Revolutionary Summer: The Birth of American Independence
Joseph J. Ellis
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
A Washington Post Notable Book
A Kirkus Reviews Best Nonfiction Book of the Year
The summer months of 1776 witnessed the most consequential events in the story of our country’s founding. While the thirteen colonies came together and agreed to secede from the British Empire, the British were dispatching the largest armada ever to cross the Atlantic to crush the rebellion in the cradle. The Continental Congress and the Continental Army were forced to make decisions on the run, improvising as history congealed around them.
In a brilliant and seamless narrative, Ellis meticulously examines the most influential figures in this propitious moment, including George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and Britain’s Admiral Lord Richard and General William Howe. He weaves together the political and military experiences as two sides of a single story, and shows how events on one front influenced outcomes on the other.
Potomac would have second thoughts about independence. Adams believed that the debate about the kind of republic America wished to become must be postponed until after the war for independence had succeeded. Raising such controversial issues now was like stopping your racehorse a few yards from the finish line in order to engage in a debate about the size of the winner’s purse. But the very resolution of May 15 that made Adams so proud essentially required each of the thirteen colonies to
this side of the grave, I should put him in my stead with my feelings.… In confidence I will tell you that I was never in such an unhappy, divided state since I was born.… If I fall, it may not be amiss that these circumstances be known, and declaration made to the justice of my character. And if the men will stand by me (which by the by I despair of), I am resolved not to be forced from this ground while I have life.37 In preparation for what he seemed to regard as Washington’s last stand, he
Stedman had served on Richard Howe’s staff, he was surely aware that the military decisions of both Howe brothers were considerably influenced by their hopes for a peaceful reconciliation, but he did not mention that fact, preferring instead to characterize Howe’s decisions as “tactical blunders.” He was especially critical of Howe’s failure to pursue Washington’s depleted troops as they retreated through New Jersey in November 1776, citing that as the final and most opportune occasion to destroy
saved me from multiple blunders, but they are in no sense responsible for those that remain: Edmund S. Morgan, the acknowledged dean of early American historians, my mentor and friend for nearly fifty years; Gordon Wood, the reigning scholarly expert on the American Revolution and early republic; Pauline Maier, the leading scholar on the drafting of the Declaration of Independence, whose marginal comments (e.g., “Joe, you can’t say that!”) could not be ignored; Edward Lengel, editor in chief of
the creation of the draft committee. 20. Maier, American Scripture, 41–46, is the most comprehensive and recent account. But this is sacred ground, and several generations of historians have told the story of the Declaration with considerable distinction and influenced my account here and below. See especially Carl Becker, The Declaration of Independence: A Study in the History of Political Ideas (New York, 1922); Julian Boyd, The Declaration of Independence: The Evolution of the Text