Setting the world ablaze : Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and the American Revolution /

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Main Author: Ferling, John E.
Format: Book
Published:Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 2000.
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Review by Choice Review

Scholars know Ferling (State Univ. of West Georgia) through his published studies of John Adams, George Washington, and American colonial wars. This title, which relies upon the lives of Washington (the "sword"), Jefferson (the "pen"), and Adams (the "stalwart") to tell the story of the nation's struggle to gain its independence from England, will appeal to a larger audience. The Revolution was the central event in the life of each. Ferling charts--and weighs--their contributions as the men are drawn into the deepening crisis with the mother country and eventually provide both direction and inspiration for the fledgling nation. His portraits are fresh, his judgments of their roles and contributions are judicious, and his prose is crisp. The final chapters offer something of a balance sheet from which Adams's achievements emerge as the most impressive. Ferling characterizes his book as a "study of personality, character, aspirations, drives, choices, ideas, visions, leadership, and courage." He is right on target. Readers on a variety of levels will profit from--and enjoy--his thoughtful work. For all collections. G. S. Rowe; University of Northern Colorado

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

A thorough exploration of the lives of Washington, Adams, and Jefferson, and a consideration of their personal motives for participating in the American Revolution. Revolutionary War historian Ferling (The First of Men, 1998) assesses the impact of our three great Founding Fathers by reconstructing their lives from the documents they left behind. This approach produces intriguing portraits of men with monumental ambitions who were frustrated by their status as colonial subjects. (Despite Washington's command of the Virginia militia, for example, he was subordinate to even the greenest captain in the British army, while the most Jefferson or Adams could hope for was a royal appointment as a colonial magistrate.) As the British government adopted increasingly oppressive and hostile measures to subvert the American colonies' discontented rumblings, these three found themselves drawn to the republican ideals that promised opportunity for men such as themselves--not just for those who were born in England and pandered to the right politicians. Washington and Adams weather this close scrutiny well: Washington's character overcomes the reality that he was an amateur soldier and a mediocre strategist, while Adams's often-overlooked role in negotiating the diplomatic conclusion to the war suggests that his efforts were as crucial to achieving American independence as Washington's battlefield sacrifices. But Jefferson's reputation suffers in Ferling's analysis. He argues that Jefferson used his starring role in authoring the Declaration of Independence to cover up his avoidance of military duty and his lukewarm support for the revolutionaries during the earliest stages of the rebellion. In the end, Ferling masterfully weaves these men's personal stories into a dynamic narrative that will grip general readers and scholars alike. Ferling's effective demystification of these three Founding Fathers transforms them from two-dimensional icons into remarkable and fascinating men and captures their passionate struggles to form a new republican nation. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

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