Brendan McConville is professor of history at Boston University and author of These Daring Disturbers of the Public Peace: The Struggle for Property and Power in Early New Jersey.
The tensions inherent in this paradoxical relationship are the focus of Unfinished Revolution. Conflicted and complex, American attitudes toward Great Britain provided a framework through which citizens of the republic developed a clearer sense of their national identity. Moreover, an examination of the transatlantic relationship from an American perspective suggests that the United States may have had more in common with traditional developing nations than we have generally recognized. Writing from the vantage point of America’s unrivaled global dominance, historians have tended to see in the young nation the superpower it would become. Haynes here argues that, for all its vaunted claims of distinctiveness and the soaring rhetoric of "manifest destiny," the young republic exhibited a set of anxieties not uncommon among nation-states that have emerged from long periods of colonial rule.
While Jefferson’s supporters organized festivals in his honor where they praised him in speeches and songs, his detractors portrayed him as a dilettante and demagogue, double-faced and dangerously radical, an atheist and "Anti-Christ" hostile to Christianity. Characterizing his beliefs as un-American, they tarred him with the extremism of the French Revolution. Yet his allies cheered his contributions to the American Revolution, unmasking him as the now formerly anonymous author of the words that had helped to define America in the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson, meanwhile, anxiously monitored the development of his image. As president he even clipped expressions of praise and scorn from newspapers, pasting them in his personal scrapbooks.
In this fascinating new book, historian Robert M. S. McDonald explores how Jefferson, a man with a manner so mild some described it as meek, emerged as such a divisive figure. Bridging the gap between high politics and popular opinion, Confounding Father exposes how Jefferson’s bifurcated image took shape both as a product of his own creation and in response to factors beyond his control. McDonald tells a gripping, sometimes poignant story of disagreements over issues and ideology as well as contested conceptions of the rules of politics. In the first fifty years of independence, Americans’ views of Jefferson revealed much about their conflicting views of the purpose and promise of America.
American Revolution is all around us. It is pictured as big as billboards and
as small as postage stamps, evoked in political campaigns and car advertising campaigns,
relived in museums and revised in computer games. As the nation’s founding
moment, the American Revolution serves as a source of powerful founding myths,
and remains the most accessible and most contested event in U.S. history: more
than any other, it stands as a proxy for how Americans perceive the nation’s
aspirations. Americans’ increased fascination with the Revolution over the past
two decades represents more than interest in the past. It’s also a site to work
out the present, and the future. What
are we using the Revolution to debate?
over the Founders, Andrew M. Schocket explores how politicians,
screenwriters, activists, biographers, jurists, museum professionals, and
reenactors portray the American Revolution. Identifying competing
“essentialist” and “organicist” interpretations of the American Revolution,
Schocket shows how today’s memories of the American Revolution reveal
Americans' conflicted ideas about class, about race, and about gender—as well
as the nature of history itself. Fighting over the Founders plumbs
our views of the past and the present, and illuminates our ideas of what United
States means to its citizens in the new millennium.