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Visionary Republic: Millennial Themes in American Thought 1756-1800 Cambridge University Press Ruth H. Bloch


22nd June 2012 History Books 16 Comments

An account of the role of millennial thinking in the age of the American Revolution, this book demonstrates the popularity and diffusion of millennial expectations among several types of American Protestants by the middle of the eighteenth century and illuminates the way these hopes shaped the understanding of the Revolution and the symbolic meaning of the new nation. Unlike most previous works, this study extends well beyond the social and geographic perimeters of the New England clergy and is based on a wide range of secular as well as religious literature. The book not only sheds light on the role of religion in the American Revolution, but it also surveys an important facet of the intellectual history of the early Republic. Analysing the interplay of millennial, republican and Enlightenment ideas about the future, the author reveals both complementary and contradictory themes in American thought of an older cultural tradition of millennialism while at the same time tracing variations and changes within that tradition during this formative period of American history.

‘Visionary Republic is an excellent book. By forcing us to confront the breadth and richness of millennialist thought in the Revolutionary age, Bloch challenges many comfortable generalizations about the sources and substance of early American political thought.’ Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography

‘This helpful book succeeds on several levels. It offers first a thorough canvassing of American millennial and apocalyptic writing from before the French and Indian War through the administration of Thomas Jefferson … But the most significant contribution of Visionary Republic is its patient explanation of the means by which millennial thought interacted with the major political ideas of the period.’ Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion

‘For at least twenty years, American historians have explored the impact of belief in the millennium upon the thinking of the revolutionary generation. In their pioneering works, Alan Heimert and Ernest Tuveson emphasized the uniqueness of the American interpretation of the millennial tradition … Ruth Bloch’s fine study builds upon all these earlier works. Drawing on an analysis of all the source materials pertaining to the millennium printed in the American colonies and the United States during the second half of the eighteenth century, she concludes that millennialism was of central importance because it ‘provided the main structure of meaning through which contemporary events were linked to an exalted image of an ideal world’.’ Journal of American History

‘To have displayed the scope and breadth of millennial themes in popular culture is in itself a significant contribution … Bloch has read carefully and widely, intelligently and sometimes brilliantly, to interpret popular expectancy in the late eighteenth century. It is a pleasure to experience the vision with her.’ William and Mary Quarterly

Analysing the interplay of millennial, republican and Enlightenment ideas about the future, the author reveals both complementary and contradictory themes in American thought of an older cultural tradition of millennialism while at the same time tracing variations and changes within that tradition during this formative period of American history.

‘Visionary Republic is an excellent book. By forcing us to confront the breadth and richness of millennialist thought in the Revolutionary age, Bloch challenges many comfortable generalizations about the sources and substance of early American political thought.’ Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography

‘This helpful book succeeds on several levels. It offers first a thorough canvassing of American millennial and apocalyptic writing from before the French and Indian War through the administration of Thomas Jefferson … But the most significant contribution of Visionary Republic is its patient explanation of the means by which millennial thought interacted with the major political ideas of the period.’ Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion

‘For at least twenty years, American historians have explored the impact of belief in the millennium upon the thinking of the revolutionary generation. In their pioneering works, Alan Heimert and Ernest Tuveson emphasized the uniqueness of the American interpretation of the millennial tradition … Ruth Bloch’s fine study builds upon all these earlier works. Drawing on an analysis of all the source materials pertaining to the millennium printed in the American colonies and the United States during the second half of the eighteenth century, she concludes that millennialism was of central importance because it ‘provided the main structure of meaning through which contemporary events were linked to an exalted image of an ideal world’.’ Journal of American History

‘To have displayed the scope and breadth of millennial themes in popular culture is in itself a significant contribution … Bloch has read carefully and widely, intelligently and sometimes brilliantly, to interpret popular expectancy in the late eighteenth century. It is a pleasure to experience the vision with her.’ William and Mary Quarterly

