From Publishers Weekly
This is a rare book—scholarly yet written with verve, readable for pleasure as well as for knowledge. It reasserts what historians have long argued: that the American gentry during the period from 1776 to roughly 1800 succeeded at stunting the meaning and practice of democracy for ordinary white men. Bouton's familiar arguments about thwarted popular ideals are drawn only from Pennsylvania. That's because the Keystone State, having gone through the most democratic revolution in 1776 and written the most democratic constitution, had turned by about 1790 and, under its second constitution, fell back under the control of the elite. Yet even if distinctive, Pennsylvania was decently representative of much of the early nation. Up to a point, therefore, Bouton's argument is convincing. What's more, he relates this disappointing history partly through the stories of individuals, like the Black Boys and Jimmy Smith, who'll be unknown even to most scholars. But like so many historians, he applauds the common people acting their democratic part while implicitly condemning the gentry for acting like gentry. This inconsistency mars an otherwise fine book. (July)
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--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
"The overall story is convincing, not least because Bouton strikes an admirable balance between quantitative and qualitative evidence.... Bouton writes with quiet passion, laying out evidence in careful sequence, creating sympathy for ordinary people without romanticizing them.... Taming Democracy brings social conflict and economic analysis back to the center of Revolutionary historiography."--J.M. Opal, Interdisciplinary History
"Button has written an important and good book. He skillfully combines discussions of social history, finance, and political economy to show just how catastrophic the 1780s were for most Americans. Taming Democracy
is, to date, the best introduction to the worldview of small property holders during the postrevolutionary period."--Andrew Shankman, William and Mary Quarterly
"Bouton clarifies murky economic concepts in a lively fashion and, above all, projects the reader's mind into the lives of ordinary citizens who felt betrayed and frustrated by leaders they themselves had set up and followed faithfully through the dark years of the Revolution."--T.S. Martin, CHOICE
"This is a rare book--scholarly yet written with verve, readable for pleasure as well as for knowledge."--Publishers Weekly
"With keen insight and deep research, Terry Bouton recovers a lost world: the agrarian democracy of revolutionary America. His vivid prose illuminates the struggle of common people to fulfill the promise of the American Revolution. By retelling their story so fully and fairly, Bouton renews their cause in our present day."--Alan Taylor, author of The Divided Ground
"In thoughtful, readable prose Terry Bouton shows us what the American Revolution meant for one group who counted: the small-scale farmers of Pennsylvania. They struggled; they thought; they fought. Ultimately they lost what they believed what they had won, a world that would be good for them and their families. The Revolution belonged to Bouton's kind of people, ordinary Americans living through an extraordinary time, as much as it did to the Founding Fathers."--Edward Countryman, author of The American Revolution
"For many ordinary Americans living in Pennsylvania, the Revolution did not turn out as they had hoped. Committed to the creation of a more egalitarian society, they resisted British rule, only to discover that the rich and well-born had no interest in supporting serious democratic reform. In this compelling study, Bouton brings passion and insight to the bittersweet story of the betrayal of a truly revolutionary society."--T.H. Breen, Director, Center for Historical Studies, Northwestern University
"The 'whiskey rebellion' clearly has been misnamed: Bouton argues convincingly that it grew out of two decades of struggles by Pennsylvania's farmers with 'moneyed men' for the fruits of the Revolution. He tells their story in gripping scenes of the sheriff's wagon carting off the belongings of debtors and of farmers defiantly closing down roads. This is a book about the Revolution that breaks new ground."--Alfred Young, author of Liberty Tree: Ordinary People and the American Revolution
"Prominent citizens like George Washington and Alexander Hamilton considered the American Revolution an unruly steed, and they devoted considerable energy to reining it in. Terry Bouton's superbly-written account of how they achieved that feat leaves us wishing they had failed. The focus of Bouton's startlingly-original book is nothing less than the struggle for the soul of America."--Woody Holton, University of Richmond
will have a major impact on early American historians and further the re-evaluation of the entire Revolutionary period. Bouton's book will revitalize the economic interpretation of the era."--Allan Kulikoff, University of Georgia
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