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Revolutionary Prophecies

The Founders and America’s Future
Edited by Robert M. S. McDonald and Peter S. Onuf
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BUY Cloth · 288 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813944494 · $42.50 · Dec 2020
BUY Ebook · 288 pp. · ISBN 9780813945002 · $42.50 · Dec 2020

The America of the early republic was built on an experiment, a hopeful prophecy that would only be fulfilled if an enlightened people could find its way through its past and into a future. Americans recognized that its promises would only be fully redeemed at a future date. In Revolutionary Prophecies, renowned historians Robert M. S. McDonald and Peter S. Onuf summon a diverse cast of characters from the founding generation—all of whom, in different ways, reveal how their understanding of the past and present shaped hopes, ambitions, and anxieties for or about the future.

The essays in this wide-ranging volume explore the historical consciousness of Americans caught up in the Revolution and its aftermath. By focusing on how various individuals and groups envisioned their future, the contributors show that revolutionary Americans knew they were making choices that would redirect the "course of human events." Looking at prominent leaders such as Washington, Adams, Franklin, Hamilton, Madison, and Monroe, as well as more common people, from backcountry rebels and American Indians to printer Isaiah Thomas, the authors illuminate the range and complexity of the ways in which men and women of the founding generation imagined their future—and made our history.

Reviews:


This provocative collection reminds us that the hotly contested geopolitical and cultural programs of the early republic were risk-taking projections of the revolutionary imagination, rooted in hopeful visions of a secure American future and a longed-for unity that was always threatening to unravel. In describing and evaluating various ‘prophecies’ from the founding generation, these essays suggest that to imagine the future in Revolutionary America was to participate in making its history.

Brian Steele, University of Alabama, Birmingham, author of Thomas Jefferson and American Nationhood

About the Author(s): 

Robert M. S. McDonald is Professor of History at the United States Military Academy and, most recently, editor of Thomas Jefferson’s Lives: Biographers and the Battle for History (Virginia). Peter S. Onuf, Thomas Jefferson Foundation Professor Emeritus at the University of Virginia, is coeditor of The Founding of Thomas Jefferson’s University (Virginia), among other works.

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