Visionary Republic: Millennial Themes in American Thought, 1756-1800










  • 16 responses to "Visionary Republic: Millennial Themes in American Thought 1756-1800 Cambridge University Press Ruth H. Bloch"

  • SEC SPEAK UP
    5:45 on June 22nd, 2012
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    When published in the 1960s, this book had a revolutionary effect on our understanding of the American Revolution. Its impact is undiminished by the passage of the last 40 years. Bailyn’s scholarship and exposition remains as exciting as it must have been at the time of initial publication. Bailyn attempted to take a fresh look at the thinking of the individuals who made the Revolution. His work was based on an extensive survey and analysis of the large number of political pamphlets published in the years leading up to the revolution. His work benefited as well greatly from a number of other significant works of scholarship, such as Caroline Robbins’ book on the Commonwealth tradition in 18th century thought. More than anything else, Bailyn succeeded in determining what key terms like ‘power’, ‘liberty’, and republicanism meant to the Revolutionary generations. In doing so, he was able to strip away anachronistic accretions from these terms and ideas and recover the actual thinking of the Revolutionaries and their opponents.

    Bailyn’s achievement is manifold. He was able to show that dominant intellectual influence on the Revolutionaries was a compound of classical models, Common Law legal tradition, Enlightenment ideology, covenant theology, and a strong tradition of British intellectual and political dissent that had its roots in the Commonwealth period of the 17th century. The latter tradition was especially important and acted as the binding matrix for other traditions and interpretative lens through which other received ideas were focused. Bailyn shows how these ideas were articulated in the specifically American context and how they led inevitably to confrontation with the expanding imperial authority of Britain. This conflict led to new expansions of the basic ideology, some of which would represent completely novel ideas. The traditional ideas of representation and consent, constitutional basis of society, and sovereignty were overthrown and replaced to a very large extent by the concepts we still uphold.

    The development of these new ideas and the necessity to give them practical scope would lead to what Bailyn artfully termed “The Contagion of Liberty”; the expansion of concepts of rights and freedom well beyond the original categories of thought received by the Revolutionary generations. These would include attacks on slavery, the questioning of establishment of religion, speculation about democracy as a legitimate and potentially stable form of government, and an increasing emphasis on social equality generated from the realization of political equality. As Bailyn remarks, the thinking and writing on these topics provides the bridge between the world of the 18th century intellectuals and what would become the world of Madison and de Toqueville.

    Bailyn’s analysis and scholarship are superb. The organization and quality of writing in this book are outstanding. Just as important, Bailyn is very good at supporting his analysis with well chosen excerpts from contemporary political pamphlets. His judicious choice of quotations not only serves to support his conclusions but gives a fine idea of the words and thoughts of the Revolutionaries and their opponents.

    This is a fundamental book for understanding the American past.

  • Sana Deshong
    6:14 on June 22nd, 2012
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    Bloch’s book was assigned (along with about a dozen others for a graduate class). Her book is the only one that I am keeping. It is a shame that what is documented and contained within this book is not standard reading in high school history courses. Bloch’s book counters most, if not all of the reasons for the beginnings of the American Revolutionary War. In essence, apocalyptic and millennial thinking and not patriotism and escaping British oppression were the initial reasons for fighting the British. After reading Bloch’s book, one could make the argument that if you remove the apocalyptic and millennial underpinnings that were the catalyst for the Americans, there would have been no Revolutionary War.

  • Kevin P. Ryan
    11:59 on June 22nd, 2012
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    Bernard Bailyn’s Ideological Origins of the American Revolution is a centerpiece in much, if not all, of contemporary historians’ viewpoints and methodologies for understanding the philosophical constructs and ideological underpinnings of the American Revolution. It was, according to Bailyn and many learned historians, after this writing first appeared in 1967, a revolution of ideas. What Bailyn did was to read prodigious amounts of writings of the time, mostly in the form of pamphlets and synthesize the thoughts that were being discussed and written about at the time. Essentially, he put the revolution of ideas into the context of the time. That was, some forty years ago, revolutionary within of itself.

