The Founding Conservatives: How a Group of Unsung Heroes Saved the American Revolution

The Founding Conservatives: How a Group of Unsung Heroes Saved the American Revolution

by David Lefer
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The Founding Conservatives: How a Group of Unsung Heroes Saved the American Revolution by David Lefer

“It is not only the cause, but our manner of conducting it, that will establish character.”
—John Dickinson, 1773
A nation at war and widespread mistrust of the mil­itary. A financial crash and an endless economic crisis. A Congress so divided it barely functioned. Bitter partisan disputes over everything from taxa­tion and the distribution of wealth to the role of banks and corporations in society. Welcome to the world of the Founding Fathers.
According to most narratives of the American Revolution, the founders were united in their quest for independence and steadfast in their efforts to create a stable, effective government. But the birth of our republic was far more complicated than many realize. The Revolution was nearly derailed by extremists who wanted to do too much, too quickly and who refused to rest until they had remade American society. If not for a small circle of conservatives who kept radicalism in check and promoted capitalism, a strong military, and the preservation of tradition, our country would be vastly different today.
In the first book to chronicle the critical role these men played in securing our freedom, David Lefer provides an insightful and gripping account of the birth of modern American conservatism and its impact on the earliest days of our nation.
Among these founding conservatives were men like John Dickinson, who joined George Washington’s troops in a battle against the British on July 4, 1776, and that same week drafted the Articles of Confederation; James Wilson, a staunch free-market capitalist who defended his home against a mob of radicals demanding price controls and in the process averted a bloody American equivalent to Bastille Day; Silas Deane, who mixed patriotism with profit seeking while petitioning France to aid America; and Robert Morris, who financed the American Revolution and founded the first bank and the first modern multinational corporation in the United States.
Drawing on years of archival research, Lefer shows how these and other determined founders cham­pioned American freedom while staying faithful to their ideals. In the process, they not only helped defeat the British but also laid the groundwork for American capitalism to thrive.
The Founding Conservatives is an intellectual adven­ture story, full of gunfights and big ideas. It is also an extraordinary reminder of the punishing battles our predecessors fought to create and maintain the free and prosperous nation we know today.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781101622667
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 06/13/2013
Sold by: Penguin Group
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 604,518
File size: 5 MB
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

David Lefer is a professor at New York University’s Polytechnic Institute, where he directs the Innovation and Technology Forum. Previously a journalist, he worked for the New York Daily News, for the China News in Taiwan, and as a coproducer of the PBS talk show The Digital Age. He collabo­rated with Sir Harold Evans in the research and writing of They Made America, a bestselling history of American innovation.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Chapter 1 Court and Country 9

Chapter 2 None Shall Make Them Afraid 20

Chapter 3 The Rise of Radicalism 35

Chapter 4 The View From Above 46

Chapter 5 Delicacy and Caution 56

Chapter 6 The Olive Branch and the Lightning Bolt 68

Chapter 7 Patriotism and Profit 81

Chapter 8 Yielding to the Torrent 95

Chapter 9 The Crucible of Conservatism 108

Chapter 10 The Philosopher in Action 121

Chapter 11 On the Brink of a Precipice 132

Chapter 12 Cool and Do Mischief 146

Chapter 13 The Turning Point 159

Chapter 14 The Playwright and the Merchant 174

Chapter 15 The Seed Time of Glory 188

Chapter 16 The Ruin of Mr. Deane 201

Chapter 17 Fort Wilson 213

Chapter 18 American Dictators 226

Chapter 19 Power, Consequence, and Grandeur 240

Chapter 20 The Pause that Saved the Revolution 256

Chapter 21 Our American Tumults 268

Chapter 22 Capitalist Inducements 281

Chapter 23 Experience Must be our Guide 296

Chapter 24 We the People 310

Epilogue 324

Acknowledgments 341

Notes 343

Index 385

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“David Lefer’s narrative is readable, engrossing, and fair-minded, and it presents an aspect of America’s origins that enriches our understanding of the nation’s past and of its present.”
“David Lefer has done a wonderful service by focusing attention on the conservatives among our founders, such as John Dickinson. In doing so, he shows that American conservatism has deep historical roots and that some of today’s ideological disputes were being waged in the early days of our republic. The lessons he draws are relevant not just to conservatives but to all Americans.”
—WALTER ISAACSON, author of Steve Jobs and Benjamin Franklin
“David Lefer’s The Founding Conservatives is a tirelessly researched and superbly writ­ten account of how America’s first conservatives endowed our revolution with ballast and vision, often in surprising ways that resonate to this day. A timely reminder that extremism in the defense of liberty is no virtue, moderation in the pursuit of justice no vice.”
—KEVIN BAKER, author of America: The Story of Us
“David Lefer has done a civic service in unearthing a largely forgotten group of revolutionary patriots who not only played key roles in achieving American inde­pendence but, in advance of Burke and the French Revolution, laid the groundwork for a distinctively New World version of conservatism.”
—FRED SIEGEL, author of The Prince of the City; senior fellow, Manhattan Institute
“This lively, erudite book frees the founders from currently popular anachronistic categorizations and in the process provides a fresh new perspective on American conservatism. That there is something in this book to annoy just about everyone is its great and inestimable virtue.”
—SUSAN JACOBY, author of Freethinkers
“As a historian, David Lefer is a terrific storyteller. The Founding Conservatives takes us on a fun and unique ride through the birth of the United States while building a case for the real DNA of American conservatism.”
—KEVIN MANEY, author of The Maverick and His Machine

“A compelling argument for a new appreciation of America’s founding conservatives. Lefer shows how these men, far from obstructing change or opposing the Revolution, sought to channel and direct our nation’s develop­ment so it could succeed for centuries to come. This book reminds us that conservatives have never been the ‘party of no’ but rather the voice of reason and an idealism tempered by the practical.”
—LARRY SCHWEIKART, coauthor of A Patriot’s History of the Modern World, vols. 1 and 2

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The Founding Conservatives: How a Group of Unsung Heroes Saved the American Revolution 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is history at its best. With great insight, David Lefer brings to life what he calls the "unsung heroes" of the American Revolution, their political philosophy and personalities. These are the men who are almost footnotes in other histories -- John Dickinson, Silas Deane, Robert Morris, Gouverneur Morris, Philip Schuyler, John and Edward Rutledge, James Wilson and others -- names from American History classes but about whom we never knew much. There is so much in this book -- uniquely American development of conservatism and capitalism, the disagreements, the uncertainty, and sometimes the violence, etc. The combination of Lefer's thorough research, deep insights and lively writing (some have called it elegant) makes this an informative and fun book to read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is an aspect of the American revolution that I didn't know about, and wasn't even aware of in the slightest. However, I now feel like a gap in my knowledge has been filled. Lefer's prose is precise, provocative and pointed, and humorous at the right times. A must read for anyone wishing to deepen their understanding of the roots of the USA.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago