J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Sunday, July 13, 2014

Consequential Questions

The Journal of the American Revolution (AllThingsLiberty.com) has once again asked its contributors, including me, some questions and run the answers over the course of a week. These were the questions last week—

“Greatest consequence of the American Revolution?” My answer leaned toward what Chou En-lai was reported to have said about the consequences of the French Revolution: “It’s too soon to tell.” Alas, that quotation has turned out to be based on a misunderstanding—the Chinese premier was actually speaking about the recent Paris uprising of 1968. But I still think we can screw up the Revolution. As in Abraham Lincoln’s formulation, the American democracy is a proposition, not a proof.

“Aside from John and Abigail, what was the best husband-wife duo of the Revolution? Why?” I consciously avoided what turned out to be the clearly most popular answer, but still was not alone in my choice.

“Most important diplomatic action of the war? Why?” Another example of me trying to be contrarian.

“Favorite RevWar site (battlefield, home, museum, etc.) to visit today? Why?” As another contributor said, this was the question I found hardest to answer. For a while I was thinking of skipping it entirely. A big part of the problem is that, as much as I enjoy visiting historic sites, what really thrills me is working with documents in archives or with books, whether or not they’re located in a historic setting.

“Propaganda was important during the Revolution. What is your favorite propaganda item? Why?” So naturally I chose a set of documents and books I’ve worked with.

1 comment:

Janet Wedge said...

It's amazing that the correspondence between John Jay and his wife Sarah Livingston Jay is so neglected. Sarah was the daughter of William Livingston and was well educated and politically aware. She and her husband were frequently separated and therefore there is a wealth of letters. Most of the Jay material is at the Rare Book and Manuscript Library of Columbia University; it has been digitized.
While I'm on the subject why, I wonder, is John Jay never given sufficient credit for his many contributions during the revolutionary period and early nationhood. He was peace negotiator for the treaty that ended the Revolution, secretary for foreign affairs while the Articles of Confederation were in effect, supporter of the passage of the Constitution in New York State, the Chief Justice of the first US Supreme Court and the negotiator of the so-called Jay Treaty in 1794--and a two-term governor of New York State.