REVIEWS democratic thought at the expense of a fully rounded intellectual history of the period. Nonetheless, this book should coax historians to revise their established narratives of the early history of American democracy. Cotlar asserts the ``redefinition of politics to include the actions of non-elite and non-elected citizens was perhaps the early 1790's democrats' most radical and lasting accomplishment'' (180). Betting on the efficacy of popular politics panned out far better than the hope that revolutions beyond America's borders would buoy support for a radical political reform. Events in France, as well as in the British Isles and the Caribbean, lay beyond the democratic printer's control--with the danger that violence, repression, or race would remind large numbers of Americans that they did not in fact want to imitate, let alone tie their fates to, others. Tom Paine's America identifies the radicals' ``utopian'' (5) disposition; indeed, many of their ideas lacked staying power, at least in the short run. Still, common sense was more democratic in 1802, upon Paine's return, than it had been when he arrived in America for the first time in 1774, whether or not anyone properly thanked the erstwhile apostle of liberty. Da vid G
Journal of the Early Republic – University of Pennsylvania Press
Published: Feb 8, 2012
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