The American Revelation: Ten Ideals That Shaped Our Country from the Puritans to the Cold War

The American Revelation: Ten Ideals That Shaped Our Country from the Puritans to the Cold War

by Neil Baldwin
     
 

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The story of ten quintessential and interconnected ideals that shaped the American spirit and the intriguing characters who gave life to them. See more details below

Overview

The story of ten quintessential and interconnected ideals that shaped the American spirit and the intriguing characters who gave life to them.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Given the polarization of contemporary America, says historian and former National Book Foundation executive director Baldwin, "we need to turn to galvanizing beliefs that will provide a unifying focus...." To this end, Baldwin ably investigates 10 key precepts of what might be called "fundamental Americanism," while at the same time highlighting iconic Americans who helped to define and articulate those precepts. Here we have biographical sketches of early Massachusetts governor John Winthrop, who offered the idea of a "city on a hill"; Thomas Paine's Common Sense; Pierre Du Simitiere's notion of "E pluribus unum"; Emerson's vision of self-reliance; John L. O'Sullivan's concept of manifest destiny and, of more recent vintage, the enlightened generosity embodied in the post-WWII Marshall Plan. But in whittling these down to the arbitrary number of 10, Baldwin necessarily leaves out a great deal. Any collection such as this desperately needs Abraham Lincoln's soaring poetry regarding government "of the people, by the people, for the people," and a nod to the Declaration of Independence and JFK's inaugural speech, among other key rhetorical pillars of the American experiment. Agent, Trident Media Group. (June) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Baldwin, a well-regarded biographer (Henry Ford and the Jews: The Mass Production of Hate) and former executive director of the National Book Foundation, here writes about ten important, if not necessarily well-known, individuals who promoted enduring ideals that became part of America's national identity. The author links these ideals and their endorsers to form a rich tapestry of the nation's highest principles, often strived for but imperfectly attained. Included are mini-biographies and gracefully written summaries of the forging of the national motto E pluribus unum by Pierre-Eugene du Simitiere; newspaper editor John O'Sullivan's call for America to fulfill its manifest destiny; Jane Addams's pioneering advocacy of women's rights and her tireless work in behalf of the poor; Israel Zangwill's popular 1908 play, The Melting Plot, which portrays America as the land of opportunity for immigrants; and Carter Woodson's scholarly investigations, which forged the academic discipline of African American history. This illuminating work shows that America has a great deal of which to be proud but much to do to complete the agendas set forth by these ten remarkable people. Highly recommended for public libraries.-Karl Helicher, Upper Merion Twp. Lib., King of Prussia, PA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Does America have a set of shared values? Perhaps not, writes pop historian Baldwin, in a time when "the pulse of the nation often sounds as if it is emanating from two separate heartbeats."Hearts in red state and blue will probably be quickened by at least a couple of the ten tropes that Baldwin identifies as shared, galvanizing, unifying beliefs-but which of them? Emersonian self-reliance? The dissenters' city on a hill? A neoconservative might decry as impossibly Bolshevik Thomas Paine's repudiation of monarchy as the most dispensable of all the world's political institutions. A liberal might recoil from John L. O'Sullivan's notion of manifest destiny, even though its original formulation was benign and even progressive on its face. Historians might take umbrage at Carter Woodson's charge that African-Americans, though central to the history of the nation, have been systematically ignored, even if the work "of such Progressive historians as Frederick Jackson Turner, V. L. Parrington, and Charles and Mary Beard." And garden-variety isolationists will hop up and down over Baldwin's inclusion of George C. Marshall and the plan that bears his name as expressive of any particular American ideal, particularly if it boils down to helping the French. All that said, Baldwin conjures up a neat trick: in identifying ten ideas that contain certain contradictory aspects and even pointed dilemmas, he emphasizes the very point that Americans have forged a delicate union even when they do not necessarily agree with each other on every matter of discussion-an idea that could stand sturdier legs in a time of division and exclusion. One of Baldwin's exemplary Americans, the playwright Israel Zangwill,coiner of the image of America as melting pot, did a nice job, after all, of urging that the nation was "the promised land in which the best human ideals shall ultimately find solution." And who could disagree? Well . . . A readable exercise in civics, and surely more inclusive than, say, William Bennett's or Lynne Cheney's published views on what those best ideals might be.
From the Publisher
"Neil Baldwin enriches our understanding of America, and the part we might — indeed must — play in living its animating ideals. He identifies ten ideals that we think of as quintessentially American, and traces their origination in ten compelling individuals. He endows political bloviation, rhetoric and common slogans with the beating heart of human aspiration beset by doubt, challenged by circumstance, and withal renewed, by the people in trials beyond the imagination of the founders." — Sir Harold Evans, author of They Made America

"At a time when there is a lot of uninformed talk about American values, it's important to reach back and understand what those values truly are. Neil Baldwin does it in this smart and thoughtful narrative by looking at ten examples, ranging from John Winthrop's great sermon invoking a city on a hill, to the Marshall Plan, which saved the prospect of free-market democracy in Europe."—Walter Isaacson, author of Benjamin Franklin: An American Life

"In his new book, Neil Baldwin focuses on individuals who developed and promulgated ideas that helped shape the American ideal. These profiles… illuminate the galvanizing beliefs that unify Americans — even as red and blue states battle over their interpretation."— The Chicago Tribune - Best of 2005

"In The American Revelation, Neil Baldwin gives us ten short, often eloquent profiles rather than a broad narrative... compelling."— The Wall Street Journal - Editor's Choice

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780312325435
Publisher:
St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
05/01/2005
Edition description:
First Edition
Pages:
272
Product dimensions:
6.36(w) x 9.44(h) x 1.01(d)

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"Neil Baldwin enriches our understanding of America, and the part we might — indeed must — play in living its animating ideals. He identifies ten ideals that we think of as quintessentially American, and traces their origination in ten compelling individuals. He endows political bloviation, rhetoric and common slogans with the beating heart of human aspiration beset by doubt, challenged by circumstance, and withal renewed, by the people in trials beyond the imagination of the founders." — Sir Harold Evans, author of They Made America

"At a time when there is a lot of uninformed talk about American values, it's important to reach back and understand what those values truly are. Neil Baldwin does it in this smart and thoughtful narrative by looking at ten examples, ranging from John Winthrop's great sermon invoking a city on a hill, to the Marshall Plan, which saved the prospect of free-market democracy in Europe."—Walter Isaacson, author of Benjamin Franklin: An American Life

"In his new book, Neil Baldwin focuses on individuals who developed and promulgated ideas that helped shape the American ideal. These profiles… illuminate the galvanizing beliefs that unify Americans — even as red and blue states battle over their interpretation."— The Chicago Tribune - Best of 2005

"In The American Revelation, Neil Baldwin gives us ten short, often eloquent profiles rather than a broad narrative... compelling."— The Wall Street Journal - Editor's Choice

Read More

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