Revolutions revisited

two faces of the politics of enlightenment

By Lerner, Ralph

Publishers Summary:
What happens after the revolution? In this elegant extended essay, Ralph Lerner explores how suchs enlightened revolutionaries as Franklin, Lincoln, and Tocqueville met the challenge of translating a revolution into lasting political and social change. Eighteenth-century revolutionaries in America and Europe, Lerner argues, found that a revolution aimed at liberating bodies and minds had somehow to be explained and defended. His analysis, anchored in the speeches and writings of profound thinkers who were also prominent and skilled practitioners of politics, broadens and deepens the conventional understanding of the Enlightenment. According to Lerner, revolutionaries in America and Europe brought different degrees of awareness and political savvy to their tasks and reaped highly distinctive results. Lerner first investigates how the makers of revolution sought to improve their public's aspirations and chances. He pays particular attention to Benjamin Franklin, to the tone and substance of revolutionaries' appeals on both sides of the Atlantic, and to the preoccupations of first- and second-generation enlighteners among the Americans. He then unfolds the art by which later political actors, confronting the profound political, constitutional, and social divisions of their own day, drew upon and reworked their national revolutionary heritage. Lerner's examination of the speeches and writings of Edmund Burke, Abraham Lincoln, and Alexis de Tocqueville shows them to be masters of a political rhetoric once closely analyzed by Plato and his medieval student al-Farabi but now nearly forgotten. Theirs might be said to be enlightenment's other face.

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ISBN
978-0-80782-136-7
Publisher
Chapel Hill : University of North Carolina Press, c1994.


REVIEWS

Library Journal

Reviewed on March 15, 1994

Revolution "first must be made, in institutions, thinking and expectation and then defended against overt enemies without and covert enemies within,'' writes Lerner. Through the writings of Benjamin Franklin, Edmund Burke, Abraham Lincoln, and Alexis de Tocqueville, Lerner (Univ. of Chicago) presents a "retro...Log In or Sign Up to Read More

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