Book Review – The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution

Review:  “The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution”

In the preamble of “The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution” indicates that he felt marked excitement and viewed himself as a discoverer at Harvard University. At the university, he explored the revolutionary America’s ideological premises. He indicates that is keen on bequeathing those who read the book the excitement. Bernard Bailyn disapproves the understanding that the American Revolution was essentially a struggle of competing social classes. Those who held the understanding as spot on promoted in their public, as well as private writings. Bailyn demonstrates that the fear the expressed that given conspiracies, corruption, and slavery threatened sweeping libertarianism was authentic. In the book, Bailyn explores the countrywide debate on the constitution’s ratification. He shows that there has always been a struggle between the national government’s foundations on one hand and the revolution’s original persuasions and principles on the other. He demonstrates that the USA’s national ideological sources have remained persistent to date.

Bailyn writes that the revolution’s leaders were all radicals. He writes that the leaders’ principal concern was not to end income or class-related inequalities. They were not keen on remaking the then extant social order. Rather, the leaders were keen on purifying the constitution, which they deemed corrupt. As well, they were keen on fighting off the perceptible development of privileged power. According to Bailyn, the leaders desired to repair a constitutional system that they deemed broken. They desired to repair the then prevailing social thoughts, especially Enlightenment and English conservatism. They were out to ensure that the thoughts refrained from retrospective understandings of medieval Roman civilization in favor of forward-focused perceptions of the people inhabiting the New World.

Bailyn appraises the diverse origins of the conflicting notions about the leaders. He reflects on how the constitution’s framers resolved such notions, especially by inventing the federalism doctrine. He puts efforts in examining the thoughts of those who executed the revolution. “The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution” is hinged on the analyses and surveys of many political publications, especially pamphlets. The publications were published a few years prior to the revolution. The book benefited also markedly from several other momentous scholarship works like the treatise penned by Caroline Robbins about the traditions that define Commonwealth. In his book, Bailyn succeeds in establishing the meanings that revolutionaries drew from terms such as republicanism, liberty as well as power. In the book, the author appears to easily strip away the outdated accretions characterizing the terms and related ideas. In addition, he appears to recover the revolutionaries’ actual thoughts along with the real thoughts of the revolutionaries’ rivals or opponents.

For students of the revolution, the book certainly comes off as a highly influential treatise. It offers insights into the early pamphlets on the revolution. Interestingly, Bailyn demonstrates that, generally, all the pamphlets had many similarities: invocation of particular figures like John Wilkes, language, and the attendant arguments. Bailyn credibly demonstrates that the pamphlets’ contents aimed at giving pointers to the social thoughts that defined the English colonies in North America.[1] In “The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution”, the author profoundly, as well as considerably, changes the direction and character of the typical inquiries on the revolution. As well, he erects a novel framework for the interpretation of a lengthy component of the US’ history. In all the areas explored by the book, Bailyn transforms what history students along with scholars priory thought regarding the colonies, and the revolution.

Bailyn uncovers a range of notions that colored the lives of the revolutionaries. Prior to the publication of the book, it is quite probable that the majority of the present historians did not know that the notions, or ideas, existed. Bailyn projects the ideas as radical, especially with respect to liberty and power. He projects the ideas as profoundly informed and fueled by conspiracy-related fears. As well, he amply and persuasively explains that the ideas triggered and sustained the revolution from the 1760s.

Through the book, Bailyn’s attainment is assorted. He succeeds in demonstrating that the leading scholarly influence on the revolution’s executors was a set of various classical models. The models included Enlightenment, British political and intellectual dissent traditions, common law tradition along with the covenant theology. The dissent defined the 17th century’s commonwealth arrangement. The models’ lenses were particularly essential and bound related multiple interpretative lens and traditions. Through the other foreign, or received, ideas were appraised. Bailyn convincingly demonstrates the ideas’ articulation particularly within America. He convincingly demonstrates how the ideas inevitably occasioned conflicts with the then Britain’s growing imperial authority. The book is a vitally acclaimed treatise. The author comes off as fueled by odd courage in his efforts to appreciate the revolutionaries as they appreciated themselves.

The book is a classic in which Bailyn giftedly explores the revolutionaries’ ideological persuasions and backgrounds. He brilliantly demonstrates that the revolutionaries were inclined towards opposition republican, as well as libertarian, English literature. He brilliantly overturns classical interpretations that project Locke as the elementary influence by showing the critical significance of individuals like Algernon Sidney, Lord Bolingbroke along with Thomas Gordon. Even then, the author acknowledges the significance, as well as centrality, of the natural rights principles and philosophy associated with Locke. He views the elementary philosophy underlying the revolution as having been a philosophy that perceives power as the persistent adversary of human freedom, or liberty.

Bailyn convinces his audiences that power ought to be restrained and watched keenly to ensure that it persists within its set limits rather than ending liberty and facilitating slavery. As opposed to numerous other historians, Bailyn asserts that the constitution does not repudiate the revolution. He asserts that the constitution is the revolution’s fulfillment, or realization. Notably, that assertion attracts significant skepticism although it appears to be hinged on sound scholarship. The reasoning behind the assertion is challenging as well as suggestive.

“The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution” would be quite assistive to students of the early history and the early political philosophy of America. In addition, it provides study materials that all Americans who love liberty would find quite instructive. That is because it lays bare the character of their motherland’s strictly sweeping libertarian foundations. The book is a highly scholarly treatise with far-reaching footnotes. It is written tightly. The political messages in it are rather sophisticated. Its author writes with marked integrity and authority, which appears to stem from his meticulous mastery of the early history and the early political philosophy of America. He presents analyses that are perceptive. He matches the analyses with scrupulous scholarship. There are indications that his exposition and scholarship, as shown in the book, will remain stimulating for many decades to come.

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