Book Review: Independence: The Struggle to Set America Free by John Ferling

Independence John Ferling


Independence: The Struggle to Set America Free by John Ferling

This sweeping history focuses not on America’s War for Independence, but on the decade or so before independence was declared. With the French and Indian War over by 1763, Great Britain found itself with a massive war debt, accumulated for the protection of its colonies in America. In order to raise revenue, the British ministry decided to levy a series of taxes on its colonies, perhaps the most infamous of these being The Stamp Act of 1765.

The taxes were wildly unpopular with the American colonists, not least because they had no representation in the British ministry. Protests to the Stamp Act and other taxes enacted by Parliment were met with fierce resistance. Mobs gathered in city streets, leading colonists took to pen and paper, writing tracts decrying the British government for denying their right as British citizens to determine their own destiny.

From these first days in 1765, when for many the main goal of their protest was reconciliation with the motherland, until the hot days of early July, 1776, when independence seemed like an inevitability, Ferling leads us along the path the Founding Fathers took towards declaring the United States its own country. He takes us through the debates in the British Parliment and the arguments between the members of the Continental Congress. The bloody battles and confrontations between the Redcoats and the Continental Army and the political wrangling of the nascent government in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

This is a well-written, thoroughly researched book. My only caveat is this: this is a history book. This is not a novel. You will learn a great deal from this book, and Ferling does try to leaven his writing with humor on occasion, but this is first and foremost a history book. Ferling’s goal is to tell us as much as he can, as accurately as he can, and a fair amount of dryness is the inevitable result. I recommend this book to any history buff (Revolutionary or otherwise), or anyone who wants to learn about the path the United States took towards becoming independent.

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