Happy Birthday, America!

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

Founding Myths: Stories that Hide Our Patriotic Past By Ray Raphael
Founding Myths: Stories that Hide Our Patriotic Past
By Ray Raphael
This book examines 13 well-known American stories, including those about Paul Revere's legendary ride and Thomas Jefferson's pivotal role in the establishment of American equality, contending that many of their surrounding myths are not supported by recent scholarship.

“While addressing teachers, in particular, Raphael relays so much forgotten or never-known history and argues so well why it, not the legends, should be remembered that virtually any American will profit from reading this lively, intelligent book.” --Booklist

“Author of A People's History of the American Revolution, Raphael once again turns to that period, aiming to punctuate popular perceptions deriving from the 19th century's penchant for solitary romantic agents. He focuses on 13 stories revolving around either mythical or genuine figures and events, including Paul Revere's ride, Molly Pitcher's battlefield heroics, Sam Adams as the supposed architect of independence, the shot heard 'round the world, the Valley Forge winter, the lauded generation of the Founding Fathers, and the presumed denouement at Yorktown of a global conflict that continued elsewhere. Curiously, the fabricated tale of flag-maker Betsy Ross is not included as a separate entry. Raphael buttresses his points by introducing each chapter with iconic illustrations by Jonathan Trumbull, John Singleton Copley, Howard Pyle, and others. Amply annotated, this anthology underscores the idea that knowing the truth about numerous anonymous players rather than holding to elaborate story lines is more empowering for a starkly realistic age.”—Library Journal

An Empire on the Edge: How Britain Came to Fight America By Nick Bunker
An Empire on the Edge: How Britain Came to Fight America
By Nick Bunker
Drawing on careful study of primary sources from Britain and the United States, An Empire on the Edge sheds new light on the Tea Party's origins and on the roles of such familiar characters as Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock, and Thomas Hutchinson. The book shows how the king's chief minister, Lord North, found himself driven down the road to bloodshed. At his side was Lord Dartmouth, the colonial secretary, an evangelical Christian renowned for his benevolence. In a story filled with painful ironies, perhaps the saddest was this: that Dartmouth, a man who loved peace, had to write the dispatch that sent the British army out to fight.

“Bunker has provided a well-argued and plausible theory on the causes of what British politicians called the American controversy.” --Booklist

“With a sharp eye for economic realities, Bunker persuasively demonstrates why the American Revolution had to happen.”— Publishers Weekly

“The author is particularly attuned to economic context and concerned with how events unfolded in practice, rather than what was said in theory. He concludes by stating that the American Revolution was first and foremost `a rebellion [that] took place in the mind’”—Library Journal (Starred Review)

Founding Fathers: The Fight for Freedom and the Birth of America By K.M. Kostyal
Founding Fathers: The Fight for Freedom and the Birth of America
By K.M. Kostyal
Kostyal tells the story of the great American heroes who created the Declaration of Independence, fought the American Revolution, shaped the US Constitution--and changed the world. The era's dramatic events, from the riotous streets in Boston to the unlikely victory at Saratoga, are punctuated with lavishly illustrated biographies of the key founders--Alexander Hamilton, John Adams, Ben Franklin, Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and James Madison--who shaped the very idea of America. An introduction and ten expertly-rendered National Geographic maps round out this ideal gift for history buff and student alike. Filled with beautiful illustrations, maps, and inspired accounts from the men and women who made America, Founding Fathers brings the birth of the new nation to light.

“National Geographic senior writer Kostyal traces the earliest days of the United States, from before the revolution through the adoption of the Constitution, in this basic, inclusive, and traditional telling of the political, military, and intellectual conditions that led to America's independence. She takes readers through the events at Lexington and Concord, George Washington's many difficulties, the important battles of the war, the pivotal courting of France as an ally, and the writing of the Constitution after the Revolution's success. Inserted at appropriate places amid the chronological accounts are informative biographies of the major players-King George III, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, James Madison, and, of course, Washington-which humanize the revolution and offer insightful contextualization. Kostyal successfully ties together the disparate pieces of the revolution while clarifying its causes, course, and outcome. Supporting Kostyal's text are wonderful reproductions of colored pictures, maps, and famous letters and documents that bring to life the events of the revolution.”—Publishers Weekly

Founders as Fathers: The Private Lives and Politics of the American Revolutionaries By Lorrie Grover
Founders as Fathers: The Private Lives and Politics of the American Revolutionaries
By Lorrie Grover
Surprisingly, no previous book has ever explored how family life shaped the political careers of America's great Founding Fathers--men like George Mason, Patrick Henry, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison.

In this original and intimate portrait, historian Lorri Glover brings to life the vexing, joyful, arduous, and sometimes tragic experiences of the architects of the American Republic who, while building a nation, were also raising families. The costs and consequences for the families of these Virginia leaders were great, Glover discovers: the Revolution remade family life no less than it reinvented political institutions. She describes the colonial households that nurtured future revolutionaries, follows the development of political and family values during the revolutionary years, and shines new light on the radically transformed world that was inherited by nineteenth-century descendants. Beautifully written and replete with fascinating detail, this groundbreaking book is the first to introduce us to the founders as fathers.

