Synopses & Reviews
In 1768, Philadelphia physician Benjamin Rush stood before the empty throne of King George III, overcome with emotion as he gazed at the symbol of Americaand#8217;s connection with England. Eight years later, he became one of the fifty-six men to sign the Declaration of Independence, severing America forever from its mother country. Rush was not alone in his radical decisionand#151;many of those casting their votes in favor of independence did so with a combination of fear, reluctance, and even sadness.
In Our Lives, Our Fortunes and Our Sacred Honor, acclaimed historian Richard R. Beeman examines the grueling twenty-two-month period between the meeting of the Continental Congress on September 5, 1774 and the audacious decision for independence in July of 1776. As late as 1774, American independence was hardly inevitableand#151;indeed, most Americans found it neither desirable nor likely. When delegates from the thirteen colonies gathered in September, they were, in the words of John Adams, and#147;a gathering of strangers.and#8221; Yet over the next two years, military, political, and diplomatic events catalyzed a change of unprecedented magnitude: the colonistsand#8217; rejection of their British identities in favor of American ones. In arresting detail, Beeman brings to life a cast of characters, including the relentless and passionate John Adams, Adamsand#8217; much-misunderstood foil John Dickinson, the fiery political activist Samuel Adams, and the relative political neophyte Thomas Jefferson, and with profound insight reveals their path from subjects of England to citizens of a new nation.
A vibrant narrative, Our Lives, Our Fortunes and Our Sacred Honor tells the remarkable story of how the delegates to the Continental Congress, through courage and compromise, came to dedicate themselves to the forging of American independence.
"In this comprehensive account, Beeman examines the American colonists' transition from 'loyal' subjects of the British Crown in 1774 to the 'radical' rebels of 1776. The University of Pennsylvania history professor argues that the journey along the revolutionary path was a slow one, and freedom was never the guaranteed endpoint. His take on the matter is full of fascinating details, like the Sons of Liberty footing the bill for a pack of tailors to dress up the 'notoriously' scruffy Samuel Adams for the First Continental Congress, as well as Patrick Henry's metamorphosis from failed merchant to lawyer to the Virginian 'son of thunder.' Beeman also profiles lesser known figures like Charles Thomson, secretary of the Continental Congress, who burned all of his secret notes on the revolution in order to preserve the myth of the 'supposed wisdom and valor' of America's foremost liberators. But fascinating particulars aside, the narrative contains little new analysis Beeman's Founding Fathers are the familiar ones. It's clear that the National Book Award finalist (for Patrick Henry) knows his stuff, but unnecessarily stodgy prose ('there was no shortage of places in which they could find opportunities for the convivial consumption of alcohol') will likely deter casual readers. Illus. Agent: John Wright, John W. Wright Literary Agency." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
and#147;Richard Beemanand#8217;s account of the movement to American independence is gripping, even if the reader knows the subject well and has no doubt as to how it ends.... We are fortunate to have as readable and cogent account of it as Our Lives, Our Fortunes and Our Sacred Honor
and#147;New insight to an old story.... Beeman is a strong, direct writer, adept at bringing historical personalities to life.and#8221;
and#147;Our best history of the Continental Congress and the grand debate that led to independence.... With back-room deals and personality clashes in abundance, Beeman's tale of independence is as complex, worldly, and occasionally tedious as modern-day politics.and#8221;
and#151;Books and Culture
and#147;You walk away from Our Lives with the undeniable impression that the Founding Fathers really were giants, however flawed, who single-handedly created American democracy.and#8221;
and#147;The American Revolution tends to bring out the best in its chroniclers. Case in point: Richard Beemanand#8217;s latest book, Our Lives, Our Fortunes, and Our Sacred Honor: The Forging of American Independence, 1774-1776. Itand#8217;s a charming, fast-paced retelling of a narrative thatand#8217;s been retold a thousand times before.... Itand#8217;s not really the historianand#8217;s trade heand#8217;s plying in these pages but rather the epic poetand#8217;s: reciting the grand old stories while the wine of patriot season flows and the night sky over Boston is filled with fireworks. Thereand#8217;s a worth to that, and Beeman has written a worthy book.and#8221;
and#151;Open Letters Monthly
and#147;This book should be required reading in every college survey course on American History.... An outstanding book that should become an instant classic and needs to be on the bookshelf of anyone who fancies themselves knowledgeable about the Revolutionary Period.and#8221;
and#151;Battles and Book Reviews
and#147;[Beeman] demonstrates his virtuosity.... The book abounds with colorful descriptions and personalitiesand#133;.vivid writing.and#8221;
and#151;Cleveland Plain Dealer
and#147;[A] winningly delivered twice-told tale about the founding events of the United States.and#8221;
and#151;New York Times Book Review
and#147;Beemanand#8217;s prose captures those tensions and facilitates the imagination so the reader can feel a part of the debate.... Our Lives, Our Fortunes and Our Sacred Honor is an appropriate complement to David Stewartand#8217;s The Summer of 1787.... Beeman has produced an authoritative account of how this nation was imagined, and how the members from different sections of the continent were able to put aside their differences and to explore their differing philosophical, political and market needs to form an embryonic government that has grown to be a beacon for other communities seeking self-governance.and#8221;
and#147;An engaging history of the Founders of 1776.and#8221;
and#147;Full of fascinating details.and#8221;
and#147;Lively study of the main players of the two Continental Congresses.... Beeman elegantly moves through the deeply compelling process of how these motley characters fashioned government as an agency for the people. A welcome addition to a rich, indispensable field of scholarly study.and#8221;
and#151;Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review
and#147;The biggest accomplishment in all of American politics was the first. Richard Beeman tells the intricate, grinding, suspenseful story of how thirteen contentious colonies agreed to leave an empire and form a nation.and#8221;
and#151;Richard Brookhiser, author of James Madison
and#147;With a dazzling combination of effortless prose and impeccable research, Richard Beeman has given us a fresh understanding of how thirteen very differentandmdash;and often differingandmdash;colonies became a nation.and#8221;
and#151;Thomas Fleming, author of Liberty!: The American Revolution
and#147;An eloquent scholar and insightful analyst, Richard Beeman has written a powerful and vivid account of the making of what is arguably our most cited and least understood founding document: the Declaration of Independence. This is a valuable and important book.and#8221;
and#151;Jon Meacham, author of Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power and American Lion
and#147;A solid and lucid account of the momentous years leading up to the Revolution by one of early Americaand#8217;s expert historians. Indeed, the story of those two years 1774-1776 has never been better told.and#8221;
and#151;Gordon Wood, Professor of History Emeritus at Brown University
In 1774 American independence was hardly inevitableindeed, most Americans found it neither desirable nor likely. When delegates from the thirteen colonies gathered in September 1774, they were, in the words of John Adams, a gathering of strangers.” With their differing interests and cultural perspectives, perhaps the only thing that bound them together was their common identity as subjects of the British Crown. But as they confronted the array of political, diplomatic, and military challenges facing them during the twenty-two months before the signing of the Declaration of Independence, they gradually shed both their provincial and their British identities and became leaders of an American cause. With narrative verve and deep historical understanding, Richard R. Beeman tells the remarkable story of how the delegates to the Continental Congress, through courage and compromise, came to dedicate their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to the forging of American independence.
About the Author
Richard R. Beeman
is the John Welsh Centennial Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania. The author of six books on the American Revolution and the Constitution, Beeman was a National Book Award finalist for Patrick Henry
and winner of the George Washington Book Prize for Plain, Honest Men
. He lives in Media, Pennsylvania.