Happy Birthday, America!

Celebrate the birth of our nation with these recently-published books owned by the Mercer County Library System:

By Gordon S. Wood
A Pulitzer Prize-winning historian of the American Revolution explains why it remains the most significant event in our history. In a series of elegant and illuminating essays, Wood explores the ideological origins of the revolution--from ancient Rome to the European Enlightenment--and the founders' attempts to forge an American democracy.

“[A] series of cogent, beautifully written essays.”—Booklist (Starred Review)

Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Wood challenges the popular view that the war for American independence was fought for practical and economic reasons, like unfair taxation. In this exceptional collection of essays (some previously published and others originating as lectures) he argues brilliantly to the contrary, that the Revolution was indeed fought over principles, such as liberty, republicanism, and equality. As he points out, Americans believed they alone had the virtues republicanism requires (such as simplicity and egalitarianism) and thus were supportive but skeptical of revolutions in France and Latin America. When joined to Protestant millennialism, Americans grew to believe that they were God's chosen people, with a mission to lead the world toward liberty and republican government, a view that Wood uses to explain America's continued attempts to create republics in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. This is a remarkable study of the key chapter of American history and its ongoing influence on American character.”—Publishers Weekly

Intellectually expansive and elegantly woven, Wood's writings are the closest thing we have to an elegant mediation between today's readers and the founding generation. Required reading for Revolutionary War enthusiasts on all levels.”—Library Journal

Edited by Alfred F. Young, Gary B. Nash, and Ray Raphael
In 21 original essays, leading historians trace the course of the radical impulses at the founding of the American Republic. The text is an essential addition to the understanding of the social conflicts unleashed by the struggle for independence, the Revolution's achievements, and the unfinished agenda it left for future generations to confront.

“The authors of these two dozen essays written from the perspectives of social class and democratic egalitarianism see their work as corrective of popular assumptions that founders a la Washington led the American Revolution. Each essay features people representative of a social category:  tenant farmers, urban artisans, women, Indians, enslaved blacks, free blacks that exerted pressure on or showed defiance toward the upper classes during the revolutionary era or, in some cases, instigated the revolution itself. Despite the authors' assumptions about historical neglect, readers of the period's history will recognize some figures, such as Joseph Plumb Martin, a memoirist of soldiering in the Continental army; the famous black poet Phillis Wheatley; and Thomas Paine. Indeed, every person profiled in the volume trails a sizable if specialized or antiquarian bibliography guiding readers to sources the essays may pique curiosity about. “—Booklist

By John Ferling
No event in American history was more pivotal—or more furiously contested—than Congress' decision to declare independence in July 1776.  This fascinating volume takes readers from the cobblestones of Philadelphia into the halls of Parliament.

“In this splendid book, noted founding-era historian Ferling presents a convincing narrative of American independence that focuses on the role of contingency in the colonial break with the mother country. He takes readers behind any hagiographical facades and into the contentious debates between advocates of reconciliation and the proponents of independence led by John Adams. Ferling's entertaining and edifying work is sure to find an audience among general readers.”—Booklist

Prolific author Ferling recounts the pivotal three years from the 1773 Boston Tea Party to the 1776 congressional vote for American independence, with a conventional focus on the major American and British players and the political and commercial issues that cleaved the slowly unifying colonies from their mother country. He clearly explains how the march toward independence was made in gradual and seemingly inevitable steps, with the British Parliament and monarchy missing repeated opportunities to make amends and avoid a breakaway. He relies on a bevy of primary and secondary sources, quoting liberally from correspondence and official documents, including the Declaration of Independence, which is transcribed in full for easy reference. British and congressional leaders' personalities, mannerisms, and personal backgrounds are examined along with their political contributions, lending human interest to what could have been a dry tale. His readable narrative should appeal to general readers or students new to the topic of how and why the British colonies declared themselves American states.”—Library Journal

By Maya Jasanoff
On November 25, 1783, the last British troops pulled out of New York City, bringing the American Revolution to an end. Patriots celebrated their departure and the confirmation of U.S. independence. But, for tens of thousands of American loyalists, the British evacuation spelled worry, not jubilation. What would happen to them in the new United States? Would they and their families be safe? Facing grave doubts about their futures, some sixty thousand loyalists--one in forty members of the American population--decided to leave their homes and become refugees elsewhere in the British Empire. They sailed for Britain, for Canada, for Jamaica, and for the Bahamas; some ventured as far as Sierra Leone and India. Wherever they went, the voyage out of America was a fresh beginning, and it carried them into a dynamic, if uncertain, new world. A groundbreaking history of the revolutionary era, Liberty's Exiles tells the story of this remarkable global diaspora.

“[A]discerning social and political history of an overlooked side of the American Revolution.”—Booklist

“This superb study of a little-known episode in American and British history is remiss only in largely ignoring the Loyalist community in Spanish West Florida and the War of 1812 as a continuation of the earlier conflict.”—Publishers Weekly

“Lucidly told and engaging…Combining compelling narrative with insightful analysis, Jasanoff has produced a work that is both distinct in perspective and groundbreaking in its originality.”—Library Journal

By Les Standiford

Knowing that their deeds—often  directed at individuals and property—were illegal, and punishable by imprisonment and even death, the Sons of Liberty plotted and conducted their missions in secret to protect their identities as well as the identities of those who supported them. Those determined men—including second cousins Samuel and John Adams, Paul Revere, Patrick Henry, and John Hancock—saw themselves as patriots. Yet to the Crown, and to many of the Sons' fellow colonists, the revolutionaries were terrorists who deserved death for their treason.

- Lisa S.


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