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American Revolutionaries in the Making Paperback – May 1, 1965

ISBN-13: 978-0029323908 ISBN-10: 0029323908 Edition: 1st Free Press Ed

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; 1st Free Press Ed edition (May 1, 1965)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0029323908
  • ISBN-13: 978-0029323908
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.3 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,063,796 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Leonard J. Wilson on August 8, 2004
Format: Paperback
In American Revolutionaries in the Making, Professor Charles S. Sydnor examines the political structures and processes in Virginia prior to the American Revolution. His goal is to understand how those structures and processes brought forth the large number of highly capable leaders who were key to the formation and leadership of the United States in the revolution and early days of independence: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, Patrick Henry, George Mason, and John Marshall, to name only the most prominent.

Professor Sydnor describes three steps along the pathway to power in colonial and revolutionary Virginia that brought these men to the top:

1. Justice of the Peace: The first public office held by almost all of these men was Justice of the Peace in their home county. This office was quite different from anything in the current age. Each county had from 10 to 30 Justices, who collectively formed the County Court. This court not only heard cases of civil and criminal law but also constituted the primary governing body of the county with executive and legislative as well as judicial powers. Justices were commissioned by the Governor, usually based on nominations from the current members of the Court. The Court was, therefore, a self perpetuating body not directly subject to popular control. The only avenues of recourse open to the public were petition to the Governor or the House of Burgesses, colonial Virginia's elective legislature, to which each county elected two members. The County Courts typically chose their nominees for Justice of the Peace based on talent and promise from aspiring members of the land-owning gentry. Selection was not based on popular opinion, campaign promises, or oratorical skills.
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Matthew Wilding on November 19, 2008
Format: Paperback
The second appearance of Sydnor's history, the book was badly renamed "American Revolutionaries in the Making." It's original title, "Gentlemen Freeholders," was much more apt.

Aside from using the word "democracy" consistently when he speaks of republicanism - a forgivable offense given the time period of the work - Sydnor theorizes that American democracy is thoroughly indebted to the aristocratic origins of the Virginian legislature. Further, throughout the work, he continually suggests that an aristocracy is superior to that of universal suffrage.

Sydnor makes the case that America would do well to avoid wider spread democracy, and even makes the case that South Carolina, more democratic in the years leading to the civil war, is a prime example of democracy going haywire. Meanwhile, he completely overlooks the fact that not only does Virginia join the Confederate movement rather quickly, but they produce some of it's most prominent leaders from the very line of aristocracy that he praises.

While he is right that Virginia is a colony turned state governed by great men of privilege, he fails in his mission to prove that only men of privilege can effectively govern. He fails to recognize that "all men are created equal" is not the same as "all men are the same," and this simple omission destroys his narrative.
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Holff on August 23, 2007
Format: Paperback
I picked up this book thinking I was to be treated to juicy details about how our founding fathers started on the road to the revolution. After reading the book, I understand the title better, but was disappointed with the content as I did not get what I was expecting. The book explains how campaigning in the 18th century was vastly different than today. Examples include the actions of the candidate, who didn't shake hands and give speeches but relied on their friends to `talk them up'. Candidates were present on election day, since there was only one voting site per county. Newly elected officials were groomed by the veterans to prepare them as they ascended the political ladder. Sydnor also centers on several well known Virginians such as Washington, Madison, Mason, Jefferson, and Wythe as examples of their trek through the political gambit.

Despite not fulfilling my expectations, I was introduced to a deeper level of government before we created our own. This book is a good resource for teaching students about the fledgling democracy as experienced by her founders. I would refrain from assigning it to the students to read directly, as it read like a graduate thesis.
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2 of 10 people found the following review helpful By E. Frenchman on October 27, 2007
Format: Paperback
Sydnor's work here is dated and ideologically charged. His research is, by today's standards, minimal and is presented to support passe founding-fathers worship and his own normative approval of aristocratic government. The work is better read as a piece of history itself than a work of scholarship. A much more accurate history is available in John G. Kolp's response, Gentlemen and Freeholders: Electoral Politics in Colonial Virginia (1998).
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