Our Lives, Our Fortunes and Our Sacred Honor: The Forging of American Independence, 1774-1776

Our Lives, Our Fortunes and Our Sacred Honor: The Forging of American Independence, 1774-1776

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by Richard R. Beeman
     
 

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In 1768, Philadelphia physician Benjamin Rush stood before the empty throne of King George III, overcome with emotion as he gazed at the symbol of America’s connection with England. Eight years later, he became one of the fifty-six men to sign the Declaration of Independence, severing America forever from its mother country. Rush was not alone in his radical

Overview


In 1768, Philadelphia physician Benjamin Rush stood before the empty throne of King George III, overcome with emotion as he gazed at the symbol of America’s connection with England. Eight years later, he became one of the fifty-six men to sign the Declaration of Independence, severing America forever from its mother country. Rush was not alone in his radical decision—many of those casting their votes in favor of independence did so with a combination of fear, reluctance, and even sadness.
In Our Lives, Our Fortunes and Our Sacred Honor, acclaimed historian Richard R. Beeman examines the grueling twenty-two-month period between the meeting of the Continental Congress on September 5, 1774 and the audacious decision for independence in July of 1776. As late as 1774, American independence was hardly inevitable—indeed, most Americans found it neither desirable nor likely. When delegates from the thirteen colonies gathered in September, they were, in the words of John Adams, “a gathering of strangers.” Yet over the next two years, military, political, and diplomatic events catalyzed a change of unprecedented magnitude: the colonists’ rejection of their British identities in favor of American ones. In arresting detail, Beeman brings to life a cast of characters, including the relentless and passionate John Adams, Adams’ much-misunderstood foil John Dickinson, the fiery political activist Samuel Adams, and the relative political neophyte Thomas Jefferson, and with profound insight reveals their path from subjects of England to citizens of a new nation.
A vibrant narrative, Our Lives, Our Fortunes and Our Sacred Honor tells the remarkable story of how the delegates to the Continental Congress, through courage and compromise, came to dedicate themselves to the forging of American independence.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this comprehensive account, Beeman examines the American colonists’ transition from “loyal” subjects of the British Crown in 1774 to the “radical” rebels of 1776. The University of Pennsylvania history professor argues that the journey along the revolutionary path was a slow one, and freedom was never the guaranteed endpoint. His take on the matter is full of fascinating details, like the Sons of Liberty footing the bill for a pack of tailors to dress up the “notoriously” scruffy Samuel Adams for the First Continental Congress, as well as Patrick Henry’s metamorphosis from failed merchant to lawyer to the Virginian “son of thunder.” Beeman also profiles lesser known figures like Charles Thomson, secretary of the Continental Congress, who burned all of his secret notes on the revolution in order to preserve the myth of the “supposed wisdom and valor” of America’s foremost liberators. But fascinating particulars aside, the narrative contains little new analysis—Beeman’s Founding Fathers are the familiar ones. It’s clear that the National Book Award finalist (for Patrick Henry) knows his stuff, but unnecessarily stodgy prose (“there was no shortage of places in which they could find opportunities for the convivial consumption of alcohol”) will likely deter casual readers. Illus. Agent: John Wright, John W. Wright Literary Agency. (May 7)
From the Publisher

“Richard Beeman’s account of the movement to American independence is gripping, even if the reader knows the subject well and has no doubt as to how it ends.... We are fortunate to have as readable and cogent account of it as Our Lives, Our Fortunes and Our Sacred Honor.”
—Federal Lawyer

“New insight to an old story.... Beeman is a strong, direct writer, adept at bringing historical personalities to life.”
Philadelphia Inquirer

“Our best history of the Continental Congress and the grand debate that led to independence.... With back-room deals and personality clashes in abundance, Beeman's tale of independence is as complex, worldly, and occasionally tedious as modern-day politics.”
—Books & Culture

“You walk away from Our Lives with the undeniable impression that the Founding Fathers really were giants, however flawed, who single-handedly created American democracy.”
—Slate

“The American Revolution tends to bring out the best in its chroniclers. Case in point: Richard Beeman’s latest book, Our Lives, Our Fortunes, & Our Sacred Honor: The Forging of American Independence, 1774-1776. It’s a charming, fast-paced retelling of a narrative that’s been retold a thousand times before.... It’s not really the historian’s trade he’s plying in these pages but rather the epic poet’s: reciting the grand old stories while the wine of patriot season flows and the night sky over Boston is filled with fireworks.
There’s a worth to that, and Beeman has written a worthy book.”
—Open Letters Monthly

“This book should be required reading in every college survey course on American History... An outstanding book that should become an instant classic and needs to be on the bookshelf of anyone who fancies themselves knowledgeable about the Revolutionary Period.”
—Battles & Book Reviews

“[Beeman] demonstrates his virtuosity….the book abounds with colorful descriptions and personalities….vivid writing.”
—Cleveland Plain Dealer

“[A] winningly delivered twice-told tale about the founding events of the United States.”
—New York Times Book Review