    Many of today’s more serious readers of the period have read much of Bailyn and Gordon Wood indirectly, if not directly reading their own work. Both have been that influential in the field. The “disappointment” in this book is caused by Bailyn’s own success, ironically enough. It was his work, along with select others, who began to pay attention to history within its own context – that is what was occurring in life and politics at the time rather than a chronological and linear view of the time. More of an interdisciplinary viewpoint and, as such, more accessible to the reader. Since the time of its first publication, many others have emulated its style (a good idea) but made its rather seismic effects at the time, feel much less so today. Effectively so much hype over the years (deserved then and de rigor today) makes for more than a bit of a letdown for today’s readers. That said, those truly interested in the ideas, the philosophies, and their interpretations and misinterpretations of the day are well served reading Bailyn. Others should approach the read with caution as it is fairly dense but filled with moments of sheer academic brilliance.

  • Ken Nobo
    14:59 on June 22nd, 2012
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    To be very concise, this is not for casual reading. It’s a history of the evolution of ideas, not a blow-by-blow on events leading up to the Revolution. As a result, it’s very dry reading. If you’re interested in the Revolution and just want to be familiar with this work, go find the review in the William & Mary Quarterly and read it. If you are a serious student of the Revolution, though, you MUST invest the time in reading this book. It is, perhaps, the single most important work on Revolutionary ideas and has shaped further research on the period for the last 30 years. It is impossible to discuss the Revolution with any credibility without a familiarity with its main ideas.

  • Evan Appleby
    18:54 on June 22nd, 2012
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    This was an incredibly interesting book. Realizing that Bailyn is quite an accomplished historian-scholar, I put off reading this – I assumed it would be brilliant but very difficult to get through. Well, I was correct about the brilliant part – but wrong about the “difficult to get through” part. It was increadibly readable. Also, the main points of the book are important to understanding American political thought. Interestingly, the country’s revolutionary thinking originated from the very country we were fighting againt – ENGLAND! In arguing the continuous debates over the tension between liberty and power, the pamphlet writers of the day turned to 17th and 18th century thinkers to make their case. The best parts of the book are the last two chapters. In the second to last, originally the last chapter until the enlarged edition came out, Bailyn discusses concepts like democracy, representation, and slavery. In the final chapter, “Fulfillment,” apparently written much later, Bailyn focuses on the Constitutional Convention and the arguments between the Federalists and Anti-Federalists; particularly, what they felt about virtue residing among the country’s people and how best to form a government. One final note: Bailyn’s sources from other scholarly journals will lead the read to many interesting gems – especially a few of the articles from William and Mary Quarterly (a must-have journal for anyone interested in the time-period).
    ENJOY!

  • holon
    23:50 on June 22nd, 2012
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    The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution by Bernard Bailyn is smartly written with political sophistication towards the American Revolution. If a person studies the American Revolution you have to read this book… for without reading this you will have a difficult time understanding the emergence of eighteenth-century thought on the why the revolution came about.

    Documentation is there for reference as well as the American ideological positions which can be found fully formed as far back as 1730′s. This is a good solid work and should be on all bookshelves of anyone who studies the American Revolution and the Men who strongly believed in it. A good starting point.

    Well done and outstanding… eminetly fascinating.

  • Howard Morgan
    3:33 on June 23rd, 2012
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    Long before there were bloggers and political pundits there were the pamphleteers. Bernard Bailyn shows just how important pamphleteering was in getting the message out. Take Tom Paine’s Common Sense for instance. More than 200,000 copies were distributed throughout the colonies, making it a runaway bestseller in its day. He championed universal suffrage, the unicameral legislature and a clean break from England. He was countered by John Adams, who, in Thoughts on Government, felt a more prudent course was in order. Bailyn gleens from these famous pamphlets and many others and presenting a very compelling history of the American Revolution. It was a revolution in thought as well as government, that eventually saw Adams’ Federalist ideas seize the upper hand. But, Pennsylvania initially adopted many of Paine’s ideas, creating the only unicameral legislature in the United States, and extending voting rights to most men.

