Noted for his knowledge of the Revolutionary era, Ferling (The Ascent of George Washington) again gives us a narrative hard to surpass in fluency and authority. It covers the coming of the American Revolution from the Stamp Act in 1765 to the Declaration of Independence. Familiar leading characters on both sides of the Atlantic, from Lord North to Benjamin Franklin and George Washington, fill the pages, their motives examined as are the battles raging in both the colonies and Parliament on how to resolve their differences. Ferling treats them all with understanding and balance even while he offers criticism where it's due (as with Franklin's trying to play all sides). The problem is that Ferling's take on the coming of independence is conventional, limited, and out of date. Ferling fails to discuss how the American people's own activities pushed their leaders to take stronger stances, or the worries aroused by the Indian tribes or restive slaves once full-scale war broke out. Of thousands of Loyalists, only Joseph Galloway plays a role. When Abigail Adams puts in a short appearance, it isn't clear why. Ferling had a chance to give us a full picture of the turmoil and confusion of the decade before 1776. It's unfortunate that he hasn't done so. B&w illus. (June)
From the Publisher
“Ferling expertly explores the multiple motivations that led to independence in July 1776, both inside the Congress and among the public.” Boston Globe
“[Ferling] seizes on an underappreciated but profoundly significant moment in the eight-year War of Independence--the decision to not merely compel the British to reverse a series of onerous acts, but to break away from the empire entirely, and declare themselves a free and independent nation.” HNN
“Mesmerizing. Masterful. History written with the gravitational pull of a good novel. A history book that deserves to become a big best seller.” Dan Rather
“This is how it really happened. In unequivocal prose, John Ferling captures the combined bluster and outrage on both sides of the Atlantic. He exposes the quirks, while exploring the vision, of the opinionated, opportunistic delegates who were present in Philadelphia in 1776; he shows us just how they rhetorically overcame the 'mystique of invincibility' that attached to the British military, before launching America, in the words of one delegate, 'on a most Tempestuous Sea.' Independence is rich in personality, and Ferling unsurpassed as an authority. This is no ordinary history.” Andrew Burstein, author of Jefferson's Secrets, and coauthor of Madison and Jefferson
“John Ferling has established himself as one of the leading chroniclers of the American Revolution, but Independence goes beyond anything he has written before. Instead of recycling the familiar story of the Revolution, he has given us an enlightening and exciting book that proves that history has no guarantees or foreordained outcomes. Expertly blending biographical vignettes with fast-paced narrative and sure-footed interpretation, Ferling captures the mystery of historical contingency in exploring the period between the Boston Tea Party in 1773 and the declaration of American independence in 1776. Not even the founding fathers knew what the future would bring; Ferling performs a national public service in reminding us of this basic fact, and demonstrating it with elegance and style.” R. B. Bernstein, distinguished adjunct professor of law, New York Law School, and author of The Founding Fathers Reconsidered and Thomas Jefferson
“In clear and elegant prose and with formidable scholarship, John Ferling freshly examines the period that led to declaring independence. By focusing on the character of leaders in both England and her colonies as they intersected with circumstances, he captures the uncertainty of the times and the unpredictable journey to the declaration itself.” Edith B. Gelles, author of Abigail and John: Portrait of a Marriage
“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 . . . A lucid, erudite account of a period both terrifying and supremely inspiring.” Kirkus
“In this splendid book, noted founding-era historian Ferling presents a convincing narrative of American independence that focuses on the role of contingency in the colonial break with the mother country . . . Ferling's entertaining and edifying work is sure to find an audience among general readers.” Booklist
“Noted for his knowledge of the Revolutionary era, Ferling . . . again gives us a narrative hard to surpass in fluency and authority.” Publishers Weekly
author of Abigail and John: Portrait of a Marr Edith B. Gelles
In clear and elegant prose and with formidable scholarship, John Ferling freshly examines the period that led to declaring independence. By focusing on the character of leaders in both England and her colonies as they intersected with circumstances, he captures the uncertainty of the times and the unpredictable journey to the declaration itself.
Prolific author Ferling (history, emeritus, State Univ. of West Georgia; The Ascent of George Washington) recounts the pivotal three years from the 1773 Boston Tea Party to the 1776 congressional vote for American independence, with a conventional focus on the major American and British players and the political and commercial issues that cleaved the slowly unifying colonies from their mother country. He clearly explains how the march toward independence was made in gradual and seemingly inevitable steps, with the British Parliament and monarchy missing repeated opportunities to make amends and avoid a breakaway. He relies on a bevy of primary and secondary sources, quoting liberally from correspondence and official documents, including the Declaration of Independence, which is transcribed in full for easy reference. British and congressional leaders' personalities, mannerisms, and personal backgrounds are examined along with their political contributions, lending human interest to what could have been a dry tale. VERDICT Unfortunately, Ferling provides nothing new to American revolutionary period scholarship in this minor but entertaining work. His readable narrative should appeal to general readers or students new to the topic of how and why the British colonies declared themselves American states.—Douglas King, Univ. of South Carolina Libs., Columbia
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.