FROM COLONY TO COUNTRY: The Revolution in American Thought, 1750-1820 by Ralph Ketcham

FROM COLONY TO COUNTRY: The Revolution in American Thought, 1750-1820

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The formation of an American ""national character"" as traced chiefly through the thought of prominent leaders. Scholars' debates about whether the colonists were peculiarly American before the Revolution have often grown tiresome; Ketcham claims persuasively that that generation ""was thoroughly, compulsively English in almost all its articulated manifestations"" and shows how -- especially during the 1760's and early 1770's -- the New World spokesmen were shocked to discover England first-hand as less than a bastion of Enlightenment. ""One may easily conjecture,"" wrote Franklin, ""what Reception a Petition concerning Privileges from the Colonies may meet from those who are known to think even the People of England have too many."" The evangelical trend, and most of all the general absorption of religious principles into political thought, was the basis of the new American character. And while Ketcham follows those who feared ""democratical whimsies,"" the republican spirit and the prosperous yeomanry underlying it are made vital and distinctive in what otherwise becomes a mere slither of post-Revolutionary opinions on slavery, the Jefferson-Hamilton clash, the lack of what Freneau called ""polite authors"" of stature. Ketcham is a noted Madison-Franklin authority, and the book, though it fails to excite, offers a broad, pleasant, Whiggish survey.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1974
Publisher: Macmillan