Tuesday, August 16, 2011

"A Tale of Greed, Legal Chaos, and Corrupt Business Practices"

"Just how these contests over land play into the Revolution is one of the most debated questions in American history. In 1909, historian Carl Becker argued that the American Revolution was not so much about home rule as 'who should rule at home.' The struggle for independence, in other words, centered less on exalted principles than on the quest for political and economic power by provincial elites. Popular among muckraking classes during the age of Robber Barons, this interpretation was hard to reconcile with a patriotic account of the nation's founding and eventually fell out of favor.
"So Randall is stuck between a rock and a hard place, interpretatively speaking. He wants to connect the Vermont insurrection to 'a greater cause,' to make it the first battle of the American Revolution. And perhaps it was. But if so, does it turn Allen and his Green Mountain Boys into patriots, as Randall would have it? Or does it turn the leaders of the Revolution into bandits, seizing an entire continent for personal gain and dressing the crime up with pretty words?"

Fran├žois Furstenberg in Slate reviews Willard Sterne Randall's Ethan Allen: His Life and Times.

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