The Revolutionary Years, 1775-1789


The Revolutionary Years, 1775-1789

The Art of American Power During the Early Republic

William Nester

174 pages


July 2011


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eBook (PDF)
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October 2011


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About the Book

The Revolutionary Years, 1775–1789, reveals how the nation’s leaders asserted power during the fourteen crucial years from the Revolution’s first shots at Lexington in April 1775 to the adoption of the Constitution in 1789.The American Revolution unfolded in two phases, winning independence and then creating “a more perfect union” that guaranteed representation and natural rights for all citizens. To prevail in those struggles the Founders had to tap and eventually master two powerful historic forces—nationalism and liberalism.National leadership is about mastering the dynamic among a country’s interests, power, and policies. Although military battles were relatively infrequent during the leisurely pace of eighteenth-century warfare, political battles were incessant. Those who championed the United States of America triumphed during the sweltering, seemingly endless months at Philadelphia from May to September 1787, when the delegates hammered out the Constitution.With the Constitution’s ratification, the Revolution came to a symbolic and substantive end. Ever since, Americans have debated, and at times shed blood over, just what the Founders intended and how to realize those ideals. In this fascinating book, William Nester examines how the Founders’ experience in revolution and nation-building caused them to understand leadership as an art—one that ultimately became the distinctive art of American power.

Author Bio

William Nester is a professor in the Department of Government and Politics at St. John's University in New York City. He is the award-winning author of thirty-seven books on multiple dimensions of international relations, American national security, military history, and the nature of power. His "George Rogers Clark: I Glory in War" won the Army Historical Foundation's best biography award for 2013. His "Titan: The Art of British Power in the Age of Revolution and Napoleon" won the New York Military Affairs Symposium's 2016 Arthur Goodzett Book Award.


"The Revolutionary Years, 1775-1789 is a brief and engaging study of how a uniquely American political authority took root in the space of a single generation in the late eighteenth century. William Nester effectively traces the way preexisting, prerevolutionary ideas and practices were adapted to the exigencies of war and diplomacy and then shaped to meet the demands of independence. The result, according to the author, was a convergence of military, intellectual and political leadership, and power, which, along with popular support, was lodged in the design and objectives of the United States Constitution. The book is at its most convincing in arguing that the balancing of several strands of political power revealed a national political culture. Nester covers familiar ground in a lively, imaginative, and well-written exploration of the origins of a distinctly American version of how political 'power' can be seen as political 'art.'"—Eric Nellis, associate professor emeritus of history, University of British Columbia, and author of The Long Road to Change and An Empire of Regions