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

Overview

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. Here, too, is all the erratic brilliance of Hamilton and ...
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A Leap in the Dark: The Struggle to Create the American Republic

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Overview

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. Here, too, is all the erratic brilliance of Hamilton and Jefferson battling to shape the new nation. 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, a work that provokes, enlightens, and entertains in full measure.
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Editorial Reviews

The New Yorker
This deft account of the American struggle for independence dispels the aura of inevitability that usually surrounds such histories by beginning its narrative not on the verge of the Revolution but twenty years earlier. Ferling demonstrates how the thought of independence emerged only gradually out of the fight against unfair taxation and British indifference. The endless clashes with Colonial authorities turned cautious merchants and gentlemen farmers who thought of themselves as loyal British subjects into genuine revolutionaries. Still, a sense of uncertainty persisted well after the British surrender, and Ferling vividly evokes the political turmoil of the post-Revolutionary years. Even as he takes the Founders off their pedestals, their accomplishments only gain in stature.
The Washington Post
Every generation of Americans deserves a first-class history of the revolutionary era, and John Ferling has supplied it for this one. Those 2 million readers of David McCullough's John Adams, captivated by Adams's ardent patriotism and fiery opinions, will especially benefit from returning to the subject under the firm direction of a historian with a command of the scholarship that is matched by his gifts as a writer. — Joyce Appleby
Library Journal
Many Americans today see the period from 1754 to 1801 in American history as a rational progression from British colony to the independent United States. Nothing could be further from the truth, as shown by Ferling (history, State Univ. of West Georgia; John Adams: A Life) in this account of the Founding Fathers' struggles to do what had not been done before: create a nation. Throughout, he debunks popularly held notions: Benjamin Franklin, for example, pursued reconciliation with England even as the Minutemen were marching, believing negotiation was in the best interests of the American Colonies. George Washington had more luck than skill as a military commander and trapped the British at Yorktown only after French general Rochambeau urged him to march to the Chesapeake and ensnare British general Cornwallis by land and by sea. As the fighting ended, American leaders realized that the Articles of Confederation, which bound the Colonies together during the war, was inadequate for the peace. Revolutionary leaders declared independence when they saw no other alternative but war, and they wrote the Constitution when they saw no other alternative than union led by a strong national government. Ferling's intriguing narrative is filled with stories of Americans both famous and obscure. This book should be purchased by all academic and most public libraries.-Grant A. Fredericksen, Illinois Prairie Dist. P.L., Metamora Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195176001
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 10/28/2004
  • Pages: 576
  • Sales rank: 262,278
  • Product dimensions: 8.70 (w) x 5.70 (h) x 1.60 (d)

Meet the Author

John Ferling is a Professor of History at the State University of West Georgia. A familiar face in history documentaries on television, he has written numerous books, including John Adams: A Life, The First of Men: A Life of George Washington, and Setting the World Ablaze: Washington, Adams, and Jefferson in the American Revolution.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations and Maps
Preface
1 1754-1763: Join, or Die 1
2 1763-1766: A Loss of Respect and Affection 23
3 1766-1770: To Crush the Spirit of the Colonies 53
4 1770-1774: The Cause of Boston Now Is the Cause of America 87
5 1775-1776: To Die Freemen Rather Than to Live Slaves 123
6 1776-1777: A Leap Into the Dark 167
7 1778-1782: This Wilderness of Darkness & Dangers 209
8 1783-1787: The Present Paroxysm of Our Affairs 247
9 1787-1789: So Much Unanimity and Good Will 281
10 1790-1793: Prosperous at Home, Respectable Abroad 315
11 1793-1796: A Colossus to the Antirepublican Party 355
12 1797-1799: A Game Where Principles Are the Stake 405
13 1799-1801: The Gigg Is Up 451
14 1801: An Age of Revolution and Reformation 477
Abbreviations 489
Notes 493
Index 539
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Sort by: Showing all of 9 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 11, 2003

    Amazing ignorance or carelessness

    I began reading this book, enjoying it very much and learning things I had never read elsewhere about the period. However, on page 34 I found an amazing confusion of Patrick Henry's two most famous speeches, the author strangely refering to the mythical 'give me liberty or give me death' ending of Henry's speech in the Virginia House of Burgesses in opposition to the Stamp Act. Well, there is nothing mythical about Henry saying 'give me liberty or give me death', but it was ten years later in reaction to the start of fighting between colonists and British soldiers at Lexington and Concord. So how does a real expert in the field confuse these two speeches ? I had to know the difference in my high school US history course. Where were the editors ? This is not up to Oxford's standards. An error so flagrant destroyed my confidence in the book. How can I believe in the accuracy of those things I don't already know from other sources ? If I can't, why read the book at all ?

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 6, 2012

    Some misinformation

    This book is very informative and a good read. I am a little disturbed that the author wrote that Henry's "give me liberty or give me death" speech was given at the House of Burgesses in reaction to the Stamp Act, it was the Caesar-Brutus speech that railed against the Stamp Act.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 23, 2004

    Informative History

    Highly recomended accout of the period from the mid 1750's until the election of 1800. Flows smoothly and is highly readable and well written. Teaches material that is not found in ordinary textbooks and generally not taught in college history cources. The founding fathers come alive complete with all their many attributes as well as faults. After reading this book, one will realize what a struggle it was to create the American form of government and just how close we came to not suceeding.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 28, 2004

    GLORIOUS

    i was blown away by this book....the history and stuff, just wow im talling yah, you need to read it..now go read it now. i sware it wont waste your time

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 24, 2003

    Great Read

    I found the book fantastic. Where was this book when I was forced to study history Our founding fathers made human and not always saintly. I loved the poitics and the author occasionly relates the situation to today.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 24, 2003

    An intellectual study of early American politics

    A biased media, politicians more concerned with party loyalty than the common good, mudslinging, and sex scandals are not problems that just plagued American politics in the 20th and 21st Century, but problems that also plagued the 18th, and 19th, and have plagued the country since the establishment of a centralized government. This is what John Ferling attempts, and succeeds at, proving with A Leap in the Dark. Unlike his contemporary, Ferling doesn¿t start this examination of early American politics, with Washington¿s administration, but from the very start of the colonists uprising. His essay holds more power because of this, as one can see the evolution of the colony¿s politics to a glimpse what the nation has become today.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 26, 2010

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 17, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 26, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

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