American leader in the war against the British.
Drawing on original manuscripts–many overlooked or ignored by contemporary historians–Unger paints a powerful portrait of a towering figure in the American Revolution
America's Greatest Statesman
The only freshman congressman ever elected Speaker of the House, Henry Clay’s arsenal of powerful rhetorical weapons subdued feuding members of the House of Representatives and established the Speaker as the most powerful elected official after the President.
During fifty years in public service—as congressman, senator, secretary of state, and four-time presidential candidate—Clay constantly battled to save the Union, summoning uncanny negotiating skills to force bitter foes from North and South to compromise on slavery and forego secession. His famous “Missouri Compromise” and four other compromises thwarted civil war “by a power and influence,” Lincoln said, “which belonged to no other statesman of his age and times.”
Explosive, revealing, and richly illustrated, Henry Clay is the story of one of the most courageous—and powerful—political leaders in American history.
The Chief Justice Who Saved the Nation
As America’s greatest Chief Justice, Marshall served his country as an officer, Congressman, diplomat, and Secretary of State before President John Adams named him the nation’s fourth Chief Justice.The longest-serving Chief Justice in American history, Marshall transformed the Supreme Court from an irrelevant appeals court into a powerful branch of government—and provoked the ire of thousands of Americans who, like millions today, accused him and the court of issuing decisions that were tantamount to new laws and Constitutional amendments.
And the Court’s critics were right! Marshall admitted as much.
With nine decisions that shocked the nation, John Marshall and his court assumed powers to strike down laws it deemed unconstitutional. In doing so, Marshall’s court acted without Constitutional authority, but its decisions saved American liberty by protecting individual rights and the rights of private business against tyranny by federal, state, and local government.
George Washington and The Making
Of the Nation's Highest Office
In a startling new look at the birth of American government, award-winning author Harlow Unger shows how George Washington transformed the American presidency from a ceremonial post into the most powerful office on earth, or what historians often call the “imperial presidency.”
With Congress paralyzed by political divisions, the nation faced attack from enemies without and within: Indian raiders on the frontiers, British and French navies on the high seas, secession-minded governors, and angry street mobs that “threatened to drag the President from his house” to the gallows.
Knowing he was setting precedents for generations of his successors, Washington took the law into his own hands, throwing constitutional restraints to the winds when he deemed it necessary to preserve the Union. Drawing on rare documents and letters, Unger shows how the first President combined political cunning and sheer genius to seize ever widening powers, impose law and order, and protect individual liberties guaranteed by the Bill of Rights.
In the end, Washington raised seven pillars of power that expanded presidential powers to send troops to war, spend public monies, make foreign policy agreements, and issue executive orders that carry the force of law—all without constitutional sanctions, the consent of Congress or the American people.
Raised for greatness by his parents John and Abigail Adams, John Quincy Adams surpassed their expectations to become one of America’s greatest and most courageous leaders
In this action-filled biography, award-winning author Harlow Giles Unger reveals John Quincy Adams as one of the towering figures during the nation’s formative years. Ranked first in John F. Kennedy’s Pulitzer Prize winning Profiles in Courage, John Quincy Adams served America as minis
ter to six countries, a fearless secretary of state, a fighting senator and congressman —and sixth president of the United States.
The only son of a Founding Father to become President, he negotiated an end to the War of 1812, engineered the annexation of Florida, and won the Supreme Court decision that freed the African captives of the Amistad.
A sweeping panorama of American history, John Quincy Adams follows the exciting life—and loves—of an American patriot who lived more than eighty years and was able to serve under George Washington and with Abraham Lincoln. John Quincy Adams witnessed Bunker Hill, helped write the Monroe Doctrine and saw to the founding of the Smithsonian Institution.
the outcries of other House members for his expulsion, he
issued the first call to end slavery in an address that his fellow
congressman Abraham Lincoln would borrow in writing the Emancipation
“If you want to know what the Founders meant while deliberating the creation of the Confederation and the Constitution, and if you wish to understand why they made the decisions they did, read Lion of Liberty.” —New York Journal of Books
In this action-packed history, award-winning author Harlow Giles Unger unfolds the epic story of Patrick Henry, who roused Americans to fight government tyranny—both British and American. Remembered largely for his cry for “liberty or death,” Henry was actually the first (and most colorful) of America’s Founding Fathers—first to call Americans to arms against Britain, first to demand a bill of rights, and first to fight the growth of big government after the Revolution.
And as Unger makes clear in this gripping biography, Henry’s words continue to echo across America, inspiring millions to fight big government intrusion in their daily lives.
