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Revolutionary Summer: The Birth of American Independence [Tapa dura]

Joseph J. Ellis

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Amazon.com: 4.5 de un máximo de 5 estrellas  163 opiniones
80 de 87 personas piensan que la opinión es útil
5.0 de un máximo de 5 estrellas Brilliant 7 de mayo de 2013
Por Hrafnkell Haraldsson - Publicado en Amazon.com
Formato:Tapa dura|Opinión de cliente de Vine de producto gratis
I was particularly excited about reading Joseph J. Ellis' Revolutionary Summer because I had just recently finished Kevin Phillips' 1775. The two books have different focuses: Ellis looks at 1776 as the crucial year of the American Revolution while iconoclastic Phillips puts the emphasis on 1775. Ellis writes that after 1776, "Many fateful decisions and challenges remained ahead - Washington's inspired bravado at Trenton, Howe's bizarre decision to capture Philadelphia rather than seal the Hudson corridor, the endurance test at Valley Forge, the crucial French entry into the war - but they all played out within the strategic framework created in the summer of 1776."

Ah yes, Phillips seems to say, but the events of 1776 played out within the strategic framework created in 1775.

Phillips says, rightfully, I think, that "If 1775 hadn't been a year of successful nation building, 1776 might have been a year of lost opportunity, quiet disappointment, and continued colonial status." In Phillips' view, "1775 is the crucial, early-momentum year of the Revolutionary era" - not 1776. Ellis, on the other hand, like other historians before him (for example, David McCaullough) looks to 1776 as the crucial year of the Revolution. But Phillips argues that this is a distortion and that we in the twentieth century are "excessively" immersed in 1776 "as a moral and ideological starting point." The Fourth of July says it all.

Phillips says he started out to prove that 1775 was as important as 1776 only to discover, the further he got along in his research, that 1775 was more important than 1776. Joseph Ellis, on the other hand, barely mentions 1775. He calls 1776 the "crescendo moment in American history" - particularly the five months between May and October. This is the period when, he says, "a consensus for American independence emerged and was officially declared." Phillips does not necessarily disagree. He admits that the Declaration could not have come earlier than it did because "certain preconditions had to be met."

This is true, and Ellis says that "the political consensus" for independence was formed in June and July; but as Phillips points out in his book, that independence was largely already a fact. British government in North America was, by the end of 1775, reduced to Boston. The rest of the thirteen colonies were governing themselves. "Royal authority had been replaced by "de facto American self-rule through local committees of correspondence and safety, trade monitoring committees of inspection, oath -swearing associations, militia organizations, and provincial congresses." We can focus on July 1776, but as Phillips points out, these bodies began to exercise power twelve to eighteen months before the Declaration of Independence.

We could ask, and it would be a good question, if we have focused too much on 1776. And I would recommend that if you read Ellis' book you also read Phillips'. Ellis stresses the importance of the Declaration of Independence but Phillips has a section entitled "The Limited Role of the Declaration of Independence." Phillips argues that "Understanding what the document was - and more important, what it was not - is vital to understanding what happened during the spring of 1776. By doing so, we can move beyond the worshipful preoccupation with the Declaration and the year 1776, which has distorted the study and memory of the early stage of the American Revolution." Phillips argues that "Once read to the soldiers and other crowds, the Declaration, while not forgotten, seems to have receded in importance" until the 1790s.

Ellis' book is both about the political and the military events of the summer of 1776. Phillips has a somewhat larger canvas, addressing not only the political and military aspects of the revolution, but religion, race, and economics as well - even logistics. Ellis writes that his contention is "that the political and military experiences were two sides of a single story, which are incomprehensible unless told together. They were both happening at the same time, events on one front influenced outcomes on the other, and what most modern scholarship treats separately was experienced by the participants as one."

This is a happy approach and Ellis deftly weaves the narrative from front lines to halls of Congress, from the thoughts of private soldier Joseph Plumb Martin to the correspondence and innermost thoughts of John Adams. Nor is the British side ignored. Ellis has quite a bit to say about the Howe brothers and their approach to the grand campaign of 1776, as well as the place of the American Revolution in British memory. There is quite a bit packed into his 240 pages and it is an enjoyable read.

