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A Leap in the Dark: The Struggle to Create the American Republic di [Ferling, John]
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Ferling delivers an engaging account of the creation of the United States (Eran Shaley, Journal of American Studies)

This is an account loaded with facts but unburdened by them; the result is a book that never gets bogged down. A gifted biographer, the author interrupts his narrative to introduce the major figures as each comes on the stage, bringing the history of these times to life with vivid descriptions and artful analyses of the interplay of men, their interests and their ideas. (Gary L. Mcdowell, Times Literary Supplement)

A Leap in the Dark is popular history at its best. Ferling has drawn together the research of the leading historians and woven a masterful narrative that is written with grace and flair. (Gary L. Mcdowell, Times Literary Supplement)

John Ferling has here proved himself the master narrator of this great political tale. (Gary L. Mcdowell, Times Literary Supplement)

John Ferling's study of the early United States A Leap into the Dark, is solid history that will refresh anyone's memory of the essential stories and figures in America's founding. And it will enlighten anyone about the origin of some current civic problems ... His book provides not just political and intellectual history, but emotional history as well. (Christian Science Monitor (USA))

In A Leap in the Dark, John Ferling conveys the personal and contingent character of public affairs by skillfully interweaving capsule biographies of leaders into his analysis of events. His book, which stretches from the French and Indian War through the inauguration of President Thomas Jefferson, supplies a learned and readable narrative of American politics during a crucial era in the nation's history. (Richard Brown, University of Connecticut)


It was an age of fascinating leaders and difficult choices, of grand ideas eloquently expressed and of epic conflicts bitterly fought. Now comes a brilliant portrait of the American Revolution, one that is compelling in its prose, fascinating in its details, and provocative in its fresh interpretations.

In A Leap in the Dark, John Ferling offers a magisterial new history that surges from the first rumblings of colonial protest to the volcanic election of 1800. Ferling's swift-moving narrative teems with fascinating details. We see Benjamin Franklin trying to decide if his loyalty was to Great Britain or to America, and we meet George Washington when he was a shrewd planter-businessman who discovered personal economic advantages to American independence. We encounter those who supported the war against Great Britain in 1776, but opposed independence because it was a "leap in the dark." Following the war, we hear talk in the North of secession from the United States. The author offers a gripping account of the most dramatic events of our history, showing just how closely fought were the struggle for independence, the adoption of the Constitution, and the later battle between Federalists and Democratic-Republicans. Yet, without slowing the flow of events, he has also produced a landmark study of leadership and ideas. Here is all the erratic brilliance of Hamilton and Jefferson battling to shape the new nation, and here too is the passion and political shrewdness of revolutionaries, such as Samuel Adams and Patrick Henry, and their Loyalist counterparts, Joseph Galloway and Thomas Hutchinson. Here as well are activists who are not so well known today, men like Abraham Yates, who battled for democratic change, and Theodore Sedgwick, who fought to preserve the political and social system of the colonial past. Ferling shows that throughout this period the epic political battles often resembled today's politics and the politicians--the founders--played a political hardball attendant with enmities, selfish motivations, and bitterness. The political stakes, this book demonstrates, were extraordinary: first to secure independence, then to determine the meaning of the American Revolution.

John Ferling has shown himself to be an insightful historian of our Revolution, and an unusually skillful writer. A Leap in the Dark is his masterpiece, work that provokes, enlightens, and entertains in full measure.

