THE BIRTH OF THE NATION
Portrait Of The American People On The Eve Of Independence
The author, who finished this book just before his death in 1965, was a Harvard professor of considerable stature as well as the father of Arthur, Jr. From a scholarly point of view, the book sidesteps the preludes to the domestic, democratic revolution which developed concurrently with the War of Independence; instead, Schlesinger merely claims that everyone took a class structure for granted. But then legislative struggles lie on the periphery of this study. It is a social history in its best and largest descriptions. Bundling, smuggling, coping with sewage and crime, the colonists seem as vital a bunch as we were brought up to believe. There is an adumbration of the darker side (Yankee slave-traders as well as Southern masters) and a few cliche-busters (only a minority formally belonged to any church). Yet it's principally the sweeter, lighter side--scant mention of the French and Indian Wars; a claim that the aristocracy was benign and unresented; little about taxes and governmental structures; and little inkling of the half-hearted support for the Spirit of '76. It's an utter delight to read; no substitute for classics like the Beards, Dorfman or Jameson, much less new, rigorous scholarship--but a worthy complement.