“With an inventive twist on the ‘founding fathers’ moniker, historian Glover (The Shipwreck That Saved Jamestown) probes the link between family and politics, but limits her focus to the lives of wealthy Virginians. Men like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, Glover persuasively argues, became the founders of a new country precisely because of their views on fatherhood and family and because they were family men. She moves briskly from the imperial crisis of the 1760s through the generation that followed the creation of the Constitution, demonstrating the importance of familial words and ideas to the launch of a new country, always keeping tight rein on her argument. It's a sophisticated history peppered with tidbits from the private sphere: of particular interest is the chapter on the Virginians' wrestle with the institution of slavery, especially because it benefited their own families and fortunes even while clashing with enlightened principles of freedom and independence. As a social historian, Glover covers gender as well as racial issues, exploring women's roles in the family and the nation, and explaining how the founders viewed the inequality of women as part of the world's natural order. Fans of these influential men should delight in this inventive addition to the historical literature.”—Publishers Weekly

The Counter-Revolution of 1776: Slave Resistance and the Origins of the United States of America By Gerald Horne
The Counter-Revolution of 1776: Slave Resistance and the Origins of the United States of America
By Gerald Horne
The successful 1776 revolt against British rule in North America has been hailed almost universally as a great step forward for humanity. But the Africans then residing in the colonies overwhelmingly sided with London.

In this trailblazing book, Gerald Horne complements his earlier celebrated Negro Comrades of the Crown by showing that in the prelude to 1776, the abolition of slavery seemed all but inevitable in London, delighting Africans as much as it outraged slaveholders, and sparking the colonial revolt. In the prelude to 1776, more and more Africans were joining the British military, and anti-slavery sentiments were deepening throughout Britain. And in the Caribbean, rebellious Africans were chasing Europeans to the mainland. Unlike their counterparts in London, the European colonists overwhelmingly associated enslaved Africans with subversion and hostility to the status quo. For European colonists, the major threat to security in North America was a foreign invasion combined with an insurrection of the enslaved. And as 1776 approached, London-imposed abolition throughout the colonies was a very real and threatening possibility--a possibility the founding fathers feared could bring the slave rebellions of Jamaica and Antigua to the thirteen colonies. To forestall it, they went to war. The so-called Revolutionary War, Horne writes, was in large part a counter-revolution, a conservative movement that the founding fathers fought in order to preserve their liberty to enslave others--and which today takes the form of a racialized conservatism and a persistent racism targeting the descendants of the enslaved. The Counter-Revolution of 1776 drives us to a radical new understanding of the traditional heroic creation myth of the United States.

“Though dense, Horne's study is rich, not dry; his research is meticulous, thorough, fascinating, and thought-provoking. Horne emphasizes the importance of considering this alternate telling of our American origin myth and how such a founding still affects our nation today.”—Publishers Weekly

West of the Revolution: An Uncommon History of 1776 By Claudio Saunt
West of the Revolution: An Uncommon History of 1776
By Claudio Saunt
“The year 1776 was momentous and, as Saunt's innovative survey shows, not only for American colonists rebelling against the British Empire. Beyond the Appalachian Mountains, events were in motion that would influence what peoples and powers would control North America. Geographically staged in nine regions of the continent, Saunt's narratives broadly concern themselves with native peoples' reactions to territorial expansions by European powers. On the Pacific coast, Russia advanced south from the Aleutian Islands, and Spain probed north from Mexico, with deleterious consequences for indigenous groups. Inland, the Lakota Sioux were migrating toward the Black Hills of modern South Dakota; the Osage of Missouri coped with the Spanish and British presence along the Mississippi River; and in the Southeast, the Creeks strove to obtain Spanish support against Americans expanding from Georgia. Saunt ably integrates local geographical and climatic conditions into the anxieties and actions of imperial officials on the scene while exhibiting insight into the predicaments faced by the pertinent Indian tribes. Taking uncommon perspectives, Saunt's accounts will fascinate readers interested in the colonial history of North America.”—Booklist

Dangerous Guests: Enemy Captives and Revolutionary Communities During the War for Independence By Ken Miller
Dangerous Guests: Enemy Captives and Revolutionary Communities During the War for Independence
By Ken Miller
In Dangerous Guests, Ken Miller reveals how wartime pressures nurtured a budding patriotism in the ethnically diverse revolutionary community of Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

During the War for Independence, American revolutionaries held more than 13,000 prisoners, both British regulars and their so-called Hessian auxiliaries, in makeshift detention camps far from the fighting. As the Americans' principal site for incarcerating enemy prisoners of war, Lancaster stood at the nexus of two vastly different revolutionary worlds: one national, the other intensely local. Captives came under the control of local officials loosely supervised by state and national authorities. Concentrating the prisoners in the heart of their communities brought the revolutionaries' enemies to their doorstep, with residents now facing a daily war at home. Many prisoners openly defied their hosts, fleeing, plotting, and rebelling, often with the clandestine support of local loyalists. By early 1779, General George Washington, furious over the captives’ ongoing attempts to subvert the American war effort, branded them "dangerous guests in the bowels of our Country."

The challenge of creating an autonomous national identity in the newly emerging United States was nowhere more evident than in Lancaster, where the establishment of a detention camp served as a flashpoint for new conflict in a community already unsettled by stark ethnic, linguistic, and religious differences. Many Lancaster residents soon sympathized with the Hessians detained in their town while the loyalist population considered the British detainees to be the true patriots of the war. Miller demonstrates that in Lancaster, the notably local character of the war reinforced not only preoccupations with internal security but also novel commitments to cause and country.

-Lisa S.


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