Stylistically, I found Ellis' book to be superior. Revolutionary Summer is very well written and conversational in tone. He is never dry or pedantic and you won't find his book overburdened by footnotes, only some 19 pages of footnotes compared to Phillips' 41 (personally, I love long and conversational footnotes but I know many readers harbor a horror of them). Ellis has a way with words and the ability to turn a memorable phrase at need. His is the shorter book, at 240 pages (Phillips' is 628). They both have maps, though my uncorrected proof of Ellis' book did not have them so I cannot compare them. Ellis' book is also going to have 8 pages of color plates (I counted 16 pages of plates in Phillips' book, none of them in color). I look forward to purchasing a copy of the book in its published form. It is definitely deserving of a place on my shelf, right in between McCullough and Phillips.
57 de 67 personas piensan que la opinión es útil
3.0 de un máximo de 5 estrellas Six months in 76 30 de abril de 2013
Por The Ginger Man - Publicado en Amazon.com
Formato:Tapa dura|Opinión de cliente de Vine de producto gratis
In Revolutionary Summer, Ellis confines himself to the period from May through October 1776, retelling the story of the initial defeat of the Continental Army and General Washington's realization that survival could be enough to achieve victory.

In a brief summary of the final steps leading to conflict, the author argues that there existed the basis for a possible compromise between colonies and the Crown. There may have been a majority in the Continental Congress interested in continued unity with England. British military initiatives, however, leading to battles in Lexington in April and at Bunker Hill in June of 1775 began to change hearts and minds. "The shift from a constitutional to a military conflict," advises Ellis, "altered the political chemistry forever."

In August, a Royal Proclamation dissolved the comforting fiction that the King did not support British military activity in America while publication in January 1776 of Paine's Common Sense spread and further inflamed the debate about independence. These developments set the scene for Congressional resolutions in May to replace colonial constitutions as well as the more famous Declaration in July.

On August 27, a British Army in which troops averaged 7 years of service humiliated the Continental Army (6 months average time in the field) at the Battle of Long Island. The Howe brothers, in command of British troops, believed that shock waves from this defeat would shake the foundation of the Rebellion. They did not pursue and destroy the struggling Continental Army. Ellis argues that the Howes saw themselves as peace commissioners as well as military commanders. There was no need to destroy the Continentals as the colonial army would disintegrate on its own. A peace could then be settled with a minimum of mayhem and bad feeling.

Marblehead's John Glover, however, scored a much needed victory over the British at Pell's Point while Washington's troops escaped to White Plains. British troops would be stretched to the breaking point occupying Manhattan and Long Island. "The greater Howe's victories, the greater his difficulties," observes Ellis. "Howe was destined to win his way to defeat." John Adams' classical studies provided the metaphorical blueprint for victory. Like the Spartans in the Peloponnesian War, the British had to win the war. Americans, like the Thebans (and perhaps the North Vietnamese in a later conflict), had only not to lose it. Washington learned this lesson well and never again put the survival of his army at risk.

This book is a very quick read from an author who knows the Revolutionary era well. In addition to providing a brief, convincing primer of the summer of '76, Ellis is at his best describing the principals. John Adams, for example, is that rarest of beasts, a "conservative revolutionary." Adams is so early to the cause, explains Ellis, because he was looking for it: "(Adams) had been auditioning for the role of American Cicero in the privacy of his own mind for a decade." Adams comes off more as prudent manager of revolutionary energies than as firebrand, alternately instigating and slowing the process to orchestrate an "evolutionary revolution."

Unfortunately, there are too few portraits such as this in this short tome. Overall, it is entertaining and instructive while seeming a bit rushed. As a non-professional, I appreciate the book but wonder both what it adds to the Revolutionary narrative and whether it gives full attention to the many issues addressed in its relatively few pages. Revolutionary Summer joins a crowded shelf of books covering this important period. I'm not sure, however, how much it adds to our understanding of it.
24 de 27 personas piensan que la opinión es útil
5.0 de un máximo de 5 estrellas Forging the Sword of Independence 9 de mayo de 2013
Por Michael P. Lefand - Publicado en Amazon.com
Formato:Tapa dura|Opinión de cliente de Vine de producto gratis
With "Revolutionary Summer" Dr. Joseph Ellis presents a fresh comprehensive look at the turning point of `The Cause' into the War for Independence. In this impressive book Ellis fills in the blanks that other books on the American Revolution briefly cover as he concentrates on the events during the summer of 1776 when the colonies choose the path that would create a nation.

Ellis has taken this monumental moment of a time in our history when the American colonies stood poised to either wither or bloom and presented it in such a style that the reader can become engrossed with a story we all know how ends. He does this by giving vivid descriptions of the key figures in both the military and political realm without superfluous words.

In this book Ellis presents a look at both sides of the struggle, from Philadelphia where the Continental Congress met where thirteen individual colonies tried to hold common cause to the Parliament in Westminster, London. As well as the political attitudes Ellis covers the military tribulations of the summer of 1776 with a closer look at the commanders. From the problems that General Washington had to contend with such as commanding a rag tag group of inexperienced volunteers, to the over confidence Lord Germain placed in the British commanders Admiral Lord Richard Howe and General William Howe.

