Thursday, March 24, 2011


A review of James McPherson's Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (1988)

Part of the Oxford History of the United States Series

(Rating 5 of 5)

James McPherson's Pulitzer winning work Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era is often referred to as being the best single volume account of the American Civil War*. This book is all it was cracked up to be. It exams the major causes leading up to the conflict and the war itself by exploring them from multiple angles. The book shifts smoothly from the bottom Union ranks to the presidential chair, from radical abolitionists to powerful slave holders. One of the main themes of the book is 'liberty', how it is defined by the major actors and how the definition changes toward the end of the war. McPherson points out that both sides were fighting for their version of liberty, what they felt were the right American traditions, and how they understood the Constitution of the Framers. However, the obvious truth is that part of the South's definition of liberty is the right to own slaves, and that was the right for which they were going to break apart the Union and go to war to defend.

(President Lincoln)

McPherson's narrative begins at the end of the Mexican-American War, where the nation is debating on what to do with the newly acquired territory and the slave issue moves to front and center. In this debate we see the close of a second generation of American leaders and the rise of third. The actors Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, and John C. Calhoun leave the stage after their last act and are replaced by the likes of William Seward, Salmon Chase, Stephan Douglas, and Jefferson Davis. Although his star would continue to rise, at the start of the 1850s Abraham Lincoln was but a minor and unimportant character.

(William Seward, Secretary of State)

The debate heats up and in 1860 Lincoln is elected President but before he can even enter the office, states begin leaving the Union. McPherson points out that some historians have faulted President Lincoln for not taking the South's threat to secede seriously and failing to address it. McPherson continues to describe that view as seriously flawed. To McPherson, the only thing that Lincoln and the Republicans could do to satisfy the Southerners would be to disband and declare that slavery was a positive good.

(The President of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis)

(The Confederacy's greatest general, Robert E. Lee)

As the war begins the South has the good fortune to have great generals in their cause such as Robert E. Lee and Thomas 'Stonewall' Jackson. While the Union's best general, Winfield Scott, was a relic from another age. U.S. Grant, William T. Sherman, and Philip Sheridan would have to rise up through the ranks by the measure of skill and merit while the conflict was going on. The generals that Lincoln would start with, George McClellan and Joe Hooker, were not very good. Although McClellan thought of himself as the second coming of Napoleon and his fans agreed.

“But perhaps career had been too successful. He had never known, as Grant had, the despair of defeat or the humiliation of failure. He had never learned the lessons of adversity and humility. The adulation he experienced during the early weeks in Washington went to his head. McClellan's letters to his wife revealed the beginnings of a messiah complex.”(p.359)

(The Union's greatest general, Ulysses S. Grant)

The Civil War changed society more than anything since the American Revolution and maybe even more so. Although American Revolution changed things by making a bunch of British subjects American citizens and the Civil War saw everyone remain Americans, the long range changes seemed faster and greater.

“By the beginning of 1862 the impetus of war had evolved three shifting and overlapping Republican factions on the slavery question. The most dynamic and clear cut faction were the radicals, who accepted the abolitionist argument that emancipation could be achieved by exercise of the belligerent power to confiscate enemy property. On the other wing of the party a smaller number of conservatives hoped for the ultimate demise of bondage but preferred to see this happen by the voluntary action of slave states coupled with colonization abroad of the freed slaves. In the middle were the moderates, led by Lincoln, who shared the radicals’ moral aversion to slavery but feared the racial consequences of wholesale emancipation. Events during the first half of 1862 pushed the moderates toward the radical position.”(p.494)

(Fredrick Douglass former slave who became abolitionist leader)

Lincoln would issue the Emancipation Proclamation that would free the slaves in the Confederacy and be the first major step to freeing the all the men and women who were slaves in United States of America. But it was only a step and a war measure, in order to permanently eradicate the 'particular institution' the U.S. Constitution needed to be amended. Lincoln would work to insure the passage of 13th Amendment in the Congress and send it to the states.

“Among the spectators who cheered and wept for joy when the House passed the 13th Amendment were many black people. Their presence was a visible symbol of revolutionary changes signified by the Amendment, for until 1864 Negros had not been allowed in congressional galleries. Blacks were also admitted to White House social functions for the first time in 1865, and Lincoln went out of his way to welcome Fredrick Douglass to the inaugural reception on March 4.”(p.840)

(Lee accepts defeat)

The Civil War would end for all practical purposes when Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox. There were other formalities, other armies that needed to surrender, but the long bloody conflict was over. There was a lot of work to be done and, unfortunately, Abraham Lincoln would not be there to lead it. John Wilkes Booth stole him from the nation. James McPherson does an incredible job bringing these events to life. If you want to know something about the Civil War this is a great place to start, for in the years since it was published it has made Civil War history buffs of many people.

