From acclaimed historian John Ferling, the story of Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, and James Monroe's championing of the most radical ideas of the American and French Revolutions.Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, and James Monroe were in the vanguard of revolutionary ideas in the 18th century. As founding fathers, they risked their lives for American independence, but they also wanted more. Each wished for profound changes in the political and social fabric of pre-1776 America, and hoped that the American Revolution would spark republican and egalitarian revolutions throughout Europe, sweeping away the old aristocratic order. Ultimately, each rejoiced at the opportunity to be a part of the French Revolution, a cause that became increasingly untenable as idealism gave way to the bloody Terror.Apostles of the Revolution, spans a crucial time in Western Civilization. The era ranged from the American insurgency against Great Britain to the Declaration of Independence, from desperate engagements on American battlefields to the threat posed to the young democracy by the Federalist's Tory leanings. With the French Revolution devolving into anarchy in the background, the story culminates with the tumultuous election of 1800, the outcome of which, Jefferson claimed, saved the American Revolution and assured that its most radical ideals would carry into the future.Written as a sweeping narrative of a pivotal era, Apostles of the Revolution captures the turbulent spirit of the times and reminds us that the liberty we take for granted is ours only because we, both champions and common citizens, have fought for it.
Apostles of Revolution Review
- January 1, 1970RyanI received this book through a Goodreads Giveaway. I would like to thank the publisher for sending me this book. In Apostles of Revolution, John Ferling presents a wide ranging Atlantic (albeit white Atlantic) narrative of the revolutionary "Age of Paine" extending from the 1770s to the 1800s. Neither exhaustive nor compelling, this book was an underwhelming piece of scholarship that does not do the period justice. Ferling chooses to frame his book through "the apostles of Revolution," Thomas Je I received this book through a Goodreads Giveaway. I would like to thank the publisher for sending me this book. In Apostles of Revolution, John Ferling presents a wide ranging Atlantic (albeit white Atlantic) narrative of the revolutionary "Age of Paine" extending from the 1770s to the 1800s. Neither exhaustive nor compelling, this book was an underwhelming piece of scholarship that does not do the period justice. Ferling chooses to frame his book through "the apostles of Revolution," Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, and James Monroe, an artificial construction on the author's part since, as he acknowledges in his preface, these three never associated themselves as a distinct trio, they were never together at the same time, and they did not always see eye-to-eye. While there is no issue with authors introducing their own constructions for the sake of the narrative (Joseph Ellis does this in The Quartet), like Ellis' book the use of this construction falsely highlights agreements and ideological congruence in place of the disagreements they held about government, slavery, etc. Ferling's book is also a clearly partisan undertaking, but not in the traditional Democrat or Republican sense, but instead a clearly Democratic-Republican Jeffersonian way. His desire to elevate people like Jefferson and Monroe above figures highly regarded in today's political ad pop-cultural zeitgeist like Hamilton leads Ferling to deploy, and overlook, facts and events to make Jefferson into a champion of progressive ideals (he claims several times that Jefferson, Monroe, and Paine called for welfare-state-like institutions to help the poor). This contorts the politics of the eighteenth century, bending and misshaping the dynamics of the early republic to match modern American conceptions of liberalism and conservatism. Throughout the book he argues that Jefferson, Monroe, and Paine worried about misuse of executive and presidential power, seeing this power as dangerous for the safety and security of common people. The book nicely skips over the presidencies of Jefferson and Monroe, ignoring the uses and expansions of presidential power pushed by Jefferson and Monroe (Monroe literally has a hemispheric power policy named after him). All ignored. The issue is that the author often ignores the analysis of the sources utilized to uncover the differences between rhetoric and reality. Liberty drove the rhetoric, but it did not always drive the actual political maneuverings and actions of these figures. Jefferson and Monroe spoke for the liberties and safeties of common yeoman, acting in a caring way for the poor....as long as they were white. The book does an incredible job of sidestepping the racially hierarchical understandings of Jefferson and Monroe, turning to the abolitionist Paine when the topic was useful for portraying this assortment of politicians as "Apostles of Liberty." Slavery is very rarely mentioned, and never fully analyzed. The word may have been used around twenty times in a 401 page book, and the longest it is "discussed" or "analyzed" was a paragraph. In a book subtitled "the Struggle Against the Old Order in America and Europe," it is noteworthy that the struggle over how to assume the old world institution of slavery into the empire of liberty is ignored. Overall, this book covers well-trodden ground without supplying an engaging argument, analysis, or presentation. Paine can easily be seen as an Apostle of Liberty, but Jefferson and Monroe fall far short. The fact that this comparison is not explored underscores the failings of this book to rigorously question its subject matter.more
- January 1, 1970EvalynI enjoyed this different perspective on the American and French Revolutions. The author is a little prone to speculation, but is plenty clear when doing so. The choice of Jefferson, Paine, and Monroe is a bit odd to me but it is interesting to trace their lives side-by-side, though perhaps a bit forced at times due to the gift of hindsight. I received an advanced reading copy in a Goodreads Giveaway and appreciate the opportunity to have read it and offered my thoughts.more
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