Those who hold political offices today need to be reminded what Adams had in mind for our constitutional government when he wrote "Thoughts on Government" in 1776, in particular what Ellis so clearly states "that political power flowed upward from its primal source in "the people" rather than downward from the king."

In "Revolutionary Summer" Ellis gives us history as it should be written, clear, and concise and in a manner that engrosses the reader and makes the subject interesting.

A readable fast paced account of the actions taken during the struggle for Independence. I highly recommend "Revolutionary Summer" and give it 5 Stars.
5 de 5 personas piensan que la opinión es útil
4.0 de un máximo de 5 estrellas Interesting, well written, and focused on the revolutionary aspects of the summer of 1776 14 de mayo de 2013
Por Tom M. - Publicado en Amazon.com
Formato:Tapa dura|Opinión de cliente de Vine de producto gratis
This is an interesting and well-written book concerning the summer of 1776, but let me say at the outset that this is not a military history book, so if this is your primary interest this would perhaps not be the best choice for you. The discussion of the battles on Long Island and on Manhattan in the summer and fall of 1776 are skimpy at best. This is more of a book about the "revolution" in the conceptions that all the participants had about the war. Washington came to realize that with the army he had he could not defeat the British in a traditional battle on open ground. He is depicted as viewing the defeat on Long Island as being personal, but eventually came to realize that so long as he could keep his army from being destroyed he could eventually prevail. He realized that he would have to swallow his pride and fight a war characterized by scattered and defensive actions, and that he would win the war by keeping his army as a fighting force, even if it meant continual retreat from a superior British army. The British commanders, the brothers Admiral Richard Howe and General William Howe, thought themselves as peace ambassadors who could end the war by just demonstrating the superiority of the British army and navy and that it would not be necessary, nor preferable, to completely destroy Washington's army. There also was a revolution in the view of the war on the part of the Continental Congress, who came to realize that this was going to be a long war, requiring much more sacrifice than they had imagined. This aspect of the war is told largely from the viewpoint of John Adams, and his struggle to prevent the rest of the colonists from being so dispirited by the failure in the summer of 1776 that they would give up.

Since it covers much the same ground as David McCullough's 1776, I think it would be helpful to compare the two. McCullough's book begins with some background material concerning the events of 1775 and discusses the capture of Dorchester Heights and the resulting retreat of the British from Boston in the spring of 1776. While these events are mentioned in Revolutionary Summer, they are only mentioned in passing. Whereas McCullough focuses on the military aspects of all the fighting in 1776, Ellis focuses much more on the non-military aspects of the conflict and mostly confines his attention to the events of the summer and fall of 1776. Revolutionary Summer also focuses on the Declaration of Independence, the struggles to create a unified government, to get military and financial support from the various colonies and on Adam's formulation of a fledgling foreign policy with respect to France.

All in all I found this to be an interesting book, which I would recommend to those interested in learning more about the US Revolutionary War. However, it is written for a general audience as opposed to scholars of the US Revolutionary War, so they may find little new here and those who are largely interested in military history may likewise be disappointed.
7 de 8 personas piensan que la opinión es útil
5.0 de un máximo de 5 estrellas That revolutionary summer held up to the light 7 de mayo de 2013
Por Michael Birman - Publicado en Amazon.com
Formato:Tapa dura|Opinión de cliente de Vine de producto gratis
Lovers of books concerning America's Colonial/Revolutionary past (I am one) know the name Joseph Ellis as a gifted author. His books Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation and American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson were excellent portraits of America's founding fathers. Ellis, Gordon Wood, Bernard Bailyn and John Ferling, are creating a renaissance in American Revolutionary studies. Their books thus far have been more than mere popular history without becoming leaden tomes of academic interest only. Ellis' latest book, Revolutionary Summer, concentrates on the epochal summer of 1776 when the American nation was literally born. In clear but densely packed prose, Ellis paints a picture of a new nation created not out of high-flown rhetoric and lofty intentions, but small, incremental and perilous steps. Ellis emphasizes the incrementalism of our birth, its improvised nature and the often uncanny luck of our nation's midwives.

As the founding fathers exhibited great wisdom in their construction of a new republic, they also knew they were putting their heads in a noose and fear can be a great motivator in getting things done quickly. That is a lesson those currently in government may need to re-learn. Revolutionary Summer can be savored by newcomers to reading about our revolutionary history as well as old hands because Ellis often provides some new insight, some previously unknown relevant fact that keeps us interested. I enjoyed this book immensely. It is never boring and often quite thrilling as we marvel once again at how the revolutionary generation managed the miraculous feat of turning a small, powerless colonial outpost into the first self-governing republic in a world of powerful monarchies.
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