*Several book reviews, including Washington Post, New York Times, and L.A. Times, all use that term.

{Video is from the classic movie Gettysburg}

Sunday, March 20, 2011


A review of David M. Potter's The Impending Crisis 1848-1861 (1976)

Part of the New American Nation Series

(Rating 4 of 5)

David Potter died before this book was published so all the success and praise, including a Pulitzer Prize, could only be received posthumously. It is however a magnificent work that captures the over a decade period that was leading up to the Civil War. The book is part of the New American History series not the Oxford History series that I had been reading. Unlike the Oxford History volumes, it does not dive as deep into the average people as well as the elites with the same amount of elegant detail, nevertheless it is a great book. A small note to any readers that when they read this book they may to want to be aware beforehand: it was written before the term 'African-American' became widely accepted and instead uses the anachronistic word 'Negro'. It actually took me a minute to catch on because when reading about the past one comes about the word Negro quite a bit, normally I just view the term in its historic lens, but as read further the term was used quite generally referring to 'the Negro population' and to Fredrick Douglass as a 'leading Negro thinker' even when not talking from a historical perspective.

(Cartoon reflecting Northern anger and beliefs of a national conspiracy to spread slavery to the North)

This book covers the political battles of the many participants who were in the political arena in the late 1850s; the work also covers the political theories of the state of American Nationalism, and the formation of Southern Nationalism. Potter also discusses how the impact of books and literature that were written in the 1850s impacted the time period. One example of a powerful and hard-hitting book was the original The Impending Crisis that dealt with the problem of slavery from a southern prospective of non-slaveholding whites. A more famous example of strong literature is the immortal Uncle Tom's Cabin.

“In almost every respect, Uncle Tom's Cabin lacked the standard qualifications for such great literary success. It may plausibly be argued that Mrs. Stowe's characters were impossible and her Negroes were blackface stereotypes, that her plot was sentimental, her dialect absurd, her literary technique crude, and her overall picture of the conditions of slavery distorted. But without any of the vituperation in which the abolitionists were so fluent, and with a sincere though unappreciated effort to avoid blaming the South, she made vivid the plight of the slave as a human being held in bondage. It was perhaps because of the steadiness with which she held this focus that Lord Palmerston, a man noted for his cynicism, admired the book not only for 'its story but for the statesmanship of it.' History cannot evaluate with precision the influence of a novel upon public opinion, but the northern attitude toward slavery was never quite the same after Uncle Tom's Cabin. Men who had remained unmoved by real fugitives wept for Tom under the lash and cheered for Eliza with the bloodhounds on her track.”p.140

One of the things Potter discusses in the book that I was very pleased to here is the tendency for most people to look back at the past with the feeling of inevitability. This attitude does everyone a disservice because it creates a misinterpretation of the past and the people who were living in it. Although, his own title of this book helps with that narrative that he was trying to combat.

“Seen this way the decade of the fifties becomes a kind of vortex, whirling the country in ever narrower circles and more rapid revolutions into the pit of war. Because of the need for a theme and focus in any history, this is probably inevitable. But for the sake of realism, it should be remembered that most human beings during these years went about their daily lives, preoccupied with their personal affairs, with no sense of impending disaster nor any fixation on the issue of slavery.”p.145

Potter also discusses the Lincoln-Douglas debates, and while doing so he tries to cut though the legend and misinterpretations that often are made about this event. He tries to make it plain what the two opponents believed and what they were fighting for.

“The difference between Douglas and Lincoln—and in a large sense between proslavery and antislavery thought—was not that Douglas believed in chattel servitude (for he did not), or that Lincoln believed in an unqualified, full equality of blacks and whites (for he did not). The difference was that Douglas did not believe that slavery really mattered very much, because he did not believe that Negroes had enough human affinity with him to make it necessary for him to concern himself with them. Lincoln, on the contrary, believed that slavery mattered, because he recognized the human affinity with blacks which made their plight a necessary.”p354

(Lincoln-Douglas debates)

He explains the raid of Harper's Ferry and the antislavery crusader John Brown in his rather insane attempt to cause a slave rebellion. In Potter's narrative what Brown lacks as an armed rebel he excels as a martyr. The North morns his death, which infuriates the South and makes them feel more isolated. Thus after the election of Lincoln they begin their attempts to break the South away from the Union.

