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

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

by John Ferling
     
 

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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

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Overview

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.

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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:
413,166
Product dimensions:
8.70(w) x 5.70(h) x 1.60(d)

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