By Jeff Labrecque
Updated September 28, 2007 at 04:00 AM EDT

The 1800 presidential election shattered the unity of the American revolutionary spirit, transforming patriots into bitter partisans. Edward J. Larson’s A Magnificent Catastrophe captures the Founders not on Olympus, but in the Rovian political mud, as incumbent Federalist prez John Adams and Republican Thomas Jefferson exchanged Swiftboat-like accusations of godlessness and tyranny. Self-promoting Republican Aaron Burr upended the system when he tied Jefferson for victory — tempting Federalists like Alexander Hamilton to nearly strangle the American Experiment in its cradle. So much for the good ol’ days. A-

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