    My book is heavily tagged, because there is so much to draw from these pages. Bailyn lays the foundations for the political discourse that would shape our nation. At times this discourse could be quite vehement in its pronouncements and its denunciations. It was never boring. Tom Paine emerges as one of the heros in this book, championing The Rights of Man, which have a far greater impact 50 years later when Andrew Jackson rode into the White House declaring himself a champion of the common man.

  • G.L.O.W
    11:40 on June 23rd, 2012
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    It is quite common to be confronted with a partisan understanding of America’s founding. To the secularists, all the founding fathers were deists at best. To the evangelicals, all the founding fathers were pious Christians. To the classicists, their religion was irrelevant; the founding was a return to the republics of Greece and Rome.

    Bailyn presents a more nuanced version of the founding, in which there were many–often mutually contradicting–influences that engaged in co-belligerency to produce the Declaration of Independence, and later, the Constitution. Bailyn argues that various founding fathers were influenced more or less by the classics, the writers of the Enlightenment, the tradition of common law, covenant theology, and a group of opposition theorists, country politicians, and publicists. He argues that the last group carried the most influence.

    Bailyn’s book is penetrating and thorough. I would have given it five stars except that I do not necessarily agree that his latter group (the opposition theorists, etc.) are distinct from the previously identified traditions. I.e., what was it that drove these opposition theorists, if not the classics, covenant theology, etc.?

    Overall, an excellent contribution to our understanding of the founding.

  • John Munich
    18:18 on June 23rd, 2012
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    This is the critically acclaimed book by Bernard Bailyn that stands in contradistinction to Charles Baird’s Economic Interpretation. With unusual courage, Bailyn attempts to understand the founders as they understood themselves. In the preface, Bailyn recalls the “intense excitement” and “sense of discovery” he felt at Harvard Universtiy when he studied the ideological themes of revolutionary America. This excitement and sense of discovery is passed along to the reader.

    This is a very scholarly work. The extensive footnotes are fabulous. I especially enjoyed the chapter called “Power and Liberty”. Bailyn develops the pre-revolutionary idea that the ultimate explanation of every political controversy is the disposition of power. Power is defined as “dominion” or the human control of human life. With dozens of fascinating examples, Bailyn illustrates why power is essential to the maintenance of liberty, but dangerous and in need of restraint lest it extend itself beyond legitimate boundaries.

    I found it refreshing to read a book about America’s founding that didn’t condescend or politicize. It wasn’t until I read this book that I fully appreciated how impoverished my public school education was on the topic. You wont be disappointed.

  • Joseph Ben Pate
    20:00 on June 23rd, 2012
    Reply to comment

    Bailyn traces the influences of Revolutionary political thought in this book. Covering the many facets of political philosophy that shaped the Revolution, Bailyn successfully weaves them into what could be identified as the birth of American political thought. Reads better than one might think, and in fact reads very well. A must read for students of the American Revolution.

  • Felisha Nati
    22:11 on June 23rd, 2012
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    There is an unfortunate, somewhat politically correct, movement today attempting to ‘prove’ that the Founding Fathers, the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution, were motivated by, and the documents based on, the Bible and Christianity.

    This forlorn hope relies on tenuous ties to Biblical scripture to illustrate sections of both documents, and the alleged religious piety of the Founders. This is not only bad history, but it is nonsense and is giving a false picture of the background, motivation, and ultimate success of the American Revolutionaries. They are being misquoted, misrepresented, and quite frankly, lied about.

