The American Revolution has among modernists been deemed too pure, too distant; modish historians fancy more the dirty...

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THE AMERICAN ENLIGHTENMENT

The American Revolution has among modernists been deemed too pure, too distant; modish historians fancy more the dirty handiworks of the French and Russian genres. Recently, however, Arendt's On Revolution in part combatted that view, and over the last decade a number of documentary editions of the Founding Fathers' papers were published or projected. The jumbo anthology here offers selections from Franklin, Adams, Jefferson, Madison and Hamilton, both from the letters and works proper. To read them at any time is a stirring and an enriching experience, but what incongruity, what sadness is also evoked when read during an election year! These philosopherstatesmen, these aristoorats of democracy- and even Franklin, in his way, could be called that- how they dwarf the pietistic performing which passes for vote-gathering today. Curious, too- especially as voiced in the high tones of the 18th century-how fundamental the issues remain, either in America or the world. The Jefferson/Hamilton debate over constitutional matters, or the divisive loyalties to the state and federal realms, to decentralization of power and vice-versa. Or the seemingly perennial problem of imperialism and colonialism and the shaping of a nation. Or the question of economic methodology. Above all, perhaps, the underlying discussion of a social ethos, the two-party system, civil liberties, Adam's fear of mobocracy, Madison's legislative beliefs. A brilliant legacy.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 1964

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Braziller

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1964