In 1786 William Cooper, determined to become a self-made gentleman of substance in post-revolutionary America, founded Cooperstown, N.Y., through a dodgy land deal. His town rose to become county seat, and Cooper became a judge and then a congressman. He lost most of the prestige he earned later, when he overstretched himself, and his local patronage weakened when he backed the Federalists
against the victorious Republicans. Nonetheless, his son, James Fenimore Cooper
, the early 19th century's best-selling novelist, wrote essentially a justification of his father in his third novel, The Pioneers (1823). Taylor's book--a combination of biography, personal history, social history, literary exegesis and analysis of father-son dynamics--charts the interplay between the fact and the fiction of the days when upstate New York was the frontier. William Cooper's Town
won the 1996 Pulitzer Prize for history.
The Federalists were those like Alexander Hamilton and John Adams who felt that a strong central government in the new nation was essential to peace and prosperity.