A series of studies of the men who came to be known as the Founding Fathers. Each life is considered in the round, but the thread that binds the work together is the idea of character as a lived reality for these men. For these were men, Wood shows, who took the matter of character very seriously. They were the first generation in history that was self-consciously self-made, men who considered the arc of lives, as of nations, as being one of moral progress. They saw themselves as comprising the world's first meritocracy, as opposed to the decadent Old World aristocracy of inherited wealth and station. Historian Wood's accomplishment here is to bring these men and their times down to earth and within our reach, showing us just who they were and what drove them, and that the virtues they defined for themselves are the virtues we aspire to still.--From publisher description.