A Leap in the Dark: The Struggle to Create the American Republic

A Leap in the Dark: The Struggle to Create the American Republic

A Leap in the Dark: The Struggle to Create the American Republic

A Leap in the Dark: The Struggle to Create the American Republic

Synopsis

It was an age of fascinating leaders and difficult choices, of grand ideas eloquently expressed and of epic conflicts bitterly fought. Now comes a brilliant portrait of the American Revolution, one that is compelling in its prose, fascinating in its details, and provocative in its fresh interpretations. In A Leap in the Dark, John Ferling offers a magisterial new history that surges from the first rumblings of colonial protest to the volcanic election of 1800. Ferling's swift-moving narrative teems with fascinating details. We see Benjamin Franklin trying to decide if his loyalty was to Great Britain or to America, and we meet George Washington when he was a shrewd planter-businessman who discovered personal economic advantages to American independence. We encounter those who supported the war against Great Britain in 1776, but opposed independence because it was a "leap in the dark." Following the war, we hear talk in the North of secession from the United States. The author offers a gripping account of the most dramatic events of our history, showing just how closely fought were the struggle for independence, the adoption of the Constitution, and the later battle between Federalists and Democratic-Republicans. Yet, without slowing the flow of events, he has also produced a landmark study of leadership and ideas. Here is all the erratic brilliance of Hamilton and Jefferson battling to shape the new nation, and here too is the passion and political shrewdness of revolutionaries, such as Samuel Adams and Patrick Henry, and their Loyalist counterparts, Joseph Galloway and Thomas Hutchinson. Here as well are activists who are not so well known today, men like Abraham Yates, who battled for democratic change, and Theodore Sedgwick, who fought to preserve the political and social system of the colonial past. Ferling shows that throughout this period the epic political battles often resembled today's politics and the politicians--the founders--played a political hardball attendant with enmities, selfish motivations, and bitterness. The political stakes, this book demonstrates, were extraordinary: first to secure independence, then to determine the meaning of the American Revolution. John Ferling has shown himself to be an insightful historian of our Revolution, and an unusually skillful writer. A Leap in the Dark is his masterpiece, work that provokes, enlightens, and entertains in full measure.

Excerpt

While a college student, I read The Crisis of the Old Order, the first volume in Arthur M. Schlesinger's history of the New Deal. Like most youngsters, I had thought that what occurred before my birth was ancient history and therefore unrelated to my world. Instead, I was amazed to discover in Schlesinger's history that much of the politics of my time had roots extending back a couple of generations or more. As I began to study history with wonderful teachers and scholars such as William Painter, E. Bruce Thompson, Kurt Rosenbaum, and Elizabeth Cometti, I grew steadily more aware that the past is prologue to the future.

Somewhat like Professor Schlesinger, my objective with this book was to write a political history. I wanted to explore the age of the American Revolution—which I generously defined as spanning the years of 1750 to 1800—in search for links that connected the political ideas of one generation to those of another. First, I wished to focus on the establishment of the American Union. To one degree or another, nearly everyone saw advantages to confederating, but all perceived dangers as well. This book, therefore, has sought to inquire into who desired a Union? What did they seek from a Union? What were they prepared to do to maintain a Union? Just as crucial to my inquiry, of course, was the shape of the national government that would exist when the Union came into being. What were the choices? What led one faction to seek a strong central government? What caused another to resist centralization? Who won the battle? Why? And in probing these matters, other questions came front and center. Did the politics of the American Revolution spring newly born after 1763 when the imperial government in London sought . . .

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