Book Recommendations: Biographies of Major Figures from America’s Founding

As a follow up to my post with recommended books about America’s Founding, and based on requests from several individuals, I am including below a list of recommended biographies about major figures from the Founding period. Note that, as with my last list, the book are listed in no particular order. I also welcome additional suggestions from folks who read this list. As with all lists, I am bound to miss some essential books, and am always more than happy to add to what I’ve come up with here.

(1) George Washington

  • The Papers of George Washington
  • Washington Irving, George Washington: A Biography
  • Ron Chernow, Washington: A Life
  • James Flexner, George Washington: The Indispensable Man
  • Joseph Ellis, His Excellency: George Washington
  • Douglas Southall Freeman, Washington
  • James Flexner, Washington and the New Nation, 1783 – 1793
  • Edward Larson, The Return of George Washington: 1783-1789
  • Susan Dunn and James MacGregor Burns, The George Washington (The American President Series)
  • Richard Norton Smith, Patriarch: George Washington and the New American Nation
  • Erica Armstrong Dunbar, Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge
  • Jeffry Morrison, The Political Philosophy of George Washington
  • Edward Lengel, Inventing George Washington: America’s Founder, in Myth and Memory
  • Richard Brookhiser, Founding Father: Rediscovering George Washington
  • Don Higginbotham. George Washington: Uniting a Nation
  • John Rhodehamel, George Washington: The Wonder of the Age
  • Mary V. Thompson, “In the Hands of a Good Providence”: Religion in the Life of George Washington
  • David Hackett Fischer, Washington’s Crossing

(2) Thomas Jefferson

  • The Papers of Thomas Jefferson
  • Thomas Jefferson, The Autobiography of Thomas Jefferson
  • Dumas Malone, Jefferson and His Time
  • Richard B. Bernstein, Thomas Jefferson
  • Alan Pell Crawford, Twilight at Monticello
  • Merrill D. Peterson, Thomas Jefferson and the New Nation: A Biography
  • Annette Gordon-Reed, The Hemingses of Monticello
  • Jon Meacham, Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power
  • Annette Gordon-Reed and Peter Onuf, Most Blessed of the Patriarchs: Thomas Jefferson and the Empire of the Imagination
  • Peter Onuf, The Mind of Thomas Jefferson
  • Peter Onuf, Jefferson’s Empire: The Language of American Nationhood
  • Joseph Ellis, American Sphinx

(3) James Madison

  • The Papers of James Madison
  • Robert Allen Rutland, James Madison: The Founding Father
  • Ralph Ketcham, James Madison: A Biography
  • Jack Rakove, James Madison and the Creation of the American Republic
  • Robert J. Morgan, James Madison on the Constitution and Bill of Rights
  • Richard Brookhiser, James Madison
  • David O. Stewart, Madison’s Gift: Five Partnerships that Built America
  • Mary Sarah Bilder, Madison’s Hand: Revising the Constitutional Convention
  • Drew McCoy, The Last of the Fathers: James Madison and the Republican Legacy
  • Lynne Cheney, James Madison: A Life Reconsidered

(4) Alexander Hamilton

  • The Papers of Alexander Hamilton
  • Ron Chernow, Alexander Hamilton
  • Joanne Freeman, editor, Alexander Hamilton: Writings
  • Richard Brookhiser, Alexander Hamilton: American
  • Thomas Fleming, Duel: Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr, and the Future of America
  • Forrest McDonald, Alexander Hamilton: A Biography
  • Michael Federici, The Political Philosophy of Alexander Hamilton
  • Stephen F. Knott and Tony Williams, Washington and Hamilton: The Alliance that Forged America
  • John Ferling, Jefferson and Hamilton: The Rivalry that Forged a Nation
  •  John Lamberton Harper American Machiavelli: Alexander Hamilton and the Origins of US Foreign Policy
  • Stephen F. Knott, Alexander Hamilton and the Persistence of Myth
  • Joanne Freeman, Affairs of Honor: National Politics in the New Republic
  • Michael E. Newton, Alexander Hamilton: The Formative Years
  • Willard Sterne Randall, Alexander Hamilton: A Life
  • John Sedgwick, War of Two: Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr, and the Duel That Stunned the Nation

(5) John Adams

  • The Adams Papers
  • John Adams, Diary and Autobiography of John Adams
  • Page Smith, John Adams
  • David McCullough, John Adams
  • John Ferling, John Adams: A Life
  • Joseph Ellis, Passionate Sage: The Character and Legacy of John Adams
  • Richard Alan Ryerson, John Adams’s Republic: The One, The Few, and the Many
  • Joseph Ellis, First Family: Abigail and John Adams
  • Lester Cappon, The Adams-Jefferson Letters: The Complete Correspondence between Thomas Jefferson and Abigail and John Adams
  • Luke Mayville, John Adams and the Fear of American Oligarchy
  • John A. Schutz and Douglass G. Adair, editors, The Spur of Fame: Dialogues of John Adams and Benjamin Rush, 1805-1813
  • C. Bradley Thompson, John Adams and the Spirit of Liberty
  • Richard B. Morris, The Peacemakers: The Great Powers and American Independence (also great for John Jay)
  • Phyllis Lee Evans, Abigail Adams: A Biography
  • Edith Gelles, Portia: The World of Abigail Adams
  • Woody Holton, Abigail Adams

(6) Benjamin Franklin

  • The Papers of Benjamin Franklin
  • Benjamin Franklin, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
  • J. A. Leo Lemay, editor, Benjamin Franklin: Silence Dogood, the Busy-Body, and Early Writings
  • J.A. Leo Lemay, editor, Benjamin Franklin: Autobiography Poor Richard and Later Writings
  • Gordon Wood, The Americanization of Benjamin Franklin
  • Carl Van Doren, Benjamin Franklin
  • Edmund S. Morgan, Benjamin Franklin
  • Walter Isaacson, Benjamin Franklin: An American Life
  • Gerald Stourzh, Benjamin Franklin and American Foreign Policy
  • J.A. Leo Lemay, The Life of Benjamin Franklin
  • Jill Lepore, The Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin

(7) Books about Other Founders

  • Richard B. Morris, John Jay, the Nation, and the Court
  • Richard B. Morris, Seven Who Shaped Our Destiny: The Founding Fathers as Revolutionaries
  • Richard B. Morris, Witnesses at the Creation: Hamilton, Madison, Jay and the Constitution
  • Richard B. Bernstein, A Very Short Introduction to the Founding Fathers
  • Walter Stahr, John Jay: Founding Father
  • Joyce Appleby, Inheriting the Revolution: The First Generation of Americans
  • Joseph Ellis, The Quartet: Orchestrating the Second American Revolution, 1783-1789
  • Jeff Broadwater, George Mason: Forgotten Founder
  • Mark Puls, Samuel Adams: Father of the American Revolution
  • Charles Page Smith, James Wilson: Founding Father, 1742 – 1798
  • Mark David Hall, The Political and Legal Philosophy of James Wilson: 1742 – 1798
  • William Murchison, The Cost of Liberty: The Life of John Dickinson
  • Richard Brookhiser, Gentleman Revolution: Gouverneur Morris, the Rake Whote Wrote the Constitution
  • William Howard Adams, Gouveneur Morris: An Independent Life
  • Alyn Brodsky, Benjamin Rush: Patriot and Physician
  • Rosemarie Zagarri, A Woman’s Dilemma: Mercy Otis Warren and the American Revolution

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