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The Creation of America: Through Revolution to Empire
by Francis Jennings

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
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In the standard presentation of the American Revolution, a ragtag assortment of revolutionaries, inspired by the ideals of liberty and justice, rise to throw off the yoke of the British empire and bring democracy to the New World. It makes a pretty story. Now, in place of this fairytale standing in for history, Francis Jennings presents a realistic alternative: a privileged elite, dreaming of empire, clone their own empire from the British. Jennings shows that colonies were extensions from Britain intended from the first to conquer American Indians. Though subordinate to the British crown, in the opposite direction they ruled over beaten native peoples. Adding to this dual nature, some colonists bought Africans as slaves and rigidly ruled over them within their colonies. To justify conquests and oppression, they invented the concept of racial gradation in a system of social castes. We live with it still. In this full scale reconception, the experience of tribal Indians and enslaved Blacks is brought into the whole picture. The colonists were enraged by efforts of crown and Parliament to forbid settlement in tribal territories. Especially Virginians rose under great speculator George Washington to seize the western lands in defiance of the crown's orders. We witness the founders' invasion and attempted conquest of Canada and the "conquest" of Pennsylvania as Quakers and German pietists were deprived of citizenship rights and despoiled of property through armed force and legal trickery. British sympathies were so strong that George III had to hire Hessians as soldiers because he could not trust his own people. And Britain also had movements for reform that won freedom of the press and refusal to legislate slavery while the Revolutionaries tarred and feathered their opponents and strengthened the slavery institution. Revolutionary rhetoric about liberty and virtue is revealed as war propaganda. Illegal "committees" and "conventions" functioned like soviets of the later Russian revolution. The U.S. Constitution was the fulfillment of the Revolution rather than its "Thermidor." The work is meticulously documented and detailed. By including the whole population in its history, Jennings provides an eloquent explanation for a host of anomalies, ambiguities, and iniquities that have followed in the Revolution's wake.

Review(s): "In this sweeping revisionist account of the American Revolution, Francis Jennings dispenses with the shibboleths that have long formed the mythology surrounding the nation's birth. Jennings takes direct aim at the Founding Fathers, illustrating that the motives behind their desire to break free from the rule of the British had far less to do with creating a land of liberty for all than for promoting their own self-interest. His account is particularly useful because it sheds light on the impact that the revolution had on others living in what became the United States, such as Indians and slaves, for whom the break from the English Crown proved detrimental. Jennings' self-conscious attempt to forego traditional interpretations, and their sources, moves beyond iconoclasm for its own sake, and instead provides a take on the origins of the American empire that gives balance to 'mainstream' perspectives." - Andrew Witmer, Virginia Quarterly Review, 2006

"This time Jennings takes on the entire British imperial establishment both at the Court of St. James and in the Crown's mini-empires in North America. In familiar style he skewers many of the notables of American popular history on his sword of justice, exposing a network of self-interest, hypocrisy, and skulduggery under the surface of revolutionary rhetoric." - Anthony F. C. Wallace, University of Pennsylvania

"This is vintage Jennings. It rests on enormous learning, a large historical vision, a strong moral sense, and absolute fearlessness about saying what the author thinks is right. Agree or disagree, it compels attention." - Edward Countryman, Southern Methodist University

"Jenning's account...succeeds through a fair and honest reevaluation that not only sheds light on commonly neglected areas, but also provokes thought about uncomfortable aspects of our heritage. An outstanding supplement to the many conventional histories of the American Revolution, Jenning's history offers both an objective account of the conflict and challenging insights about historical distortion." - Kirkus Reviews, New York

"Jennings presents his provocative views in a readable style that expands the substance of his argument." Mark Knoblauch, 8/00 Booklist"If you look at life with a cunical point of view...you should really like Francis Jennings' book. Jennings does such a good job of presenting the evidence that he undermines his own position. One can legitimately look at the glass as being half-full." - ACE Weekly

"[A] remarkable set of very engaging stories...Founding Brothers is a wonderful book, one of the best collections of essays on the Founders ever written." - N.Y. Review of Books, March 2001



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