    This excellent volume, written before all the present quasi religious whoop-de-do, dispels all of these misbegotten theories and presents in clear, concise, and documented prose what motivated the Founders to start a Revolution against the mother country and set out on ‘the noble experiment.’

    Bailyn is a noted historian, an accurate researcher, and a careful analyst of historic events. This is one of the best books on the American Revolution that has been written in the last fifty years. The author painstakingly takes the reader through the development of Enlightenment thought, the Founders preoccupation with classical antiquity, and where their theories of independence, the rights of man, and government came from and how they developed.

    What they wrought was not a state founded on religion or religiuos principles, but on English Common Law, which had as its antecedents Roman Law, Saxon Law, and the Danelaw, none of which were based either on the Bible or on Christianity in any of its forms. What Bailyn has given us is a clear and concise history of the Founders that needs to be read and studied by present and future citizens to understand our bdginnings as a nation.

  • akahige
    0:18 on June 24th, 2012
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    This work is a classic. Bailyn brilliantly traces the ideological background of the revolutionaries. He shows how they were steeped in the radical libertarian and republican opposition literature of 17th and 18th century England. He overturms traditional interpretations that stress Locke as the primary influence by demonstrating the vital importance of such men as Algernon Sidney, John Milton, John Trenchard & Thomas Gordon, Lord Bolingbroke, and a host of others. Despite this, Bailyn does not deny the centrality of Locken natural rights philosophy, as many more recent scholars have. He sees the basic philosophy behind the revolution as one which views power as the eternal enemy of liberty. Power must be watched and restrained tightly, otherwise it will exceed its bounds and bring about the end of liberty and the initiation of slavery. He also delves into various issues relating to this philosophy that surrounded the break from Great Britain as well, including the unsettling consequences of their revolutionary agenda(e.g. new views of slavery). In the revised edition of the work, Bailyn extends his analysis to the new U.S. Constitution. Contrary to many other scholars, Bailyn maintains that the new Constitution did not represent a repudiation of the Revolution, but rather, its fulfillment. I myself am still a bit skeptical concerning this point, but his scholarship is sound, and his reasoning is suggestive and challenging. Above all, I would have to say that this work is an absolute *must* for any individual who is interested in early-American history or political philosophy. Moreover, it is also very instructive for liberty loving Americans, as it reveals the nature of the truly radical libertarian foundations of our nation.

  • iUnarchive
    7:05 on June 24th, 2012
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    Why did the American colonies declare their Independence from Great Britain?

    Baylin’s classic study tries to show that American Independence had its roots in the power of ideas — of a rethinking of the proper role of government and a willingness to put thought into action with what became the uniquely American combination of idealism and realism. Bailyn’s approach rejects certain types of other plausible explanations of the Revolution — such as economic rivalry with the mother country or personal ambition on the part of colonial leaders –to tell his story of the origins of American ideas.

    Bailyn finds the ideas that shaped the Revolution stated and debated in the ubiquitous pamphlets that appeared in the colonies between, about, 1760 — 1776. But the source of the ideas are much deeper. Bailyn traces these ideas to the ancient Roman orators, through philosophical figures such as Locke and Vattel. The immediate source of the ideas which became America was in dissenting policitical thought in Great Britain in the later Seventeenth and Early Eighteent Century following the Glorious Revolution. The concern was political corruption in the Britain of the time and the fear that the monarchy would reassert its dominance over British life. Early in the 18th century, well before the French-Indian War, these concerns found their way to the American colonies and prepared the intellectual groundwork for independence. The colonists had a real fear that what they perceived as arbitrary British actions would reduce them to slavehood or vassalage.

    Bailyn discusses in detail how the colonists took English political thought and applied it to the nature of representative government, constitutional thought, and the nature of divided sovereignty. He then explains how the manner in which the colonists transformed thinking about the nature of government had ramifications in the colonists’ view of slavery, the disestablishment of religion, a classless society, and the nature of democracy. The intellectual transformation required for an independent United States thus occurred well before the Declaration of Independence and the Federalist Papers.

