The Will of the People: The Revolutionary Birth of America

The Will of the People: The Revolutionary Birth of America

by T. H. Breen

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Overview

A prize-winning historian provides the missing piece in the story of America’s founding, introducing us to the ordinary men and women who turned a faltering rebellion against colonial rule into an unexpectedly potent and enduring revolution.

Over eight years of war, ordinary Americans accomplished something extraordinary. Far from the actions of the Continental Congress and the Continental Army, they took responsibility for the course of the revolution. They policed their neighbors, sent troops and weapons to distant strangers committed to the same cause, and identified friends and traitors. By taking up the reins of power but also setting its limits, they ensured America’s success. Without their participation there would have been no victory over Great Britain, no independence. The colonial rebellion would have ended like so many others—in failure.

The driving force behind the creation of a country based on the will of the people, T. H. Breen shows, was in fact the people itself. In villages, towns, and cities from Georgia to New Hampshire, Americans managed local affairs, negotiated shared sacrifice, and participated in a political system in which each believed they were as good as any other. Presenting hundreds of stories, Breen captures the powerful sense of equality and responsibility resulting from this process of self-determination.

With striking originality, Breen restores these missing Americans to our founding and shows why doing so is essential for understanding why our revolution ended differently from others that have shaped the modern world. In the midst of revolution’s anger, fear, and passion—the forgotten elements in any effective resistance—these Americans preserved a political culture based on the rule of law. In the experiences of these unsung revolutionaries can be seen the creation of America’s singular political identity.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674971790
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 09/17/2019
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 245,777
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

T. H. Breen is John Kluge Professor of American Law and Governance at the Library of Congress and Founding Director of the Chabraja Center for Historical Studies at Northwestern University. A former Guggenheim Fellow, he has taught American history at Oxford, Cambridge, and Yale universities and is James Marsh Professor-at-Large at the University of Vermont. He is the author of many books, including George Washington’s Journey, winner of the History Prize of the Society of the Cincinnati and finalist for the George Washington Book Prize; and Marketplace of Revolution, winner of the Society of Colonial Wars Book Award. He is a frequent contributor to the New York Review of Books and Times Literary Supplement.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Revolutionary Voices 1

1 Rejection 19

2 Assurance 54

3 Fear 86

4 Justice 122

5 Betrayal 159

6 Revenge 195

7 Reflections 223

Notes 229

Acknowledgments 253

Index 255

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