(John Brown, not a very good rebel but a great martyr)

Everything discussed in this review and more is covered in this incredible book. I would recommend it to people who already have a strong knowledge of the history of this country who would like to increase their understanding of this difficult time period.

{Video is taken from C-Span.}

Thursday, March 17, 2011


A review of Daniel Walker Howe's What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848 (2007)

Part of the Oxford History of the United States Series

(Rating 5 of 5)

What Hath God Wrought is the third book in Oxford History of the United States series. The author, David Walker Howe, covers the remarkable transformation of nation not only in a political sense but in an entire physical and technological sense. The work begins with the story of the first official telegraph being sent by Samuel Morse in the chambers of the Supreme Court of the United States in an attempt to let his prestigious audience see the wonders of this new technology and learn of the the result of the Democratic National Convention.

As the historical narrative begins we see a nation coming to terms with the end of War of 1812, the founding generation is still the generation in charge but soon history turns and the Republic comes to the hands of statesmen of the second American generation. Men such as John Quincy Adams, Henry Clay, Andrew Jackson, Daniel Webster, and John C. Calhoun will play the dominant leadership roles in the shaping of the nation's destiny.

(Andrew Jackson, the most famous general and statesman of the era)

As in the two previous volumes in the Oxford history series, the focus often shifts from top to the bottom. Howe focuses on not just the statesmen but the world and society that they operate in. Also there is a strong focus not only on the major players but on the minor actors and activists who perform smaller deeds but help bring about the changing of the world.

As the Madison Administration comes to an end, the Monroe Administration, the last with a president from the Founding generation, comes to power with a cabinet dominated by second generation American leaders. The shape of the cabinet sets the stage for the 'corrupt bargain' of Henry Clay giving John Quincy Adams the presidency over Andrew Jackson. As Howe points out, there was probably no actual 'deal' but the appearance of it hurt the second Adams Administration.

(Henry Clay, was one of the Triumvirate with Webster and Calhoun, was alleged to have committed the 'corrupt bargain' in order to deprive Jackson of the presidency)

Entering the 'Age of Jackson'—a term the author despises —the country goes though many changes. Among these changes are: the infamous Indian removal, the bank veto—which can disputed as good or bad—, and, the most positive change, President Jackson's handling of the Nullification crisis.

Economic factors such as the Crisis of 1819 and 1837 seriously affected the outcome of the nation’s history in many ways. The former helped turn the public against banks and made President Jackson's bank war much easier. The later hurt President Van Buren's reelection chances, against William Henry Harrison and the Whig Party.

“Under the Federalists and the Jeffersonian Republicans, the American administrative system had served as an example of honesty and efficiency to would-be administrative reformers in Britain. However, in the years after 1829, the quality of British administration gradually improved while that of the U.S. Federal government declined, until by the 1880s, American civil service reformers opposing the spoils system took Britain as their model.”p.334

(The Trail of Tears, one of the most wicked acts in American history)

This book also looks at how modern politics started to form with the wide acceptance of political parties as becoming part of the nation's governing reality. One of the major changes that comes along with the nation's first politician president, Martin Van Buren, is the establishment of national nominating conventions to choose a parties presidential and vice presidential nominees as opposed to the strongly rejected congressional caucus method.

The end of the book focuses on the Mexican-American War that takes place under the most expansionist president we had, James K. Polk. Polk sends Generals Winfield Scott and Zachary Taylor, both of whom would turn out to support Polk's political opponents, down to conquer Mexico and come out with a good chunk of it.

(U.S. gains in the Mexican-American War)

Howe also discusses how the Revolutions of 1848 affected this country, the nation was encouraged by the what went on in Europe but were almost blind to the nation's own faults. Howe ends the book looking at the infant feminist movement that was just getting organized at the Seneca Falls Convention.

Some of the reviews of this book that I have read have criticized it for being overly critical of Andrew Jackson, accusing the author of being revisionist—in the negative sense. I do admit this book does have some clear bias but it is different than most people think. Howe clearly has strong preference for the Whig Party, for example, while most authors dedicate their books to the spouses, parents, or children, Howe dedicates this book to the memory of John Quincy Adams.

