I am currently reading REVOLUTIONARY CHARACTERS - What Made The Founders Different by Gordon S. Wood. Consisting of a series of relatively brief essays, this book briefly examines the actual individual as recorded in primary source documents and the subsequent historical treatment each has cumulatively received; the combination of which reveals the often contradictory understanding of both the person and the legacy's influence on modern American life.
One of the themes I find myself repeating on these pages is that of the importance of "context" to attaining understanding. Of anything; person, place or event whether historical, current or hypothetical. Mr. Wood makes excellent effort to provide the context both for the historical subject and the subsequent treatment each has received over the intervening centuries of scholarly examination. How we view their respective legacies and interpret their relevance to present concerns continues to influence modern society. This book offers a quickly achieved degree of perspective on the attributes of America's formative generation.
When we allow ourselves the odd moment of impartial honesty, I suspect that even the most ideologically driven of us are willing to acknowledge the complex nature of those who inhabit and motivate our world today. Even so, we all need to acknowledge that those men (and the women who interacted with them) who connived to create our country were also complex and inconsistent too. No matter how compelled we might feel to use some aspect of their contribution to justify some position we seek to advance, we should acknowledge the contextual circumstance that inspired the original. Should such prove to lessen the argument we promote, perhaps a better argument needs crafting rather than yet another casual historical revision or misstatement. Revolutionary Characters offers much insight into achieving better understanding of the people and concepts which created the United States and how that entity subsequently evolved into the country we populate today. I recommend it strongly.