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The Perils of Peace: America's Struggle for Survival After Yorktown Paperback – Bargain Price, September 30, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
The battle of Yorktown in October 1781 and the surrender of Cornwallis's army to Washington is popularly thought to have made the success of the American Revolution a done deal. True, the war officially ended two years later—but surely its conclusion was only a formality? Novelist and historian Fleming (Washington's Secret War) persuasively argues that, in fact, final victory was by no means inevitable. Indeed, even before Yorktown, the Continental Army had fallen to just 5,835 men and the country was bankrupt, while 26,000 British troops and armed Loyalists remained in North America. Ironically, the battle itself was potentially ruinous, writes Fleming: Washington could ill afford to keep his army in the field—as the British well knew. Their post-Yorktown policy was to drag out diplomatic negotiations for as long as possible until Americans tired of war agreed to reunite with the empire. It was left to Washington to avoid these perils of peace and make the republic a reality. Fleming is a narrative historian with a wide following, and his latest, while not groundbreaking in terms of scholarly research, tells an important story from an unusual perspective. 16 pages of b&w photos. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
Historian Fleming has written about the American Revolution before (Liberty! 1997) and here richly narrates the delicate military, financial, and diplomatic events of 178183, which culminated in Britain's acknowledgment by treaty of American independence. Even after the Battle of Yorktown, accepting the loss of America was never a foregone conclusion as factions within the British government variously wished to continue the war, detach territory, or rescue something for the loyalists. Other complications were a bankrupt Congress and the fact that France was no less interested than Britain in restricting the territorial size of the U.S. Putting in motion the protagonists who dealt with these issuesWashington, financier Robert Morris, Franklin, and French and British negotiatorsFleming crafts a dynamic account that leaves readers as anxious as the actual historical figures about how things will turn out. Will the peace faction in London prevail? Will the unpaid Continental Army revolt and the U.S. fall apart? Will Franklin in Paris succumb to diplomatic sharks? With astutely drawn character sketches, Fleming fluidly engages such historical contingency. Taylor, Gilbert --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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The main criticism I have of this book is that it does not have stronger closing chapter. The issue of backpay for the Continental army was serious enough to cause a mutiny. I didn't see how this was addressed as the army was disbanded. There could have been more follow up on Thomas Paine, Lafayette and King George. But I still thought this was a really good read.
Incredibly, the first Continental Congress required unanimity, total agreement of all the States, before binding legislation on all the States could be adopted. Time and again Rhode Island, the smallest, would go out of their way to obfuscate legislation designed promote the common good. So acrimonious was Rhode Island that not only was the Continental Army not paid during the war, the Army was sent home, disbanded, without receiving its back pay or promised benefits. Yes, that's right; Congress welched on their obligations to the soldiers who fought to gain our independence, sending them home without their pay, food, transportation, medicines or clothing. And remember, the soldiers walked back then, hundreds and hundreds of miles to their homes without so much as a by-your-leave!
Informative, enormously entertaining and well written in the extreme, this spellbinding work is a fascinating look at how the United States could have fallen into the Terror that plagued France after its Revolution. This is a work to savor and enjoy. We were an angel in the whirlwind and it was all of our own making.
It is well organized into subchapters that allow the reader to digest bite size pieces.
Improvements? I'd like a glossary of people. At times, it was hard to follow everything that was going on between Parliament and our ineffective Continental Congress. (Did these men actually want independence or not. I got to read more about this group.) And even though the timeline was only a couple of years, a monthly milestone chart would have helped.
The book gets bogged down, I think, in the chapter that dealt with the debates in Parliament. Here is where a name chart would have been helpful to understand all the players.
I haven't read a lot about this period within our history but I am glad that this is one of the first that I had read. It will lead to others.
Most recent customer reviews
A great book – buy it – borrow it – and read it. As the book details, after the Revolution we were called the United States of America.Read more