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Virginia's American Revolution: From Dominion to Republic, 1776-1840

4.7 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0739121320
ISBN-10: 0739121324
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Editorial Reviews


In recent years, Kevin Gutzman has earned rank as one of our finest young historians of the American Founding. In Virginia's American Revolution, he calls attention to 'the old reality of American political life that the state was the primary unit of political allegiance, the chief locus of political identity, and the level at which most significant political questions were decided in the Early Republic.' Pursuing the history of the most important of the first thirteen states in light of this neglected truth, Gutzman provides a new and valuable perspective on our origins. (Clyde Wilson, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History, University of South Carolina, University of South Carolina)

Gutzman displays a detailed, even at times sympathetic (though not uncritical) understanding that many readers should find particularly worthwhile. (. N-Net, May 2008)

In short, Virginia's American Revolution is not only an invaluable contribution to the scholarly literature, but it is also a treasure trove for those who would recapture the original American republic. (Lewrockwell.Com)

Gutzman describes how Virginia's independence initiated the replacement of a monarchical society with a republican one. In the most important and original part of the book, Gutzman argues that Virginians ratified the Constitution in 1788 only because they understood it to establish a nonbinding compact of states wherein Virginia still controlled its own destiny. By looking at early national Virginia through a state rather than a federal lens, Gutzman brings a less celebrated cast of characters to the fore. (Stuart Leibiger Journal of American History, June 2009)

Kevin R. C. Gutzman's study of Virginia in the early republic is the sad story of how the most influential of the thirteen colonies fell under the sway of a clique of cranky reactionaries and set itself on a course to disaster. Virginia's American Revolution might be called history from the middle out. Gutzman has produced a prodigiously researched and useful account of a stratum of political leadership that is often overlooked. (Journal of Southern History, August 2009)

Kevin Gutzman's important new book shows how Virginian patriots sought to secure provincial liberties and create a new American union in the Old Dominion's image. Challenging the conventional nationalist bias in Revolutionary historiography, Gutzman points the way toward a broader, more compelling interpretation of the history of the federal republic in its formative decades. Lucidly written and powerfully argued,Virginia's American Revolution is a superb addition to the literature. (Peter S. Onuf, Thomas Jefferson Foundation Professor, University of Virginia, and author of Jefferson's Empire: The Language of American Nat)

From the Back Cover

Virginia's American Revolution follows the Virginia revolutionaries from their decision for independence on May 15, 1776, through the following 60 years--when the last of them finally passed from the scene. To their surprise, the decision to break with Great Britain entailed reconsideration of virtually all of their major political and social institutions, from the established church, their aristocratic state government, and feudal land tenures to slavery and their federal relations with the other American states. Some of these issues, such as the place of the Church of England in the newly republican Virginia, received quick resolutions; others, such as the nature of the relationship between the elite and other men, were not so easily decided. All of them were considered against the backdrop of Virginia's decline from preeminence in the Revolution and early Republic to the position of just another state in the age of Jackson. By following Virginia's American Revolution from start to finish, this account shows why so many revolutionaries in the Old Dominion died doubting that their great struggle had been worth the effort.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 248 pages
  • Publisher: Lexington Books (November 15, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0739121324
  • ISBN-13: 978-0739121320
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.8 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,255,476 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Kevin Gutzman, JD, PhD, is Professor and Chairman in the Department of History at Western Connecticut State University and a faculty member at LibertyClassroom.com. He is the author of four books, two of which were book club main selections and two of which were best-sellers, has appeared on over 300 radio broadcasts, has published in all the leading history journals, and writes and speaks frequently for popular audiences. See his Web site, KevinGutzman.com, for more information about his books, sample publications, and more.

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Format: Paperback
In his preface Kevin Gutzman writes, "...I wanted to consider Virginia from the state level, because my understanding of the politics (broadly understood) of the period was that state identity dominated people's consciousness in a way barely conceivable now. ...I saw that the chief theme of the [Virginia Ratification Convention] was not the kind of America ratification would make but what effect ratification would have on Virginia."

