"To Begin the World Anew: The Creative Genius and Ambiguities of our Founding Fathers" by Bernard Bailyn.

Essay by BILLMANA+, October 2005

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"To Begin the World Anew: The Genius and Ambiguities of the American Founders" by Bernard Bailyn, is an extremely interesting little book. Mr. Bailyn, Professor of Early American history at Harvard, winner of two Pulitzer Prizes and the National Book Award, admires and is astonished at what the Founders were able to accomplish. He managed to convey some of the enthusiasm he has for America in spite of not seeming to be overly concerned with the ambiguities he mentions in the second part of the book's title. His purpose seems to be to recharge the debate over the principles involved in the birth of our nation. Throughout the five essays that comprise the book Dr. Bailyn continually emphasizes that our Founders were truly creative people. Through their efforts they were able to craft a Constitution which proved to be a turning point in the political history of the world with rippling effects being felt to this day.

The breadth of knowledge that Professor Bailyn has on the subject has not diminished his zeal for the accomplishments of mere mortals who, despite the many uncertainties, dilemmas, and unresolved problems were able to conceive such a radical departure from the conventional political wisdom of their era.

Dr. Bailyn explores tension between the idealism of Revolutionary beliefs and the pragmatism needed to deal with the daily world they operated in. Again and again the need not to "quarrel with my bread and butter" is referenced as the struggle to unite pieces of their marginal world with the political structures that existed in the world outside of their own. Though they had the courage to reject powers and authorities and institutions that had heretofore ruled men, they were not certain what they might build to replace them, and this uncertainty was...