Our nation has produced comparatively few statesmen since the eighteenth century - only Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt seem to clearly qualify - whereas the American Revolution elevated several of its key players to a status of the first political order. Even the shortest list must include Franklin, Hamilton, and the first four presidents. The opening essays in Don Higginbotham's new collection look at the epochal achievements of the Revolutionary era through the perspectives of war, leadership, and state formation. Higginbotham examines how the blend of key personages influenced the creation of a federal system and led to the establishment of a new kind of militia and of West Point, a military academy distinctly different from its counterparts in Europe. The collection also provides a fascinating view into the character of George Washington through an essay examining his relationships with women. The concluding essays turn to the post-Revolutionary era to examine how the North and South, despite profound and persistent bonds, began to grow apart. Higginbotham traces the deepening sectional crisis within the context of the election of Lincoln, and he ends his book with the approach of a second revolution - that of the Confederacy. All of the essays demonstrate Higginbotham's belief that history is not shaped simply by vast, impersonal forces but that, on the contrary, significant and lasting change is to a large extent brought about by the interaction and decisions of individuals. Our unique and remarkable history is a reflection of remarkable people.
Don Higginbotham, author of George Washington and the American Military Tradition and George Washington Reconsidered (Virginia), among numerous other books, is Dowd Professor of History and Peace, War, and Defense at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.