Synopses & Reviews
This is the rambunctious story of how America came to declare independence in Philadelphia in 1776. As late as that May, the Continental Congress had no plans to break away from England. Troops under General George Washington had been fighting the British for nearly a year—yet in Philadelphia a mighty bloc known as "reconciliationists," led by the influential Pennsylvanian John Dickinson, strove to keep America part of the British Empire. But a cadre of activists—led by the mysterious Samuel Adams of Massachusetts and assisted by his nervous cousin John—plotted to bring about American independence. Their audacious secret plan proposed overturning the reconciliationist government of Pennsylvania and replacing it with pro-independence leaders. Remarkably, the adventure succeeded. The Adams coalition set in motion a startling chain of events in the Philadelphia streets, in the Continental Congress, and throughout the country that culminated in the Declaration of Independence on July 4. In Declaration William Hogeland brings to vibrant life both the day-to-day excitement and the profound importance of those nine fast-paced weeks essential to the American founding yet little known today. He depicts the strange-bedfellow alliance the Adamses formed with scruffy Philadelphia outsiders and elegant Virginia planters to demand liberty. He paints intimate portraits of key figures: John Dickinson, a patriot who found himself outmaneuvered on the losing side of history; Benjamin Franklin, the most famous man in America, engaged in and perplexed by his citys upheavals; Samuel Adams, implacable in changing the direction of Congress; his cousin John, anxious about the democratic aspirations of their rabble-rousing Philadelphia allies; and those democratic radical organizers themselves, essential to bringing about independence, all but forgotten until now. As the patriots adventure gathers toward the world-changing climax of the Declaration, conflicts and ironies arise, with trenchant relevance for the most important issues confronting Americans today. Declaration offers a fresh, gripping, and vivid portrait of the passionate men and thrilling events that gave our country birth.
“In this dynamic narrative, William Hogeland convincingly demonstrates that America’s decision for independence was anything but inevitable. Hogeland’s lively portrayal of the principal actors in the drama -- Sam Adams, John Adams, Tom Paine, and a fascinating cast of lesser-known street radicals -- is superb. As we follow his story, we come to appreciate anew the ways in which those nine weeks preceding independence would change not only America, but also the world.”
--Richard R. Beeman, Professor of History, University of Pennsylvania, and author of Plain, Honest Men: The Making of the American Constitution
“For William Hogeland, thinking about history is an act of moral inquiry and high citizenship. A searching and original voice.”
—Rick Perlstein, author of Nixonland
“A vivid and thrilling account of the struggles that tipped the balance for independence in the weeks before the Declaration. Moving between the politics of the street and the politics of the State House, Hogeland traces the working-class 1776 revolution in Philadelphia back to seventeenth-century English radicals like Levellers and Diggers, and he dramatizes a conflict between upscale American Whigs and radical American democrats, which resonates throughout our history and continues in tensions between radicals and accomodationist liberals today. Along the way, a new and more complex and nuanced John Adams emerges. As with a good novel, I was sorry when it ended.”
-- Jesse Lemisch, Professor Emeritus of History, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York
“William Hogeland, a talented historian with a strong narrative gift . . . brings to life not only the usual heroic figures from this period but also a supporting cast of scoundrels, idealists and cranks.”
--Aram Bakshian, Jr., The Wall Street Journal
"A well-told, page-turning play-by-play. . . . Even though we know the end of the story, Declaration
creates quite a bit of suspense. This is testament to Hogeland's impressive narrative skill. And despite the dramatic nature of Declaration
, Hogeland manages to simultaneously offer an even-handed history and an implicit critique of contemporary politics."
—Michael Washburn, The Boston Globe
Hogeland relates the story of nine weeks in 1776--May 1-July 4--when a small band of patriots carried out a plan to break with England, culminating in the Declaration of Independence.
About the Author
William Hogeland has published in numerous print and online periodicals, including The New York Times, The Atlantic Monthly, and Slate. He lives and writes in Brooklyn, New York.