    Bailyn’s book is a work of detailed scholarship and not easy to read. It is a major achievement of intellectual history and will more than repay the effort. John Adams is among the major heros of this book. Readers that want to follow-up McCollough’s popular biography and learn about the ideas of the time might well explore this book. Bailyn’s study affirms the power of thought and of the American experiment. In our troubled times, it may help take us back to the origins of our country to learn where we have been so that we may intelligiently decide where we are going.

  • ray lankford
    7:43 on June 24th, 2012
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    Clear presentation of the debate of constitutions and governing that led to the Am Revolution. Highly recommended for any serious exploration of what the fouding fathers were really discussing.

  • Trevor Adheen
    14:52 on June 24th, 2012
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    While the 17th century witnessed the failure of the libertarian Levellor revolution, the 18th century can be said to embody its partial victory in the form of the American Revolution. The radical libertarian nature of the Yankee revolutionaires has only recently been acknowledged by historians. Bailyn’s volume broke new ground when it was published in 1967 by showing the Radical Whig foundations of the American Revolution. He says “attitudes and ideas that would constitute the Revolutionary ideology was present a half-century before there was an actual Revolution”.

    The two most widely read polemical Radical Whig authors were Thomas Gordon and John Trenchard. By means of their anti-clerical and anti-military essays, known collectively as “The Indpendent Whig” and “Cato’s Letters”, they kept alive the Radical Whig traditions of natural rights, suspicion of the ever-encroaching nature of state power, and justified rebellion. Gordon and Trenchard were able to transmit these revolutionary ideas in popular form to the American colonies.

    Bailyn says “Everywhere groups seeking justification for concerted opposition to constituted governments turned to these writers [Trenchard and Gordon]“. He adds “By 1728, in fact, ‘Cato’s Letters’ had already been fused with Locke, Coke, Pufendorf, and Grotius”.

    Another important connecting link was Thomas Hollis. Bailyn says “that extraordinary one-man propaganda machine in the cause of liberty, the indefatigable Thomas Hollis” distributed libertarian tracts in England and British America, and subsidized the publication of American revolutionary pamphlets, as well as reprinting the classics of the 17th century Whig tradition such as Sidney and Locke. He was instrumental in supplying radical libertarian literature to libraries in France, Switzerland, Italy, and to Harvard University.

    Radical Whig libertarianism comprises a coherent body of principles that are held together and given meaning by two fundamental moral principles. The first being the right of the individual to own justly acquired property; the second being the right of the individual not to be aggressed against.

    The individual is defined by his physical uniqueness and so has the potential to develop into a mature and responsible acting individual. The individual’s uniqueness forms the basic element of all social interaction and is the source of the division of labor and the exchange process. Similarly, privacy is the result of recognizing the dignity, worth, and sanctity of every individual. Only by permitting the individual to enjoy his or her property unmolested, within the protected sphere defined by the self-ownership principle and the derivative right to own property in other physical objects, can there be true privacy and protection of the private side of human life.

    Tolerance results from the recognition that all individuals are potentially morally perfectable. As long as no property rights are violated, then all consenting, peaceful activity must be legally protected. Tolerance is vital because it allows each and every individual to exercise moral autonomy. Only by being free to choose between different courses of action can the individual learn from past mistakes and so strive for moral perfection and self-fulfillment.

    It is a consequence of the ownership of one’s body and the moral autonomy that springs from this ownership that no one can act on any individual’s behalf unless expressly and formally delegated to do so. This means that individuals have to begin claiming their rights of self-determination, the right to withdraw or secede from any political organization that is not to their liking, and the right to resist political intervention in their social and economic activities. Bailyn says “Such ideas, based on extreme solicitude for the individual and an equal hostility to government, were expressed in a spirit of foreboding and fear for the future”.