“It may seem fitting that Adam's last word in Congress should have been 'No!' The former president had resisted the tide in many ways: against the popular Jackson, against mass political parties, against the extension of slavery across space and time, and most recently against waging an aggressive war. Yet Adam's vision was predominantly positive, not negative. He had stood in favor of public education, freedom of expression, government support for science, industry, and transportation, nonpartisanship in federal employment, justice to the Native Americans, legal rights for women and blacks, cordial relations with the Latin American Republics, and, undoubtedly, a firm foreign policy that protected the national interest.”p.812

(John Quincy Adams, the man to whom this entire book is dedicated)

Howe's conclusion that the Whigs were the party America's future while the Democrats were the party of the nation's white supremacist present—despite the fact the Democrats are still here and there are no Whigs—is a conclusion I have to disagree with.

In the previous volume Empire of Liberty, the reader is informed of the founding generation and the early battles between Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson, the author, Gordon Wood, clearly is a fan of Jefferson. However, I have always found that it is not that Jefferson was right and Hamilton was wrong or vice verse, but that they were both right and both wrong about different things. Hamilton was right about the need for a strong government and assumption, while Jefferson was right to have a healthy criticism of central government and that government giving bankers too much power over the average people is not a good thing. I take the same stand with this second generation struggle, it is not so much Jackson and the Democrats were wrong and Clay and the Whigs were right but that they were both right and wrong about different things. The Jacksonians were right about getting the 'common people' involved in government and their distrust of powerful corporate banking interests. The Whigs were right about internal improvements and right to oppose Indian Removal.

Howe, while hailing the Whigs of the party of tomorrow, forgets that they existed just to oppose Andrew Jackson—just as the Democrats existed to support him. In this sense the term Jacksonian Era really does fit. While some of the Whigs, like Henry Clay, had principled positions, most of the Whigs were just to there to oppose Jackson and his followers. But Howe sees the various anti-Jackson people as the party being 'open' to various opinions despite in the Whigs' victorious elections they did not even have a party platform.

Nevertheless, this book is a very detailed look into the one of more amazing eras in the history of nation. When Andrew Jackson went to take the oath of office he went by horse and buggy, and when he left office he went home on a train.

{Video taken from the History Channel Documentary The Mexican American War.}

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


A review of Gordon S. Wood's Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815 (2009)

Part of the Oxford History of the United States Series

(Rating 5 of 5)

Before I begin I would like to point out that I actually had the opportunity to meet Professor Wood when he was giving a lecture at the University of New England in September 2010. I was very impressed by his presentation and he even signed my copy of Empire of Liberty.

As I continue my march through the ages in which I explore all the historical eras of the United States of America, my journey takes me to the beginning of our modern government. Since I finished Robert Middlekauff's The Glorious Cause, which deals with the American Revolution and the Constitutional Convention, I now arrive as the U.S. Constitution is being implemented and the new government is just getting its metaphorical feet under its legs. As I stated in earlier posts the biggest challenge is to find books that try their best to explore from multiple perspectives to avoid just one narrow view, without at the same time surrendering a general narrative that is both readable and enjoyable. Gordon Wood’s book more than meets those qualifications.

The book begins with a discussion of the Washington Irving story of Rip Van Winkle, a story many us remember from childhood in which a man falls asleep for twenty years. Wood reminds us of political implications of that story. How Van Winkle falls asleep prior to the American Revolution and wakes up in the America of 1790s and marvels how the world has completely changed.

The historical narrative begins as the nation writes and ratifies its new Constitution and concludes at the end of the War of 1812. This book tells the tale of two generations, the Revolutionary generation of the Founding Fathers and the second generation of J.Q. Adams, Henry Clay, and Andrew Jackson. The book in way covers how the Founders governed the country in the early Republic and although the book does not feature the passing the torch from one generation to another , it clearly shows a nation where over eighty percent of its population is under the age of forty. In this narrative a young nation is still trying to find and define itself.

(George Washington as President,this was the painting that Dolly Madison saved from the fire that burnt the White House)

Early on the government under President Washington tries to mimic the British government's success without emulating its traps such as hereditary monarchy and aristocracy. The early administrations of Washington and Adams have a lot of success in helping the government find its feet by making good on treaties, establishing the public credit, kept the nation out of war, and being able to defend itself from internal problems such as the Whiskey Rebellion.

