Prof. J. C. Batton
25 April 2013
1775: A good year for Revolution
In 1775: A Good Year for Revolution, Phillips says that for too long historians have listed 1776 as the pivotal year in the beginning of the American Revolution. The correct date, he says, is 1775. As he writes in the book’s opening pages, “If 1775 hadn’t been a year of successful national building, 1776 might have been a year of lost opportunity, quiet disappointments, and continued colonial status.” Yes, the Declaration of Independence and the formal separation from the British occurred in 1776. The year before, Phillips argues, laid the groundwork for all that followed. The title, 1775: A Good Year for Revolution, may sound like a more modest undertaking, though its size -- well over 500 pages -- indicates otherwise. In some sense, the argument is simple: 1775, not 1776, was the real hinge of American history, the moment when independence transformed from a possibility to a reality. Indeed, it was only the tremendous sense of momentum that came out of 1775, especially in terms of the string of victories Phillips dubs "the Battle of Boston," that allowed the Patriot cause to absorb the many military blows that followed the Declaration, years in which the "rage militaire" (Phillips) of '75 largely dissipated, especially in the South. "The spirit of '76," by contrast, was a bicentennial marketing device. But the scope of the book is in fact much wider. Phillips offers a sweeping interpretation of the coming of the Revolution that encompasses familiar topics like politics and economics as well as less familiar ones like the logistics of international gunpowder supply and naval tactics. He also foregrounds the interplay between culture and geography, paying special attention to the dynamics of Massachusetts, Connecticut, Virginia and South Carolina, whose role he sees as pivotal (Connecticut and South Carolina too often overlooked). There's also a fine chapter on the...