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A Leap in the Dark by John Ferling
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A Leap in the Dark (2003)

by John Ferling

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Ferling provides an incredibly detailed study of events that led up to the American Revolution and the struggle afterwards to organize our nation. I learned a lot from this book that I did not know, especially about some of the important characters who played important roles in events before the Revolution. His depiction of the personality and mind of James Madison was also rich and insightful. One warning, though: He comes across at times as an admirer and apologist for Thomas Jefferson, who in my view often acted duplicitously. ( )
  proflinton | Dec 13, 2013 |
- Winner of 2004 Fraunces Tavern Museum Book Award (recognizes books of exceptional merit written on the Revolutionary War era)
- Book #2 by John Ferling I have read and he is my favorite
- Book provides solid revolutionary history that will provide essential stories and figures in America's founding
- Title of this book was taken from a line in a Pennsylvania newspaper essay written in 1776 opposed to American independence. To separate from the mother country, he cautioned, was to make “a leap in the dark”
- This book is about politics, not the war. Book does an excellent job of analyzing the political beliefs of the many founders of our country, providing context in support of significant events that would occur ( )
  CritEER | Aug 23, 2007 |
A Fast Paced Overview

In "A Leap In The Dark", John Ferling turns out a well paced overview of the personalities and political philosophies of the Founding Fathers and their contemporaries.

I was happy to see him start with George Washington and Ben Franklin's younger life, previous to the Revolutionary era. All too often, this formative period is ignored or imagined as unconnected with the beginning days of our Republic.

Only one thing about this book annoyed me, however. Ferling's constant denigration of James Madison revealed his obvious lack of respect for that indispensable Founder. Madison was an incredible man who outlived all the other Founders and was totally integral to every era of our early Republic. From shepherding the birth of the Constitution to becoming an early creator of our two party system, Madison was everywhere. He was even there to disavow what became the Confederate ideas of secession during the 1830s Nullification crisis.

But, Ferling treats Madison like a bumbling idiot. Of course, he is parroting much of the writing of other historians who shares his opinion and since it seems that this entire book is based on secondary research (other scholar's works) and not his own primary research, I guess his dislike of Madison might be expected. After all, Madison had gone through a phase of being unduly discounted by many current historians.

Still, this is a good overview book and should be read by anyone who might be a bit less informed about our Founding era. It most surely will spark interest in further reading.
  WarnerToddHuston | Apr 7, 2007 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0195159241, Hardcover)

It was an age of fascinating leaders and difficult choices, of grand ideas eloquently expressed and of epic conflicts bitterly fought. Now comes a brilliant portrait of the American Revolution, one that is compelling in its prose, fascinating in its details, and provocative in its fresh interpretations.
In A Leap in the Dark, John Ferling offers a magisterial new history that surges from the first rumblings of colonial protest to the volcanic election of 1800. Ferling's swift-moving narrative teems with fascinating details. We see Benjamin Franklin trying to decide if his loyalty was to Great Britain or to America, and we meet George Washington when he was a shrewd planter-businessman who discovered personal economic advantages to American independence. We encounter those who supported the war against Great Britain in 1776, but opposed independence because it was a "leap in the dark." Following the war, we hear talk in the North of secession from the United States. The author offers a gripping account of the most dramatic events of our history, showing just how closely fought were the struggle for independence, the adoption of the Constitution, and the later battle between Federalists and Democratic-Republicans. Yet, without slowing the flow of events, he has also produced a landmark study of leadership and ideas. Here is all the erratic brilliance of Hamilton and Jefferson battling to shape the new nation, and here too is the passion and political shrewdness of revolutionaries, such as Samuel Adams and Patrick Henry, and their Loyalist counterparts, Joseph Galloway and Thomas Hutchinson. Here as well are activists who are not so well known today, men like Abraham Yates, who battled for democratic change, and Theodore Sedgwick, who fought to preserve the political and social system of the colonial past. Ferling shows that throughout this period the epic political battles often resembled today's politics and the politicians--the founders--played a political hardball attendant with enmities, selfish motivations, and bitterness. The political stakes, this book demonstrates, were extraordinary: first to secure independence, then to determine the meaning of the American Revolution.
John Ferling has shown himself to be an insightful historian of our Revolution, and an unusually skillful writer. A Leap in the Dark is his masterpiece, work that provokes, enlightens, and entertains in full measure.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:18:47 -0400)

The author revisits a truly revolutionary period in American history, chronicling the battles over allegiance, philosophy, leadership, and ideas that surrounded the birth of the American republic.

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