The Intimate Lives of the Founding Fathers by Thomas Fleming was one of more maddening books that I read yet at the same time I loved it for all the information that I held. I was truly in love with the information I was getting inbetween getting so beyond frustrated by the writing style itself. I learned a ton which when reading a historical book, it’s exactly what I’m looking for.
First off, I love the information that book held most of the time. I wasn’t a huge fan of the debate into the Hemings and Jefferson yet when you are talking about the intimate lives and want to be taken seriously, you have to address the issue. Fleming does a good job of looking at the issue in a good educated way. He looks at it from all sides, the historical record, the recent DNA tests, the people who question it. Now for my own mind, I’m pretty sure that Jefferson had some sort of relationship with Sally Hemings but since he never had the kind of intimate affair that was out in the open or with a paper trail of love letters, it’s too speculative to really know what their relationship.
One of the things that surprises me more and more is how I’m just getting fascinated by is Alexander Hamilton. That is one interesting man. He went from being a bastard child with limited means from the islands to a very respected political leader until he was killed in a duel. He helped to shape the US banking and the Federalist party. But not only that, he had a fascinating private life. He was not the most faithful man but yet he loved his wife and wanted to appease her by seeking communion before he died. He’s not as duplicitious as Jefferson was (since for all the anti-slave sentiments spoken, he did keep a lot of slaves. Also spoke out about the debt but was a debtor himself) but had many sides to him. More o f a man of passion in the moment. Plus he was cut off in the prime of his life by Burr’s bullet.
In some ways this book helped to add to the mystic that is Ben Franklin. He had an incredible life. I’m in awe that he got his wife to sign onto the idea of raising his illegitimate son as he was courting her. It wasn’t exactly an easy deal for her refuse since she was previously wed but still it’s not always easy to accept your boyfriend wasn’t faithful and wanted you to raise him. He was a man who loved the ladies as much as he loved science, politics and being a sage. It’s amazing to think he lived it.
But this book was absolutely maddening. It was just hard to read. Part of it was due to the fact it was broken up in by segments. Sometimes the breaks didn’t really help with weaving a saga. Plus I would deceive myself into I was getting more read by only reading chunks instead of actual chapters.
I’m not someone who likes it when you beat around the bush. Beat the bush and save the time and having people make the wrong inferences. Fleming was one to beat around the bush. He often phrased things in an odd way so I was finding myself removing the clauses and stripping down the sentences into its bare parts. It was amazing how often when you broke the sentences apart it was a fragment with an incomplete thought. So I was working harder mentally then a lot of books I’ve read recently.
All in all, I found myself enjoying the book thanks to the treasure trove of research in between the moments I was cursing it for being poorly written.