“[An] engrossing and articulate biography…vivid, accessible and thought-provoking.”— Richmond Times-Dispatch
“A marvelous biography.” —San Francisco Book Review
“Excellent…Fantastically engaging…the perfect introduction to the founder whose rhetoric started a revolution.” —NPR.org
Never has a meticulous, well-written history of the
Boston Tea Party, the ultimate tax revolt, seemed more relevant.
Colonial historian Harlow Giles Unger delivers a stirring chronicle,
making it clear that the similarities between then and now are thought-provoking.
. . . Unger’s narrative paints a wonderful portrait of Colonial
Boston, especially the merchant community, which dominated its politics.
In this action-packed drama of colonial America, prize-winning author Harlow Giles Unger reveals the true—and startling—story behind the original Tea Party movement and the bloody struggle that transformed it from a civil war into a revolution for independence.
As Unger points out, the first Tea Party in Boston Harbor had less to do with tea than the political ambitions of James Otis, Jr., a certifiably mad lawyer, and Sam Adams, a bankrupt brewer and convicted embezzler. After the British government tried collecting import duties to pay for American defense, Boston merchants—mostly smugglers and tax evaders—protested. American Tempest reveals how Adams and Otis took over the protest movement and seized political power in Massachusetts.
Organizing waterfront workers into raging mobs, Adams and the tax protestors swarmed through the streets, burning homes and dragging opponents to the “Liberty Tree” to be stripped, swabbed in scalding tar, dressed in chicken feathers, and subjected to unmentionable agonies and humiliations. Then, on Thursday, December 16, 1773, about seven dozen men disguised as Indians dumped £10,000 worth of British tea into Boston harbor and sent Boston’s reign of terror spreading across America. Mobs dumped tea and burned tea ships in New York, Philadelphia, Charleston, and elsewhere, and stripped tens of thousands of Americans of their homes and properties, forcing nearly 100,000 to flee the land of their forefathers forever.
Condemned as vandals by George Washington, the original Tea Party Patriots nonetheless set off a social, political, and economic storm that ended with the Declaration of Independence and birth of a powerful new, independent nation.
Combining stellar scholarship with action-packed history, Harlow Giles Unger unveils the truth behind the legendary Boston Tea Party and examines its lasting consequences.
American Tempest is a superb read, with tragedy and triumph—and exciting action and adventure—awaiting the turn of every page.
A fierce fighter in the Revolutionary War, Monroe suffered a near-fatal wound at the Battle of Trenton, survived the cruelest winter at Valley Forge, and fought heroically at the Battle of Monmouth.
Decorated by Washington for his courage and leadership, Monroe went on to serve America as its first full-time politician—a member of Congress, minister to France and Britain, governor of Virginia, secretary of state, secretary of war, and, finally, fifth president of the United States.
With his courageous first lady at his side, Monroe took command of a nation nearly bankrupt, its people divided, its borders under attack, and its capital in ashes after the British invasion in the War of 1812. Monroe rebuilt national defenses, expanded the military, ripped Florida from Spanish control, and extended national boundaries to the Gulf of Mexico and Pacific Ocean.
Monroe climaxed his presidency—and startled the world—by proclaiming the landmark Monroe Doctrine, which closed the Americas to foreign incursions and colonization. Secure from foreign attack, Americans streamed westward to claim a share of America, adding six states to the Union and producing the largest economic expansion and redistribution of wealth in U.S. history.
The only president other than George Washington to win reelection by unanimous vote, Monroe led the nation and its people to greatness and created an “Era of Good Feelings” never seen before or since in American history.
Unger’s The Last Founding Father is both a superb read and stellar scholarship—action-filled history in the grand tradition.
In this gripping biography, acclaimed author Harlow Giles Unger paints an intimate and detailed portrait of the heroic young French soldier who, at nineteen, renounced a life of luxury in Paris and Versailles to fight and bleed for liberty—at Brandywine, Valley Forge, and Yorktown. A major general in the Continental army, he quickly earned the love of his troops, his fellow commanders, and his commander in chief, George Washington, who called him his “adopted son.” To the troops, he was “the soldier’s friend”; to Americans all, he was “our Marquis.”
In a tale filled with adventure, romance, and political intrigue, Unger follows Lafayette from the battlefields of North America to the palace of Versailles, where the marquis won the most stunning diplomatic victory in world history—convincing the French court to send the huge military and naval force needed to win American independence. He then returned to America to lead the remarkable guerrilla campaign in Virginia that climaxed with British surrender at Yorktown—and earned him the title “Conqueror of Cornwallis.”