“The Senate considered itself distinctly superior to the 'lower' house, so-called perhaps because the House chamber was on the first floor of Federal Hall, while the Senate chamber was on the second floor. Although the Senate was not entirely clear about its relationship to the various state legislatures, which, of course, were its electors, it certainly did have a very high-flown sense of dignity. While the House was busy passing legislation, establishing revenue for the new government, and erecting the several executive departments, the Senate spent its time discussing ceremonies and rituals, perhaps because it had little else to do.” (p. 63)

The Washington Administration did not really appreciate how bad Hamilton's programs—no matter how successful—would look to members of the public, who are terrified of tyranny, might view a growing executive. They did not care as much as they should because their views on how the Republic was supposed to look was greatly different than others. When the Adams Administration and Congress began to oppress the people's liberty with the Alien and Sedition Acts, the people would find a champion in Thomas Jefferson.

(Thomas Jefferson, champion of the people)

After the election of 1800, the historical narrative stops and Wood takes some time to inspect Jeffersonian America by taking an in-depth look at each area of society, from the west, to the everyday people, the religious establishments, and more. This book gives you the very feel of the nation as it was in the early nineteenth century.

(The Louisiana Purchase)

The book also discusses Jefferson's greatest triumph of his presidency, the Louisiana Purchase and Lewis and Clark Expedition to explore it. Jefferson doubled the size of the nation and unintentionally secured the power of the Federal government of the United States. And while the accomplishments of Presidents Jefferson and Madison were many, they did make a good deal of mistakes such as the Embargo act of 1807 that both devastated the county and forced President Jefferson to take a line with dissenters that would have made Alexander Hamilton proud. They also allowed for ideology to cloud their judgment and lead the nation into a disaster.

“Although the Republicans in the Congress knew that the country's armed forces were not ready for any kind of combat, they nonetheless seemed more concerned about the threat the American military might pose to the United States than to Great Britain.” (p. 671)

(President Madison, great political theorist, but poor commander-in-chief)

The War of 1812 nearly brought America to its knees but critical victories at Baltimore and New Orleans helped rally the American spirit. In the end of the War of 1812, even though the capital had been lost in the fighting American nationalism soared to a new height.

In the end the Founding Fathers that lived the longest seemed to be suffering from a Rip Van Winkle symptom as they could no longer recognize the nation that they had founded forty to fifty years later. This was most true for former President Thomas Jefferson.

“Although the world of the nearly nineteenth century was spinning out of Jefferson's control or even his comprehension, no one had done more to bring it about. It was Jefferson's commitment to liberty and equality that justified and legitimated the many pursuits of happiness that were bringing unprecedented prosperity to so many average white Americans. His Republicans followers in the North had created this new world, and they welcomed and thrived in it. They celebrated Jefferson and equal rights and indeed looked back in awe and wonder at all the Founders and saw in them heroic leaders the likes of which they knew they would never see again in America. Yet they also knew that they lived in a different would that required new thoughts and new behavior.” (p. 736)

On a technical note, like the previous volume of the Oxford series,the footnotes are located at the bottom of the page they are on as opposed to either at the end of the book or the end of each chapter. I find this makes reading the book more enjoyable because that way I do not have to flip though pages to find the source of any particular fact or argument. I say again that I wish this method was mandatory.

Empire of Liberty is for the advanced reader who would like to receive an incredible amount of information about our nation in its earliest stages. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is open to that challenge.

{Video from HBO's already classic John Adams series and the History Channel documentary First Invasion.}

Sunday, March 13, 2011


A review of Robert Middlekauff's The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, 1763-1789 (1982, original) (2005, my copy)

Part of the Oxford History of the United States Series

(Rating 5 of 5)

As I continue my march through the ages, where I explore all the historical eras of the United States of America, I finally arrive at the age and event that would create the nation itself. Having finished Fred Anderson Crucible of War, I had already arrived at that generation of Americans, which we would describe as the Founding generation, and they were living under the man they would call tyrant, King George III. As I stated in an earlier post the biggest challenge in this little project is to find books whose authors try their best to explore from multiple perspectives to avoid just one narrow view, without at the same time surrendering a general narrative that is both readable and enjoyable. I found this book to meet those qualifications.

Robert Middelkauff's brings the conflict that gave birth to the United States of America to life in his classic work, The Glorious Cause. This book tells the story of thirteen colonies who revolted against the mother country of Great Britain to form their own nation. The story begins on the close of the French and Indian War (or Seven Years War) where the British Empire was triumphant,the greatest power of North America, and undisputed ruler of the sea. The story ends with George Washington taking office as the first President of the United States.

