Fergus M. Bordewich’s The First Congress details the initial two year period of American government after the ratification of the Constitution in 1788. The book is rapidly paced and chronicles the work that The Founding Fathers undertook in creating, framing, and shaping the three branches of American government.
Given the political gridlock that dominates 2016’s politick, the amount of
legislation and debate that the 95 Senators and Representatives undertook is
breathtaking -- establishing a national capital city, a national bank, and the
judiciary; approving George Washington’s first cabinet appointments; and
developing a framework to repay debts incurred during the American
Revolution. This was all accomplished in
an era without political parties, with some of the legislators undertaking
their own political evolutions during the first two years in response to their
shifting thinking or adjusting to the will of their constituents.
Bordewich gives considerable depth to the emerging relationship between
Congress and the Presidency and the internal debates that made up the First
Congress. Many of those debates are
still raging today with regards to the role of the federal government versus
that of the states and various other interpretations of the Constitution. He also spends time discussing the role of
the first lobbyists and how their “taking up petitions” created the divisions
that would ultimately lead to partisanship and increasing divides in our
country in subsequent decades.
Any civics student, historian, or aspiring politician should read this book
as it hearkens back to an era where our elected officials were able to
accomplish much in a short amount of time.
MY RATING - 4