So begins an indispensible study of a particular cultural and political setting in the early days of the United States, and how the formation of this nation was understood by one state -- Virginia. From the time that England's James I promised to honor Virginia's freedom and the English rights of its citizens through the Revolutionary War and the first decades of the United States, Virginians understood themselves to be an autonomous people who had signed on to the Constitution with the primacy of their state's uniqueness and identity intact. After finishing this book one can better appreciate why, threescore and ten years later, Robert E. Lee would turn down the highest command in the U.S. Army rather than turn his sword upon his home country, Virginia.

Gutzman provides an overview of Virginia's uniquely hierarchical culture -- chiefly descendants of the Caroline kings and their servants -- and introduces the key players who shaped Virginia's understanding of and response to the Ratification Convention: George Bland, Thomson Mason, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and Patrick Henry, among many others. Whether Federalist or Anti-Federalist, all parties worked to ensure Virginia's distinct identity within a non-binding contract of separate states.
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~Virginia's American Revolution: From Dominion to Republic, 1776-1840~ is a well written, erudite constitutional history of my beloved Commonwealth of Virginia from the time of the colonial-revolutionary days onward to the antebellum, post-Jacksonian years preceding the Civil War. Why Virginia? Virginia deserves attention because it was at the epicenter of the political and social life of the early United States. Prior to independence from Britain, Virginia was a country onto itself with land claims that stretched to the Pacific. After the Philadelphia Convention in 1787 to draft a new Constitution, Americans from neighboring states eyed the proceedings of the Virginia convention of 1788 watchfully as if looking in which direction to proceed with Virginia's prompting. As Patrick Henry proclaimed, "The example of Virginia is a mighty thing." The deference afforded to Virginia by her sister states in the early years of the American Republic is apparent by the number of presidents and statesman she bequeathed to the United States. Virginia's political sages included such luminaries as George Washington, Richard Bland, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Patrick Henry, Wilson Nicholas Cary and Littleton Waller Tazewell. Virginia defined her political culture with an insistence on localism and States' Rights.

Hence, author Kevin Gutzman offered a convincing and historically accurate challenge to the ascendant nationalist ideology that swept the West following Springtime Revolutions in 1848 and the American Civil War of 1861-65. Biased nationalist historiography seeks to reread events surrounding the American Revolution through the lens of nineteenth-century nationalist ideology--and the late American Civil War.
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I, like many people, was abruptly woken up from my blissfully ignorant slumber to the political/economic turmoil our country has experienced these last few years. Finding myself insatiably hungry to learn about our history and the foundation this nation was built on I spend alota time studying the history of the American revolution and the early republic from an overall/federal level perspective. Being a citizen of Virginia (and being particularly fond of our flag) I began to wonder a bit more about her part in the Revolution during those times. Thanks to Tom Woods I discovered Kevin Gutzman's epic. Upon opening the first page you will find yourself immersed in the vibrant political scene in central Virginia -the epicenter of the newly forming republic- gaining a sense of the sentiments of the times, the political climate and culture- witnessing the great debates, political schisms and party feuds, all playing out before your eyes in incredible detail, satisfying the most erudite scholar while simultaneously entertaining the laymen historian with it's story-like read. Anyone interested in studying Virginia's (and thereby America's) history must not miss Kevin's incredible book.
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This is truly an amazing work. One must consider Virginia's place within the 13 colonies and the importance that Virginia played during the ratification debates.
Dr. Gutzman introduces you to some key players in Virginia politics that played an important part in the formation of our country, but that are rarely discussed in detail in other works. People such as John Taylor of Caroline, George Mason and Patrick Henry.
Without a doubt, this is the best book that I have read on the early politics of our country and the leading role that Virginia continued to play through Madison's presidency and the Virginia
Resolutions of 1798. Written by James Madison in defiance of the Alien and Sedition Acts and followed by Madison's Report of 1800. Kevin Gutzman provides a detailed description of events during this time frame and presents it both accurately and thoroughly enjoyable writing style.

You owe it to yourself to read this book if you have any interest in the events of this time period and the first mention of interposition and nullification.
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