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No event in the American history was more pivotal—or more furiously contested--than Congress' decision to declare independence in July 1776. Even months after American blood had been shed at Lexington and Concord, many colonists remained loyal to Britain. And those in Congress who pushed for independence knew that any vote for it must carry all 13 colonies: a disunited opposition would be doomed in a war against the British Empire. John Adams, a leader of the effort, said bringing the fractious Congress together ...
No event in the American history was more pivotal—or more furiously contested--than Congress' decision to declare independence in July 1776. Even months after American blood had been shed at Lexington and Concord, many colonists remained loyal to Britain. And those in Congress who pushed for independence knew that any vote for it must carry all 13 colonies: a disunited opposition would be doomed in a war against the British Empire. John Adams, a leader of the effort, said bringing the fractious Congress together was like getting "thirteen clocks to strike at once."
For all the books that have been written about the Revolutionary era, none has ever concentrated on the dramatic struggle in the Continental Congress that led to the Declaration of Independence. The cast of characters is astonishing: John and Samuel Adams, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Patrick Henry, Benjamin Franklin, and others all took part in the struggle in Congress. But Independence tells the other side of the story, too, taking readers to London where ministers--many in sympathy with the Americans--agonized over how to deal with a rebellion that threatened the Empire. Independence reminds us of the fateful decision points where history might easily have taken a different path.
At this remarkable moment in history, high-stakes, life-and-death politics was intertwined with an intense philosophical debate about democracy, governance, and justice. John Ferling, drawing on a lifetime of scholarship, brings the passionate contest to life as no other historian could. Independence will be hailed as the finest work yet from the author Michael Beschloss calls "a national resource."
A venerable historian of the American Revolution focuses on the events between the shot heard round the world and the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
Ferling (History/State Univ. of West Georgia; The Ascent of George Washington, 2009, etc.) uses a transatlantic approach to show how the stone of revolution began its roll, accelerating until it reached the velocity necessary to crush both American reconcilers and a major portion of England's colonial empire. Numerous characters (none really surprising) emerge in prominence as the narrative progresses: in England—Lord North (the Prime Minister), King George III, Edmund Burke, William Pitt, Charles James Fox; in America—Richard Henry Lee, Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Robert R. Livingston. Although the author spends some time detailing the initial civilian and military clashes (the Tea Party, Boston Massacre, Concord bridge, siege of Quebec), he attends most carefully to the human stories: the loneliness of families separated by war and politics (he highlights the correspondence between John and Abigail Adams), the fear of those near the war zones, the frustrations of dealing with international relations in a time when communications were snail-slow and the egos and ignorance on both sides of the Atlantic. Sometimes Ferling points toward contemporary analogies. Writing of England, he notes: "Not for the last time would a government underestimate its enemy as it took its people into the costly, bloody wasteland of war." Only occasionally is the author hobbled by a lack of documentary evidence, forcing him into multiple uses ofprobablyandseemsand their kin. He also reminds us the vote for independence was on July 2nd, not 4th.
A lucid, erudite account a period both terrifying and supremely inspiring.
1 "In the Very Midst of a Revolution": The Proposal to Declare Independence 1
2 "A Spirit of Riot and Rebellion": Lord North, Benjamin Franklin, and the American Crisis 8
3 "Defenders of American Liberty": Samuel Adams, Joseph Galloways, and the First Continental Congress 52
4 "It Is a Bill of War. It Draws the Sword": Lord Dartmouth, George Washington, Hostilities 88
5 "A Rescript Written in Blood": John Dickinson and the Appeal of Reconciliation 116
6 "Progress Must Be Slow": John Adams and the Politics of a Divided Congress 143
7 "The King Will Produce the Grandest Revolution": George III and the American Rebellion 170
8 "The Folly and Madness of the Ministry": Charles James Fox, Thomas Paine, and the War 198
9 "We Might Get Ourselves upon Dangerous Ground": James Wilson, Robert Morris, Lord Howe, and the Search for Peace 224
10 "The Fatal Stab": Abigail Adams and the Realities of the Struggle for Independence 246
11 "Not Choice, But Necessity That Calls for Independence": The Dilemma and Strategy of Robert Livingston 278
12 "The Character of a Fine Writer": Thomas Jefferson and the Drafting of the Declaration of Independence 294
13 "May Heaven Prosper the New Born Republic": Setting America Free 318
14 "This Will Cement the Union": America Is Set Free 336
Appendix: The Declaration of Independence 358
Select Bibliography 365
Posted November 21, 2011
Posted April 15, 2013
Excellent. Read this book if you are interested in the history that led the separation between Great Britain and its American colonies. Highly recommended.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 1, 2012
Posted August 23, 2012
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