Select one of the keywords
Apostles of Revolution    by John Ferling order for
Apostles of Revolution
by John Ferling
Order:  USA  Can
Bloomsbury, 2018 (2018)
Hardcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

I read John Ferling's excellent history book, Apostles of Revolution: Jefferson, Paine, Monroe, and the Struggle Against the Old Order in America and Europe, while watching the TV series, TURN: Washington's Spies. The overlaps in coverage made each of them more intriguing.

I learned that these three pivotal (though very different) individuals were after much more than American independence. Rather, they hoped to create a movement to sweep away monarchical rule across Europe. Indeed, all three were involved, in different ways (detailed in this volume), in the French Revolution. Ferling tells us that 'They were true radicals whose belief in democracy and egalitarianism was exceptional in their time'.

It was also fascinating to read of the insecurity in its early days of the new United States of America, of the rise of partisan politics, of the western quandary, and of the shifting balance of power between the states and central government, all strongly influenced (rather ironically) by the continuing hold on power of the new country's upper classes.

There are lessons to be learned to this day, from accounts of how extreme inequity in the living conditions of a country's citizens can make it ripe for revolution, as happened in France. Jefferson was concerned that in many places, 'one generation of the elite after another had wielded their authority "to invent" legal "devices" for hoarding their wealth and denying others the opportunity to improve their status.'

The trio certainly lived in interesting times, almost too interesting for Paine, who came close to being guillotined in France. Ferling comments that 'the three apostles of revolution might conclude that much in modern America mirrored what they thought was despicable in the England of the late eighteenth century.' His book certainly reminds us of the importance of political engagement in 'times that try men's souls.'

Note: Opinions expressed in reviews and articles on this site are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of BookLoons.

Find more NonFiction books on our Shelves or in our book Reviews