Joseph Ellis Explains Just How Revolutionary The Revolution Was

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Editing his grandfather’s papers in the 1850s, Charles Francis Adams warned of a tendency “to forget that the patriots of former days were men like ourselves . . . and we are almost irresistibly led to ascribe to them in our imaginations certain gigantic proportions and superhuman qualities, without reflecting that this at once robs their character of consistency and their virtues of all merit.” Though he has built a career on chronicling the great men of yesteryear, Joseph Ellis is ever mindful of this problem. The result is another fine book that will inform scholars and general readers alike.

 
—Joshua Zeitz is a contributing editor of American Heritage and the author of Flapper: A Madcap Story of Sex, Style, Celebrity, and the Women Who Made
America Modern (Crown 2006).