November 12, 2014 / by admin / American History / No Comments

The Idea of America: Reflections on the Birth of the United States

The Idea of America: Reflections on the Birth of the United States

Gordon S. Wood

Language: English

Pages: 400

ISBN: 0143121243

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


The preeminent historian of the Founding Era reflects on the birth of American nationhood and explains why the American Revolution remains so essential.

For Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Gordon S. Wood, the American Revolution is the most important event in our history, bar none. Since American identity is so fluid, we have had to continually return to our nation’s founding to understand who we are. In a series of illuminating essays, he explores the ideological origins of the Revolution—from Ancient Rome to the European Enlightenment—and the founders’ attempts to forge a democracy. He reflects on the origins of American exceptionalism, the radicalism and failed hopes of the founding generation, and the “terrifying gap” between us and the men who created the democratic state we take for granted. This is a profoundly revealing look at the event that forged the United States and its enduring power to define us. 

 

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which the human mind was misled. If people were dependent for their knowledge on the information provided by their senses, then they had to be espe­ cially careful of what they saw and heard. Like jugglers fooling people by “sleight of Hand,” artful political leaders knew how “to dally and play” upon the people’s “Foibles” by using “fine Figures and beautiful Sounds” to “disguise and vanish Sense.” What men often saw and heard was not reality. Beneath the surface of experience there existed, they

paradigm of mechanistic causality, Everett could readily perceive in the history of the American Revolution “a series of causes and effects, running back into the history of the dark ages in Europe.” Yet at the same time he knew that on that particular day, April 19, 1775, in Concord, “the agency of individual events and men” was crucial in bringing on the Revolution. There seemed to be two distinct viewpoints—one a long-term distant perspective that traced a “chain of events, which lengthens,

periods were from one another politically, socially, and culturally. I became convinced that more had changed between 1760 and 1820 than the “consensus” historians of the 1950s had allowed. I began to suspect that the old Progressive historians had been more right than not in their interpretation of the Revolution and its consequences. Colonial society appeared to me much more of an ancien régime than the “consen­ sus” historians had thought. It was certainly not quite the ancien régime 1 2 |

Brackenridge scurrying out of politics into literature by attacking his pretensions as a virtuous gentlemanly leader. He attacked Robert Morris in a similar way, with far more ruinous consequences for Morris. Findley and Morris first tangled while they were both members of the Pennsylvania legislature in the 1780s. During several days of intense debate in 1786 over the rechartering of the Bank of North America, Findley mercilessly stripped away the mask of superior classical disinterestedness that

power of this culture to affect behavior. Self-interest that could not be publicly justified and explained was self-interest that could not be easily acted upon. The Founders thus gave future Americans more than a new Constitu­ tion. They passed on ideals and standards of political behavior that helped to contain and control the unruly materialistic passions unleashed by the democratic revolution of the early nineteenth century. Even today our aver­ sion to corruption, our uneasiness over the

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