To Make a People: Strategic Rhetoric and the Declaration of Independence

To get to July 4, 1776, required no small amount of strategic thinking, of prudent statesmanship, of expert melding together of situational awareness, rhetorical prowess, alliance-leveraging, and political maneuverings. Jefferson was acutely aware that among the American colonial politicians of his day, there was an “inequality of pace with which [they] moved” towards the end goal of political independence from Great Britain, and that therefore a great “prudence [was] required to keep front and rear together,” for them ever to hope to be successful in the undertaking. How Jefferson and the more zealous members of his set built up to the Declaration of Independence is arguably a masterclass in statecraft, with publication of Jefferson’s Summary View as their opening move.

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Sir Martin Gilbert: History as Chronicle

In 1960, the eminent Oxford historian A.J.P. Taylor gave a bit of advice to young students. Avoid working on three things, because they are either irrelevant or already thoroughly plowed over: maps, Winston Churchill, and unpublished documents. Fortunately, at least in one particular instance, that advice was ignored. Sir Martin Gilbert, who passed away at the age of 78, was one of the most prolific of modern historians. He wrote 88 books, including histories of the Holocaust, of the world wars and of the 20th century. He is best known as the official biographer of Churchill, having assumed that duty after the second volume from Churchill’s son, Randolph (Gilbert had served as Randolph’s research assistant).

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