Given Chidsey's predilection for physical peculiarities, the dramatic highpoint of this history is probably John Adams' inauguration; our author dwells on the sight of the rotund Adams between the imposing figures of Washington and Jefferson, repeating one contemporary report that the new President was ""only a sesquipedality of belly."" Underneath all his stylistic curlicues Chidsey is dealing with a period he knows well and those who share his distaste for the policies of Alexander Hamilton--identified here rather adventurously with the ""trickle down theory""--will enjoy the enthusiastic recounting of his part in the Whiskey Rebellion, the ""quasi-war"" with France (which Hamilton hoped to turn into a raid on Spanish colonies), and his duel with Burr (where Chidsey suggests that even Hamilton's death involved an element of spite). None of this expands our understanding of the aims and consequences of the Jeffersonian and Hamiltonian philosophies; Chidsey is content with the easy parallels between Hamilton and the corporate establishment today and between the high Federalists and our ""old guard"" Republicans. But he respects facts and takes time to reexamine many popular ideas (such as Burr's reputation for being New York's first machine politician). His narrative will be best for mature readers who can plunge into the fray while retaining some independent perspective of their own.