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Formato: Copertina rigida
As Ferling explains, "The title of this book was taken from a line in a newspaper essay written in 1776 by a Pennsylvanian who opposed American independence. [A substantial majority of colonials did.] To separate from the mother country, he cautioned, was to make 'a leap in the dark,' to jump into an uncertain future." Ferling goes on to note that, indeed, "Twenty years before independence, it would have been a leap in the dark for the individual colonies to surrender their autonomy and consent to a national confederation of thirteen provinces or for the imperial government in London to countenance such a union." In this volume, Ferling covers a period of time which extends from the Stamp Act of 1765 until Thomas Jefferson's inauguration as president in 1801.
His focus is less on the Revolutionary War itself, more on the immensely complicated, at times confusing political process prior to and following the Declaration of Independence. Those who signed that document fully understood that they were also signing their own death warrant if the subsequent war were lost. It is probably impossible for us today to appreciate the nature and extent of uncertainty for those who resisted British policies, declared independence, went to war against the (then) world's greatest military power, embraced republicanism, ratified the Constitution, enfranchised additional citizens, elected or selected officials who had no prior experience with public service, and cast aside the culture and values of their Anglo-American past. It is this great "darkness" of peril and ambiguity which Ferling enables his reader to explore.
With all due respect to Ferling's comprehensive and compelling erudition, I especially appreciate his writing style with which he brilliantly enlivens the narrative with a mastery of figurative language worthy of a Dickens or Balzac. Without in any sense compromising his primary and secondary sources, he brings to life a society more than 200 years distant from ours and portrays each of its great leaders with style, wit, and grace, to be sure, but also acknowledges their flaws. I have always believed that major historical figures are credible only to the extent that they are presented as human beings rather than as deities. (I think that is especially true of John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington.) In his final chapter, Ferling's concluding remarks about the election of 1800 also provide what I consider to be an appropriate conclusion to this brief commentary of mine: "Thus, the election of 1800 ushered in a revolution 'in the principles of our government as [profound as] that of 1776 was in its form.' The route to this new day was the road chosen by America's patriots in 1776, for they had believed that the 'blessings...necessary to make us a happy and prosperous people' included 'a wise and frugal government' that rejected tyranny and was based on the popular will. The day now had arrived when the government they wished was being installed. Its promise was considerable. Indeed, said President Jefferson, it was 'the world's best hope.'" And that remains true in 2004, more than 200 years later.
The title of this book may be "A Leap in the Dark" but it provides, in fact, a thoughtful and sensitive illumination of human potentialities, a vision which continues to guide and inform, indeed nourish our quest for enlightenment.
Those who share my high regard for this book are urged to check out Ferling's other works, notably Setting the World Ablaze: Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and the American Revolution, John Adams: A Life, Struggle for a Continent: The Wars of Early America (American History Series), The First of Men: A Life of George Washington, A Wilderness of Miseries: War and Warriors in Early America, and Adams vs. Jefferson: The Tumultuous Election of 1800 (Pivotal Moments in American History).