Lafayette’s triumph turned to tragedy, however, when he tried to introduce American democracy in his native land. His quest for a constitutional monarchy unwittingly set off the savage French Revolution and plunged Europe into more than a decade of slaughter and war. Declared an enemy of the state, Lafayette fled France only to be imprisoned for five years in an Austrian dungeon, while his wife, Adrienne, and her family festered in prison, awaiting the cruel blade of the guillotine.
Based on years of research in France as well as in the United States, Unger’s biography reveals how American ambassador James Monroe won Adrienne Lafayette’s freedom and helped Lafayette’s only son, George-Washington Lafayette, escape France to the safety of his godfather’s home in Mount Vernon, even as the guillotine claimed his great-grandmother, grandmother, and aunt.
Lafayette is also a compelling romance, as Lafayette and his beloved, Adrienne de Noailles, feast at their sumptuous wedding banquet, dance at Marie Antoinette’s lavish palace balls, and embrace in anguish in the ghastly Austrian dungeon that Adrienne and her daughters shared with Lafayette for two brutal years.
Inspiring and educational, Lafayette is the dramatic life story of one of the great leaders in American and European history, swept up in the cataclysmic events that spawned the longest-lasting democracy in the New World and prolonged despotism for two centuries in the Old.
Selected as Best Book of 2002 by both the American Revolution Round Table of New York and the Fraunces Tavern Museum
Acclaim for Harlow Unger's Lafayette...
... “Enlightening! The picture of Lafayette’s life is a window
to eighteenth- and nineteenth-century history.”
... “I found Mr. Unger’s book exceptionally
well done. It’s
an admirable account of the marquis’s two revolutions—one
might even say his two lives—the French and the American. It also
captures the private Lafayette and his remarkable wife, Adrienne, in often
... “Harlow Unger’s Lafayette is a remarkable
and dramatic account of a life as fully lived as it is possible to imagine,
that of Gilbert de Motier, marquis de Lafayette. To American readers Unger’s
biography will provide a stark reminder of just how near run a thing was
our War of Independence and the degree to which our forefathers’ victory
hinged on the help of our French allies, marshalled for George Washington
by his ‘adopted’ son, Lafayette. But even more absorbing and
much less well known to the general reader will be Unger’s account
of Lafayette’s idealistic but naive efforts to plant the fruits
of the American democracy he so admired in the unreceptive soil of his
homeland. His inspired oratory produced not the constitutional democracy
he sought but the bloody Jacobin excesses of the French Revolution.”
... “A lively and entertaining portrait of one of the most important
supporting actors in the two revolutions that transformed the modern world.”
... “Harlow Unger has cornered the market on muses to emerge as
America’s most readable historian. His new biography of the marquis
de Lafayette combines a thoroughgoing account of the age of revolution,
a probing psychological study of a complex man, and a literary style that
goes down like cream. A worthy successor to his splendid biography of
In a biography awash in early American history, Unger celebrates the career of John Hancock, whose life was as large as his legendary signature. A successful merchant and accomplished politician, Hancock became the first signatory of the Declaration of Independence by virtue of his election as president of the Continental Congress. And when he served as a delegate to the Federal Convention of 1787, it was his suggestion to entertain amendments to the proposed Constitution that later became the basis for the Bill of Rights.
Hancock lived at the center of late 18th-century Boston politics and commerce, and his life is an engaging prism through which to view Revolutionary New England. Unger effectively uses letters, newspaper articles and first-hand accounts by Hancock and other preeminent Americans to make immediate the events and controversies--the Stamp Act, the Boston Massacre, the Boston Tea Party--that culminated in the Revolutionary War. He adds a human and remarkably contemporary impression of the rough-and-tumble nature of revolutionary politics through his descriptions of the innuendo and outright attacks directed at Hancock by fellow Bostonian Samuel Adams. Unger devotes substantial energy to Hancock's private life and habits and to his marriage to Dorothy Quincy.
He was a rich, powerful aristocrat, a merchant king who loved English culture and fashion, and, above all, he was a loyal British subject with ambitions of a lordship and a grand retirement estate in England. There simply was no doubt about it: John Hancock was the least likely man in Boston to start a rebellion. How, then, did this Tory patrician become one of the staunchest supporters of the American Revolution?John Hancock’s overnight transformation from British loyalist to fiery rebel and first governor of the independent state of Massachusetts is one of the least known but most gripping stories of the American Revolution.
Acclaimed author Harlow Giles Unger introduces us to the Founding Father whose name is as recognizable as George Washington’s, but whose thrilling life story is all but untold. Applying his historical expertise and storytelling gift, Unger details the fascinating life of one of our most extraordinary business and political leaders—the first signer of the Declaration of Independence.