(The hated King, George III)

We tend to think of the American Revolution as happening from 1774-1783 but Middelkauff believes that it began in the 1760s. He argues this even though the American disagreement with the mother country during the late 1760s and early 1770s was about their rights as British subjects in the Empire, not trying to break loose from it. He also points out that the Revolution does not end at Yorktown or the Treaty of Paris but with the Constitutional Convention, the Constitution's ratification, and the inauguration of President George Washington.

(Father of his country, General George Washington)

(Washington's trusted second, General Greene)

One of the main sources of disagreement with Great Britain and her colonies was two very different views that were held on the unwritten constitution of the British Empire. One view, held by Americans, was that all British subjects could not be governed and taxed without their consent; and the other, held by many in Britain, was the British Parliament was the supreme legislature of all the inhabitants of the Empire whether or not that community was had representation in the House of Commons. With the insistence of the various ministers of King George III, with His Majesty’s full support, Parliament attempted to level taxes on the colonies. The response from the colonies was resistance from all levels of colonial society.

“A single act of Parliament led by an evil ministry would not immediately fasten chains on colonial wrists, of course. As far as the American writers were concerned, the Stamp Act was simply the visible edge of the dared conspiracy. If the Act were accepted, they asked, what guarantee did the colonists have that their lands, houses, indeed the very windows in their houses, and the air breathed in America would not be taxed? A people virtually represented in Parliament would have no choice once they swallowed that pernicious doctrine which was in reality shackles for the enslaved. And there would be many hungry men in England eager to do the work of the enslavers. Colonial accounts of the conspiracy lingered over long and horrified descriptions of the officeholders, placemen, taskmasters, and pensioners who would descend upon the colonists ostensibly to serve His Majesty but in reality to eat out of the colonial substance. The corruption they would bring would complete the ruin of the colonies.”p.132

(One of the Revolution's most respected leaders, Ben Franklin)

This common cause of liberty was able to unite the colonies as nothing had ever had before; colonial legislatures sent representatives to a Continental Congress that would try to negotiate with Parliament. When negotiations failed and the war came at Lexington and Concord, this Congress would raise and Army and appoint a commander-in-chief. The next Continental Congress, when the time came, would go forth and declare their independence and form a new nation.

(Tom Paine, author of Common Sense)

“What Americans thought and felt about the declaration's 'truths' which are presented as 'self-evident'--that all men 'are endowed by their creator with inalienable rights,' among them 'life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness'--is not clear. There was no immediate discussion in public of these claims; nor was there of the contention that all men were 'created equal.' Thomas Jefferson wrote these words and though at the time, and since, no great originality was attributed to them and to the substance of the declaration, the declaration may in fact have possessed more originality than anyone suspected.”p.335

(Thomas Jefferson, primary author of the Declaration of Independence)

One of the great elements of this book is the way it tries to cover all aspects of society, from the court of King George III to the farmers of Massachusetts. The stars of history still get there well-earned due, George Washington makes the most appearances, but also covered are Patrick Henry, Samuel and John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, John Paul Jones, Thomas Paine, Nathanael Greene and, of course, Benjamin Franklin.

“Washington's judgment improved each year, as he assimilated the experience of the war. His confidence in himself also grew as he learned. When the war began he as full of concern that he would fail because his abilities were not of the first order. This belief persisted even though he also felt that he had been called by providence to lead the American army in the Revolution. By the end of 1776 with a year and a half of the war under his belt, and with the success of Trenton and Princeton, he was a much more confident commander. He was not arrogant, and he continued to consult his general officers before he made important decisions, but he no longer took advice against his better judgment, as he had, for example, in the autumn of 1776 on the Hudson.”p.600

After the Revolutionary War comes to an end, the Revolution was still unfinished for a Revolution cannot be complete until something lasting has been built up to replace the old regime. The Articles of Confederation were not up to task and ultimately the Constitutional Convention would have to be held to create a lasting Republic in which the Federal Government was supreme and not the various state governments.

I would also like to point out a technical detail that I like about this book. All the footnotes are located at the bottom of the page they are on as opposed to either at the end of the book or the end of each chapter. I find this makes reading the book more enjoyable because that way I do not have to flip though pages to find the source of any particular fact or argument. I wish this method was mandatory.

The Glorious Cause is an incredible book and I would recommend it to the novice and the experienced historian alike.

{Video is from the History Channel's America: The Story of US and HBO's already classic John Adams series}