“Beeman’s prose captures those tensions and facilitates the imagination so the reader can feel a part of the debate.... Our Lives, Our Fortunes and Our Sacred Honor is an appropriate complement to David Stewart’s The Summer of 1787.... Beeman has produced an authoritative account of how this nation was imagined, and how the members from different sections of the continent were able to put aside their differences and to explore their differing philosophical, political and market needs to form an embryonic government that has grown to be a beacon for other communities seeking self-governance.”
—Roanoke Times

“An engaging history of the Founders of 1776.”
—Booklist

“Full of fascinating details.”
—Publishers Weekly

“Lively study of the main players of the two Continental Congresses.... Beeman elegantly moves through the deeply compelling process of how these motley characters fashioned government as an agency for the people. A welcome addition to a rich, indispensable field of scholarly study.”
—Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review

“The biggest accomplishment in all of American politics was the first. Richard Beeman tells the intricate, grinding, suspenseful story of how thirteen contentious colonies agreed to leave an empire and form a nation.”
—Richard Brookhiser, author of James Madison

“With a dazzling combination of effortless prose and impeccable research, Richard Beeman has given us a fresh understanding of how thirteen very different—and often differing —colonies became a nation.”
—Thomas Fleming, author of Liberty!: The American Revolution

“An eloquent scholar and insightful analyst, Richard Beeman has written a powerful and vivid account of the making of what is arguably our most cited and least understood founding document: the Declaration of Independence. This is a valuable and important book.”
—Jon Meacham, author of Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power and American Lion

“A solid and lucid account of the momentous years leading up to the Revolution by one of early America’s expert historians. Indeed, the story of those two years 1774-1776 has never been better told.”
—Gordon Wood, Professor of History Emeritus at Brown University

Kirkus Reviews
To create this lively study of the main players of the two Continental Congresses, Beeman (History/Univ. of Pennsylvania) draws on his wealth of research from his previous, award-winning works, Plain, Honest Men: The Making of the American Constitution (2009) and Patrick Henry (1974). The author concentrates on the fascinating human contrasts among the delegates, from the fiery Bostonians, including the Adamses, to the loyalist New Yorkers, as they brought with them their provincial biases and sincere and honorable hopes for fair, just government, but mostly a desire for reconciliation with the British crown. Indeed, Beeman's leitmotif throughout his fluid study of the events of the key 22 months is the frank reluctance on the part of the delegates to make that rupture, as Pennsylvania lawyer John Dickinson would eloquently argue in moving speeches opposing independence up until the decisive vote of July 2, 1776. While Virginia's "son of thunder" Patrick Henry harangued the delegates on the second day of the first Congress with an appeal to their "American" rather than regional identities, the others were not yet ready to renounce the British constitution, hammering out successive appeals to the king, despite the hardening of British sympathies against them. From voting on the banning of British imports and exports to appointing George Washington as commander of the Continental Army to the selection of little-known Thomas Jefferson to the committee to write a declaration of independence to the publication of Thomas Paine's incendiary Common Sense, Beeman elegantly moves through the deeply compelling process of how these motley characters fashioned government as an agency for the people. A welcome addition to a rich, indispensable field of scholarly study.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780465026296
Publisher:
Basic Books
Publication date:
05/07/2013
Pages:
528
Sales rank:
759,717
Product dimensions:
6.66(w) x 9.34(h) x 1.62(d)

Meet the Author


Richard R. Beeman is the John Welsh Centennial Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania. The author of six books on the American Revolution and the Constitution, Beeman was a National Book Award finalist for Patrick Henry and winner of the George Washington Book Prize for Plain, Honest Men. He lives in Media, Pennsylvania.

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Our Lives, Our Fortunes, and Our Sacred Honor: The Forging of American Independence, 1774-1776 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Beeman does an outstanding job in taking the reader, step-by-step, from the beginning of Britain's obnoxious (to the colonists) taxes to the signing of the Declaration of Independence. He explains how the colonies are not united, not even up until the 59th minute of the 11th hour, that independence is the right way to go. Southern colonists felt no compassion for Boston and New England, and the Quakers of Pennsylvania were in no frame of mind for war or to leave the fold of the British Empire. He provides insight to the various founders, such as, John and Sam Adams, Roger Sherman, John Dickinson, Benjamin Franklin, and the Rutledges of South Carolina, as well as others. He explains that declaring independence was not an easy task, nor did it occur over night. Although the Second Continental Congress was willing to declare with nine states, the Congress knew that for the world to support the actions of the colonies, for others to take the "new nation" seriously, unanimity was a must; yet, that did not occur until the 59th minute of the 11th hour, when New York finally fell in with its sister colonies. The story that Beeman tells is much more comprehensive than what we were told in most American history classes. We are led to believe that the signers all signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, yet that is not true, and Beeman tells us why, and why the last signer did not sign until November 1776. The book is a lively read, an easy read. Very informative, it is truly a primer to the two years immediately leading to the birth certificate of our nation, the Declaration of Independence.