The Birth Of The Republic, originally published in 1956 and reissued again in 1977 and 1992, remains the most concise presentation of the half-century period that led to the emergence of an independent America. Written in an easy, readable style, Morgan provides an overview of what was the first example in modern history of democracy at work. Beginning with an examination of the unique relationship the colonies had with their mother country, Great Britain, Morgan relates how this relationship went from being extremely comfortable to being extremely acrimonious.
Morgan makes it quite evident that the break between the colonies and Great Britain stemmed from the insistence of the latter to tax the former without allowing them any sort of representation in Parliament. However, the colonists felt there was a boundary on Parliamentary power and authority in America: “It could legislate, but it could not tax” (p. 27). Instead, the power of taxation within the colonies lay with elected colonial representatives.
This principle would be maintained throughout the entire Revolutionary era, “not simply as an abstract statement of political theory, not simply as a means of evading a particular tax, but as a way of safeguarding the…liberty” they so greatly valued (p. 52). Despite their need to maintain the liberty they valued, Morgan points out that the colonists were still desirous of holding on to the past.
They attempted to do so by using “English…history for precedents to justify their constitutional position, to show that they were still true to English traditions”; yet, in reality, they were moving down a path that would lead them to discover “the principle of human equality” (p. 66). Not only were they moving down a new path, they were doing so in a more unified manner than they had ever been since the colonies had formed. This, along with the principles of liberty, equality, and freedom, would be the legacy that would be left from this momentous period in history.
The Birth Of The Republic is an excellent book for any person seeking an overview of the Revolutionary period. Excluding the foreword, preface, appendix, bibliography, and timeline, the text is just a mere 156 pages of clear and concise writing. Morgan touches on all the major facets of the period without drowning the reader in minute details. Furthermore, there is no need for the reader to continually refer back to a previous chapter to clarify any information presented.
One surprising element of the book is the fact that there is no one person on whom Morgan focuses. All the various people that played a role in the events of the period are treated on an equal level. Thus, Morgan maintains the spirit of the period by adhering to the principle of all men being created equal. The only drawback to this book would be the lack of emphasis put on the details of the various battles of the Revolutionary War. Therefore, this book would not appeal to those who are more military-minded.
However, for history students seeking an easily understood account of the period or for those who just have an interest in early American history, this book is perfect. It also provides an excellent bibliography, which the reader can utilize to go into more depth about the period, as well as a brief timeline of the period. The goal Morgan had in writing this book was to present a clear picture of the Revolutionary period, and he does so with resounding success.
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