As Unger reveals in this unflinching portrait, Hancock was one of the most paradoxical figures of his time. Arguably the wealthiest man in the American colonies, he unabashedly reveled in his riches, adoring all the foppish trappings he could buy. But his commitment to individual liberty eventually transformed him into a fervent revolutionary, venerated equally by his establishment peers at Harvard as he was by the rebels—the Minutemen who did the fighting and the Boston street mobs who declared him their hero even as they burned the homes of other aristocrats. To repay their respect, he sacrificed his fortune and risked death by hanging to win independence from the British. A brilliant orator, he combined his wealth and political skills to unite Boston’s merchant and working classes into an armed might that forced Britain’s vaunted professional army to evacuate Boston, assuring the success of the Revolution.
America’s first great philanthropist and humanitarian, Hancock rebuilt whole neighborhoods devastated by Boston’s periodic fires, fed the poor, sent orphans to college, and bought the city its first fire engine. He rebuilt the city and the magnificent Boston Common after the vicious British devastation, and the people of Massachusetts elected and reelected him their governor for the rest of his life—nine terms in all.
Here is the fascinating story of the man with the most recognizable signature in American history. Intertwining Hancock’s story with that of the colorful Samuel Adams, his fellow Bostonian (and Harvard man) who was both comrade in arms and political enemy, Unger etches a finely drawn portrait of one of the Revolutionary War’s greatest—and possibly least known—leaders.
"Unger's writing is generally straightforward, rich and satisfying biography." — Publishers Weekly
“Superb biography…. Don’t miss
this stirring book.”
More than a lexicographer, Webster was a teacher, philosopher, author, essayist, orator, political leader, public official, and crusading editor. Webster’s life thrust him into every major event of the early history of our nation, from the Revolutionary War to the War of 1812. He touched the lives of the most renowned Americans and the most obscure.
He earned the love and friendship of many, the hatred of some, but the respect of all. Noah Webster helped create far more than an American dictionary; he helped create an American nation.
In the first major biography of Noah Webster in over sixty years, author Harlow Unger creates an intriguing portrait of the United States as an energetic and confident young country, even when independence was fragile and the future unclear. Harlow Unger brilliantly restores Webster’s monumental legacy as a teacher, legislator, philosopher, lawyer, editor, and one of history’s most profoundly influential lexicographers. Breathtaking adventure—from the American Revolution to the War of 1812—and masterful scholarship converge in this riveting chronicle of a singularly American intellect.
Until Webster, no great nation on earth could boast of the linguistic unity that Webster created in the United States. More than a lexicographer, Webster was a teacher, philosopher, author, essayist, orator, political leader, public official, and crusading editor, Webster’s life thrust him into every major event of the early history of our nation, from the Revolutionary War to the War of 1812. He touched the lives of the most renowned Americans—and the most obscure, He earned the love and friendship of many, the hatred of some, but the respect of all. Noah Webster helped create far more than an American dictionary; he helped create an American nation.
He might appropriately be called the “founding father” that American history forgot. Renowned during his lifetime as a principal architect of cultural and political life in the fledgling United States, Noah Webster has since disappeared into the pages of his own dictionary—ironically eclipsed by his own colossal creation. Until now. This groundbreaking biography brilliantly restores Webster’s monumental legacy as a teacher, legislator, philosopher, lawyer, crusading editor, and one of history’s most profoundly influential lexicographers.
A descendant of one of New England’s first families, Noah Webster was born in 1758 into a Connecticut landscape on the brink of revolution and strife. A serious-minded boy with bright red hair, he inherited from his father a deep-seated pride of family and love of country. When the Boston Massacre of 1770 roused the soldiers of the Hartford commonweal to arms, Webster was twelve years old and already carrying a musket and marching in the local militia. As a young man, his burgeoning patriotism was further fueled by the writings of John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Thomas Paine, These philosophers heavily influenced the first portion of Webster’s career as a powerfully vocal warrior against political and social disunion and the forces of anarchy. As a schoolteacher and tireless lecturer, he sought to eradicate illiteracy in lower social classes and endorsed unprecedented programs to provide equal opportunities for women. Webster, in short, became America’s first social reformer. He was not yet forty.
Webster is known chiefly for his equally remarkable second career as the original standard-bearer of American English, however. His speller sold countless copies over the years, his dictionary achieved nothing short of a complete transformation of the way Americans wrote the language, and his elementary school curriculum was for decades the foundation of American education.
Enjoying complete access to Webster’s papers, letters, essays, and diaries, Unger explores with unique clarity and depth the role his subject played as a close ally of George Washington, John Adams, and John Jay and as a key player in the heated battle to ratify the Constitution.
