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The Cause: The American Revolution and its Discontents, 1773-1783 (Hardcover)
A culminating work on the American Founding by one of its leading historians, The Cause rethinks the American Revolution as we have known it.
George Washington claimed that anyone who attempted to provide an accurate account of the war for independence would be accused of writing fiction. At the time, no one called it the “American Revolution”: former colonists still regarded themselves as Virginians or Pennsylvanians, not Americans, while John Adams insisted that the British were the real revolutionaries, for attempting to impose radical change without their colonists’ consent.
With The Cause, Ellis takes a fresh look at the events between 1773 and 1783, recovering a war more brutal than any in American history save the Civil War and discovering a strange breed of “prudent” revolutionaries, whose prudence proved wise yet tragic when it came to slavery, the original sin that still haunts our land. Written with flair and drama, The Cause brings together a cast of familiar and forgotten characters who, taken together, challenge the story we have long told ourselves about our origins as a people and a nation.
About the Author
Joseph J. Ellis is the best-selling author of twelve previous books, including American Sphinx, which won the National Book Award, and Founding Brothers, which won the Pulitzer Prize. He lives in Amherst, Massachusetts, and Plymouth, Vermont.
The colonists didn’t describe their war for independence as the American Revolution, Pulitzer winner Ellis (American Dialogue) points out in the preface to this richly detailed, multivoiced history. The term they used was “The Cause”—“a conveniently ambiguous label that provided a verbal canopy under which a diverse variety of political and regional persuasions could coexist.” Ellis skillfully charts those divergent interests.... Profiles of lesser-known figures including Continental Army soldier Joseph Plumb Martin and Mohawk chief Joseph Brant add depth and nuance to a familiar story. This expert account highlights the “improvisational” nature of America’s founding.
— Publishers Weekly
With his characteristically graceful prose, Ellis offers a short, straightforward history of a critical decade in the nation’s youth.... [from] a master storyteller known for perceptive detailing. As is always the case with Ellis, he is brilliant at short takes—events, decisions, individuals.... True to his own skills at bringing people alive, Ellis also includes sympathetic mini-profiles of normal, unsung participants in the period’s fraught events: loyalists, women, Native Americans, Joseph Plum Martin (“the Zelig of the American Revolution”), and, perhaps the most captivating, Washington’s personal slave, Billy Lee.... It’s hard to imagine a better-told brief history of the key years of the American Revolution.
— Kirkus Reviews
Ellis’s witty style and astute analysis make this essential reading for historians and enthusiasts at all levels who want to disentangle the complex historiography of the American Revolution.
— Margaret Kappanadze - Library Journal
Ruing Washington’s postwar hesitance to set an example by freeing his slaves, Ellis underscores the moral failings and deferrals that were then deemed necessary to ensure political unity. In all, a fresh and astute analysis of the American Revolution.
— Gilbert Taylor - Booklist