American Aurora : A Democratic-Republican Returns : The Suppressed History of Our Nation's Beginnings and the Heroic Newspaper That Tried to Report It
-- by Richard N. Rosenfeld (1997)
American Aurora is revisionist history - in the term's truest sense (sans pejorative connotation). It is a narrative historical quasi-fictional account of the election of 1800 between President John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. Quasi-fictional because author Rosenfeld tackles his subject by assuming the narrative voice of one William Duane, publisher of the Philadelphia Aurora. Duane was the Aurora's publisher and Rosenfeld has used Duane's newspaper editorials and private letters on which to base his narrative.
But the book's true value are the hundreds of original source documents through which the narrative weaves. The narrative builds the tension and drama that gives this the suspense of a modern day thriller -- not 200-year old history. The source material brings home that this is real history; opposing editorials, letters, and official government documents laid out in an original and brilliant presentation.
In the tradition of Noam Chomsky or Howard Zinn, Rosenfeld seeks to show us that the accepted history we learn in school can be so deficient that it amounts to propaganda. Here we see some of our founding fathers in less than flattering light -- not for personal peccadilloes, but for basic political beliefs that we would never ascribe to them otherwise. Adams is a royalist force of damn near evil. Washington is a liar and bumbling commander. The democracy hangs by a thread and only a Jefferson victory in the election can save it.
What makes this work doubly impressive is that Rosenfeld has portrayed an America that is almost uncannily similar to today. The same philosophical disagreements, the same trends, the rhetoric, hyperbole, and mud-slinging are all too familiar. American Aurora is an instant classic.