    In 1765, Charles Carroll of Carrollton said, “corruption . . . will produce the same effects . . but that fatal time seems to be at a great distance. The present generation at least, . . . will enjoy the blessings and the sweets of liberty”. Bailyn says “Suspicion . . . of an active conspiracy of power against liberty . . . rose in the consciousness of a large segment of the American population before any of the famous political events of the struggle with England took place”.

    Bailyn cites the Report of Speech in the House of Lords, 1770: “Lord Chancellor Camden . . . accused the ministry . . . of having formed a conspiracy against the liberties of their country”. Bailyn also cites the Boston Town Meeting to its Assembly Representatives, 1770: “A series of occurrences, many recent events, . . . afford great reason to believe that a deep-laid and desparate plan of imperial despotism has been laid, and partly executed, for the extinction of all civil liberty . . . The august and once revered fortress of English freedom – the admirable work of ages – the British Constitution seems fast tottering into fatal and inevitable ruin. The dreadful catastrophe threatens universal havoc, and presents an awful warning to hazard all if, peradventure, we in these distant confines of the earth may prevent”.

    Colonists such as radicals Thomas Paine and Richard Price added to these fears. Paine is best noted for his popular tract, “Common Sense”(1776), which attacked monarchical government and urged immediate declaration of independence from the Crown and the formation of a Republic, as well as for his passionate defense of the French Revolution in his “Rights of Man”(1792). Richard Price, a Dissenter and self-styled “Honest Whig”, defended natural rights, justice, and the right of a people to rebel against oppression in his “Observations on the Nature of Civil Liberty . . . and the Justice of War in America”, also publishe in 1776.

    Bailyn says “the colonists’ ideas and words counted too, and not merely because they repeated as ideology the familiar utopian phrases of the Enlightment and of English libertarianism. What they were saying by 1776 was familiar . . . ; yet it was different.” He says “The radicalism the Americans conveyed to the world in 1776 was a transformed as well as a transforming force”, namely “to make federalism a logical as well as a practical system of government”.

    Proponents of liberty were mistrusted as well. Bailyn says “denunciations of the work of seditious factions seeking private aims masked by professions of loyalty, which abound in the writings of officials and of die-hard Tories”.

    It is significant that Bailyn seems only to touch lightly upon the views of the Tories – predecessors of today’s neocons. He draws heavily from the radicals. This cozy accomodation and convenient oversightedness is also suspicious. It is an approach that is commonplace concerning the American Revolution. State public schools do not teach the Tories’ views, rather their aim is to justify the present organization of American society.

    More questions arise from reading Bailyn’s work. Why did the Radical Whig revolution in England fail to attract the ruling elite and beneficiaries of monopoly profits resulting from the political system? And why did their counterparts in the American colonies embrace Radical Whig ideology?

    My guess is that, when examined closely, the American Revolution fails to live up to its libertarian origins. My particular concern is with the Declaration of Independence – the supposed listing of reasons for the revolt. The facts indicate that the goals of most of the signers of the Declaration were quite different from their rhetoric. They sought freedom from Britain, it is true – the freedom to govern the lives of Americans THEMSELVES. This is obvious, not only from the words of the Founding Fathers, but from their actions as well.

    In short, a valuable collection of primary sources. It should be read alongside Raoul Berger’s “The Founders’ Design” and Cecelia Kenyon’s “Men of Little Faith”.

  • Mad Saxon
    16:53 on June 24th, 2012
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    This is a book that all students of the American Revolution should be forced to read. Without understanding Bailyn’s argument, that the “conspiracy against liberty” was the main reason why America decided to break away from the British Empire, a student will be forever lost in trying to understand the roots of the American Revolution. Almost all of the books on the outbreak of the American Revolution have had to take Bailyn’s argument into consideration; so, if you’re interested in the study of the American Revolution, then this book is an imperative read. Read T.H. Breen’s “The Marketplace of Revolution” after this book, and you’ll have a decent grasp of the roots of the American Revolution.

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