"Noah Webster was a truly remarkable man, shrewd,
passionate, learned and energetic, God-fearing and patriotic. Mr. Unger
has done a fine job reintroducing him to a new generation of Americans."
This enlightening work recounts the ferocious but little known struggle between America's Founding Fathers over how to govern themselves and their countrymen. America warred with itself, as each state joined the seesaw "ratification revolution" that all but ripped the nation apart.
Mobs ran riot in the streets of Philadelphia, New York, and Providence. The wealthy elite supported a new constitution and a strong central government, while a majority of ordinary people opposed both. For most Americans the Constitution seemed a disaster, promising to create a new American government with the same powers of taxation as the former British government and with a president with powers to succeed himself indefinitely and become a monarch. Populist leaders such as New York Governor George Clinton and Virginia's Patrick Henry geared for violent conflict between the states to preserve local, home rule.
As he had in ‘75, Henry cried out against a central authority that could stifle state sovereignty and local self-rule: “Liberty will be lost,” he thundered,“ and tyranny will result.” George Washington countered, calling Henry an enemy of liberty.
Ratification by nine states was required for the Constitution to take effect, and by mid-March, 1788, eight had ratified. But the two largest and wealthiest states -- New York and Virginia -- stood firmly against union, and without them, the new nation would be as fragile as the parchment on which the Constitution had been written. With the fate of the country in the balance, the Federalists could only hope for a miracle to save the nation from civil war. America's Second Revolution is the story of that miracle, the events that led up to it, and the men who made it possible.
Just as the first revolution had brought Americans together, the second revolution threatened to rip the nation apart, as Washington’s Federalists battled Henry’s Anti-federalists. Rich and powerful, they displayed humor, sarcasm, fire, brilliance, ignorance, hypocrisy, warmth, anger, bigotry, and hatred. Their struggle pitted friend against friend, brother against brother, father against son. Each embodied some good, some evil, some banality, but, in the end, each helped create a new government, a new nation, and ultimately, a new civilization.
The Declaration of Independence liberated one continent from domination by another, but the Constitution revolutionized the world by entrusting the citizenry with rights never before in history granted to ordinary men.
“A very readable and provocative tale of early Franco-American
relations that will please some and infuriate others.”
“Harlow Unger has written an amazing tour de force
revealing France’s two-faced role in the American Revolution and
the early Republic. The book also has enormous relevance for contemporary
politics. Don’t miss it.”
By the end of 1798, France—”our oldest ally”—had captured or sunk more than eight hundred American ships, and President John Adams called George Washington out of retirement to command the defense of the nation’s shores against imminent French invasion. The French war against America had reached its climax. After thirty-five years of feigning friendship for America, France at last revealed her teal motive for supporting the American Revolution—and it had nothing to do with liberty.
In The French War Against America, award-winning author and historian Harlow Giles Unger shatters the myth of France as our oldest ally and reveals her as our oldest enemy. Citing hundreds of secret and nor- so-secret personal and official documents and letters from French, American, and British sources, Unger lays bare a chapter of American history ignored by many historians: the long and treacherous French plot to recapture North America.
Contrary to popular belief, the French Army came to fight in America’s Revolutionary War not to save America but to conquer her. By infiltrating the Continental Army high command, French officers hoped to replace Washington and establish a French military dictatorship. By war’s end, French agents had infiltrated every area of American life, developing close relationships with top American officials, working their way to the highest levels of the American military, and bribing cabinet members to obtain secret documents—all to try to turn the young nation into a French vassal state. From the beginning of the war, however, a small group of courageous Founding Fathers had remained suspicious of French motives. This action-packed history follows them—Washington, Adams, John Jay, and others—as they outwit every overt and covert French plot to destroy the United States.
A decade after the American Revolution, French government agents tried to overthrow President Washington by provoking widespread street rioting, while French warships occupied the harbors of major cities. Again, the Founding Fathers outwitted the French. Furious at their nation’s humiliation, the French Navy began sinking American ships to crush American foreign trade. John Adams ordered construction of an American Navy that destroyed the French fleet. Undeterred, the French continued to plot to reconquer North America into the next century. Napoleon I prepared to send 20,000 troops to invade Louisiana in 1802, and his nephew Napoleon III sent 40,000 troops to conquer Mexico in 1863, with orders to march northward into the United States.
To this day, “our oldest ally” often seems still at war with America—metaphorically and diplomatically, if not militarily. The French War Against America provides new perspectives on the origins of that war and explains why it may never end. An important addition to Franco-American history, it adds new insights into current diplomatic relationships. It is also an exciting, action-filled drama of remarkable human courage.
Copyright © Harlow Giles Unger