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  • Formato: Formato Kindle
  • Dimensioni file: 3969 KB
  • Lunghezza stampa: 576
  • Editore: Oxford University Press; 1 edizione (12 giugno 2003)
  • Venduto da: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Lingua: Inglese
  • ASIN: B0061ADHIA
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  • Posizione nella classifica Bestseller di Amazon: #307.310 a pagamento nel Kindle Store (Visualizza i Top 100 a pagamento nella categoria Kindle Store)
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Le recensioni clienti più utili su (beta) HASH(0x9dd1ae4c) su 5 stelle 58 recensioni
55 di 56 persone hanno trovato utile la seguente recensione
HASH(0x9ef92be8) su 5 stelle Bravo! Early U.S.A. History Doesn't Get Any Better Than This 25 novembre 2003
Di Un cliente - Pubblicato su
Formato: Copertina rigida
I've read a number of works about colonial America, the American Revolution, and the subsequent founding of the United States.
In my opinion, this is by far the best single volume book on the subject of the birth of the United States. Not only do you get a great overview of the events leading up to the American Revolution and the Revolution itself, but the story about the struggle to create the new nation after the 1783 peace settlement is also fascinating. This book is very well written. It will be welcomed reading for both the knowledgable American history enthusiast and for those who for the first time may be seeking to understand the birth of our great nation.
45 di 48 persone hanno trovato utile la seguente recensione
HASH(0x9c5950cc) su 5 stelle The darkest hours before the dawn of a new nation 16 dicembre 2004
Di Robert Morris - Pubblicato su
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).
22 di 23 persone hanno trovato utile la seguente recensione
HASH(0x9c594fd8) su 5 stelle Adds Much-Needed Context to Personalities 29 novembre 2003
Di areaderfromnatick - Pubblicato su
Formato: Copertina rigida
This book does an excellent job of synthesizing the political beliefs of the many founders of our country, providing context of both time and economic conditions. It is a well-written, engaging book for those of us who got caught up in the new round of biographies -- John Adama and Benjamin Franklin, most notably -- that renewed our love of U.S. history. It puts these figures in context against each other and gives us something to build from as we continue the exploration of our country's roots.
13 di 13 persone hanno trovato utile la seguente recensione
HASH(0x9c75b1b0) su 5 stelle A Good Place to Start 11 ottobre 2009
Di Debra - Pubblicato su
Formato: Copertina flessibile Acquisto verificato
Ferling is always a pleasure to read. I also recommend his "Almost A Miracle". This work is a great place to begin for an overview of this period, especially Ferling's account of the events leading up to the Revolution. However, it seems to me that Ferling generalizes too much in the years after the Constitution.
The portrait Ferling paints is one of the non-elite Anti-Federalists vs. the elite Federalists. However, many Anti-Federalists came from the elite whose power within states was threatened by stronger central government. The Clinton-Livingston machine that ran New York and the planter elite that controlled Virginia are examples. This over-simplification is extended into his discussion of Federalists vs. Republicans. For example the small farmers of Shay's rebellion benefitted from the Federal assumption of state debts and became enduring Federalists. Also, many of the "new men" Ferling speaks of, including the self-made Hamilton, were Federalists. The geographical split of the parties is not explained. By 1800, Federalists were strong in New England, but becoming virtually non-existent in the South. It is hard to believe that New England was composed of elitists and left-over Tories, while the South was the home of egalitarians.
I agree with Ferling's statement in his preface that people rarely adopt ideologies that conflict with their personal interests. This was no less true of Anti-federalists and Republicans, though Ferling shows this connection more clearly with their opponents. It is good to remember that the yeomen farmers of Virginia, whom Jefferson praises as the foundation of republicanism, were dependant on and deferential to wealthy planters like Jefferson making it safe for him to embrace them. And the Southern Republicans' resistance to central government dovetailed nicely with the preservation of their peculiar institution, slavery. By working to insure a weak central government that would not interfere in (or tax) property rights in land or slaves, Republicans made sure that the people would not have the means to threaten their privileged status.
I would strongly recommend to anyone who wishes to more fully understand the period from 1788 to 1800 to read Elkins and McKitrick's "The Age of Federalism". It is a thorough, well-written and detailed account that will provide many of the nuances that Ferling leaves out. For an excellent treatment of the underpinnings of 18th century political economy read Drew McCoy's "Elusive Republic". Another good read is Elizabeth Dunn's "Dominion of Memories" which, in a small volume, packs a lot of information on Virginia's planter elite, their obsession with protecting a pastoral utopia that never really existed and the decline of the Old Dominion. The time period for this work is largely 19th century, however it does show the background of Republican thinking and how that ideology played out in Virginia. Joseph Ellis' "American Sphinx" gives a less hagiographic (and fuller) view of Jefferson.
33 di 39 persone hanno trovato utile la seguente recensione
HASH(0xac1bcbb4) su 5 stelle A Fast Paced Overview 26 giugno 2006
Di Warner Todd Huston - Pubblicato su
Formato: Copertina flessibile
In "A Leap In The Dark", John Ferling turns out a well paced overview of the personalities and political philosophies of the Founding Fathers and their contemporaries.

I was happy to see him start with George Washington and Ben Franklin's younger life, previous to the Revolutionary era. All too often, this formative period is ignored or imagined as unconnected with the beginning days of our Republic.

Only one thing about this book annoyed me, however. Ferling's constant denigration of James Madison revealed his obvious lack of respect for that indispensable Founder. Madison was an incredible man who outlived all the other Founders and was totally integral to every era of our early Republic. From shepherding the birth of the Constitution to becoming an early creator of our two party system, Madison was everywhere. He was even there to disavow what became the Confederate ideas of secession during the 1830s Nullification crisis.

But, Ferling treats Madison like a bumbling idiot. Of course, he is parroting much of the writing of other historians who shares his opinion and since it seems that this entire book is based on secondary research (other scholar's works) and not his own primary research, I guess his dislike of Madison might be expected. After all, Madison had gone through a phase of being unduly discounted by many current historians.

Still, this is a good overview book and should be read by anyone who might be a bit less informed about our Founding era. It most surely will spark interest in further reading.
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