Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, and James Monroe were in the vanguard of revolutionary ideas in the 18th century. As founding fathers, they risked their lives for American independence, but they also wanted more. Each wished for profound changes in the political and social fabric of pre-1776 America and hoped that the American Revolution would spark republican and egalitarian revolutions throughout Europe, sweeping away the old monarchical order. Ultimately, each rejoiced at the opportunity to be a part of the French Revolution, a cause that became untenable as idealism gave way to the bloody Terror.
Apostles of Revolution spans a crucial period in Western Civilization ranging from the American insurgency against Great Britain to the Declaration of Independence, from desperate engagements on American battlefields to the threat posed to the ideals of the Revolution by the Federalist Party. With the French Revolution devolving into anarchy in the background, the era culminates with the “Revolution of 1800,” Jefferson’s election as president.
Written as a sweeping narrative of a pivotal epoch, Apostles of Revolution captures the turbulent spirit of the times and the personal dangers experienced by Jefferson, Paine, and Monroe. It reminds us that the liberty we take for granted is ours only because we, both champions and common citizens, have fought for it.
John Ferling is professor emeritus of history at the University of West Georgia. He is the author of many books on American Revolutionary history, including The Ascent of George Washington; Almost a Miracle, an acclaimed military history of the War of Independence; and the award-winning A Leap in the Dark and Whirlwind: The American Revolution and the War That Won It. His most recent book on American history is Apostles of Revolution: Jefferson, Paine, Monroe, and the Struggle Against the Old Order in America and Europe. He and his wife, Carol, live near Atlanta, Georgia.