The leaders of the American Revolution, writes the distinguished historian Bernard Bailyn, were radicals. But their concern was not to correct inequalities of class or income, not to remake the social order, but to "purify a corrupt constitution and fight off the apparent growth of prerogative power." They wished, in other words, to mend a broken system and improve upon it. In doing so they drew on many traditions of political and social thought, ranging from English conservative philosophers to exponents of the continental Enlightenment, from backward-looking interpretations of ancient Roman civilization to forward-looking views of a new American people. Bailyn carefully examines these sources of sometimes conflicting ideas and considers how the framers of the Constitution resolved them in their inventive doctrine of federalism.
With this reading of the American Revolutionary Experience, Mr. Bailyn has substantially and profoundly altered the nature and direction of the inquiry on the American Revolution. In the process he has also erected a new framework for interpreting the entire first half-century of American national history...A landmark in American historiography. (American Quarterly
Tightly written and politically sophisticated...In the field of American Revolutionary Studies Bailyn's book must henceforth occupy a position of first rank. (Saturday Review
The most brilliant study of the meaning of the Revolution to appear in a generation. (History
One cannot claim to understand the Revolution without having read this book. (New York Times Book Review
A distinguished achievement. Mr. Bailyn writes with the authority and integrity that derive from a thorough mastery of the material. His meticulous scholarship is matched with perceptive analysis. (New York Review of Books
In every area of Bernard Bailyn's research--whether Virginia society of the 17th century or the schools of early America--he transformed what historians had hitherto thought about the subject. In The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution
, the most famous of his works, Bailyn uncovered a set of ideas among the Revolutionary generation that most historians had scarcely known existed. These radical ideas about power and liberty, and deeply rooted fears of conspiracy, had propelled Americans in the 1760s and 1770s into the Revolution, Bailyn said. His book, which won the Pulitzer and Bancroft prizes in 1968, influenced an entire generation of historians. For many, it remains the most persuasive interpretation of the Revolution. (Gordon S. Wood Wall Street Journal