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To Begin the World Anew: The Genius And Ambiguities of the American Founders


To Begin the World Anew by Bernard Bailyn is a terrific book about the American Founding Fathers and how their life experiences shaped their political views. It treats them fairly, gives a good glimpse into the backgrounds and political views of the Founding Fathers, and how the political repercussions of the American Revolution shaped the Atlantic world.

So, as you’ll see by reading the rest of my review, summary, and analysis of To Begin the World Anew, it’s a great book that is well worth the time you spend reading it.

Summary of To Begin the World Anew

To Begin the World Anew is, like Founding Brothers, not an explicitly chronological book. It begins with a description of pre-Revolution America and ends with the political repercussions of the Revolution and the American Constitution. But the middle part of the book, in which Bailyn discusses Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and the genius of The Federalist Papers, is not chronological.

That lack of a straight-line narrative gives Bailyn more of an open hand with which he can use his excellent writing style to discuss, as the title states, “the genius and ambiguities of the American Founders.”

Rather than have to stick with jumping around between the influential characters, namely Jefferson, Franklin, and Madison, Bailyn is able to fully explore the intricacies of each of the Founding Father’s worldviews and describe their achievements in detail. He’s able to discuss Jefferson’s many talents and prodigious letter writing, and of course his political achievements, Franklin’s diplomatic accomplishments, and the genius of The Federalist Papers.

Best of all, To Begin the World Anew, is a very short and concise depiction of those Founding Fathers. In addition to those three issues I just discussed, Bailyn also makes it clear that America’s founding was influenced by its colonial roots and separation from the Old World, and how the shockwaves of the Revolution were felt around Europe and South America. All of that in a book under 150 pages. It’s short, interesting, and informational. The best type of book for someone who wants to start learning about an interesting subject.

One of the differences between the Old World and New World discussed in To Begin the World Anew that I thought was most interesting was the difference in architecture. In Great Britain, the wealthiest members of society had immense amounts of inherited wealth and built humongous, ostentatious estates on their lands. Americans that were wealthy, however, built much more modest houses. Even the most successful merchants had houses that would seem similar to most modern two- or three-story colonial houses. They were beautiful and larger than most colonial houses, sure, but they were not ostentatious. Mount Vernon is no Versailles. The White House (yes, I know it was built long after the Revolution) is no Buckingham Palace.

That difference is one that lasted in America until the Gilded Age. Wealthy Americans built reasonable houses. Wealthy Europeans built ostentatious estates. That difference allowed Americans of all stripes to band together and build the world anew. Because their lifestyles were relatively similar, the political leaders of the American Revolution were able to unite with their countrymen and fight alongside each other in a way that the inherited-wealth Europeans could not.

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Finally, I thought that Bailyn’s depiction of Benjamin Franklin was interesting and added to the history of the Founding Fathers in a way that few other books about the American Revolution do. Although he is famous for some aspects of his life, such as the electricity experiment and Poor Richard’s Almanack, his diplomatic achievements are not well-known. In fact, they’re often forgotten. In my opinion, his political achievements are the least well known of any of the Founding Fathers.

Bailyn, however, spends an appropriate amount of time discussing Franklin’s fame in Europe and how he was able to use that fame to accomplish so much while an ambassador to France. He is a man who would have certainly understood the 48 Laws of Power and used those laws to his advantage. Franklin was a diplomatic genius whose accomplishments need to be better known. Bailyn, in To Begin the World Anew, does his part to cement Benjamin Franklin’s legacy of greatness so that his readers understood just what Benjamin Franklin did for our nation during its darkest days.

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My Take on To Begin the World Anew

To Begin the World Anew is absolutely a book about the Revolution I’d recommend reading. While am certainly partial to books about the American Founding and Revolution in a way that could bias my judgment, I do think that To Begin the World Anew has a few unique qualities that make it a bit better or more worth your time than other books about the American Revolution.

The first, as I made clear in my summary, is that Bailyn is able to discuss a wide variety of topics in a short book. He discusses each one fully and excellently without being overly wordy, which is a major plus for the reader that wants to learn more about the American Revolution and the men behind it but does not have immense amounts of time with which to do so.

That alone would make To Begin the World Anew a book to read. But, even better, Bailyn does something I thought was absolutely excellent: he gives a fair depiction of Thomas Jefferson. Whereas other books, even ones I like and would recommend, such as The History of the United States during the Administration of Thomas Jefferson, His Excellency: George Washington, and Founding Brothers, are unfair to Jefferson, To Begin the World Anew makes sure to give him a fair hearing.

He’s not overly kind to them, as that would be unfair and not objective writing. But, unlike the many modern historians that write almost completely negatively about any people from the past that they disagree with, he is fair. He mentions Jefferson’s faults and hypocrisy, but also his many accomplishments and his political genius, the political genius that set up our wonderful and long-lasting American system.

That, I think, is the best part of To Begin the World Anew, as Thomas Jefferson is my favorite of the Founding Fathers and was one of the most influential. Reading a book in which Jefferson is treated fairly, therefore, made me quite happy and made me enjoy the book more than I otherwise would have. Jefferson, although flawed, like everyone else other than Jesus, was a great man. To Begin the World Anew gives him his due, which is a major breath of fresh air.

Maybe it won’t have the same effect on you. Not everyone adores the Founding Fathers like I do, which is their prerogative. But, I do think it’s always a good thing to read books that treat history fairly. And in To Begin the World Anew, Bailyn treats history fairly. That is something that few other writers do, so it makes the book exceptional.

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We’re approaching the 4th of July. Now, more than ever, is a good time to read a book such as To Begin the World Anew. Read it. You won’t regret taking the time to do so. And, because Bailyn’s writing is so concise and spot-on, it likely will not take you an overly long amount of time to do so.

It’s worth learning about our Founding Fathers. I think the reason that so many leftists hate our history is that they don’t know it or understand it. They might change their minds and stop trying to erase history if they learned about it.

Reading books like To Begin the World Anew that treat history fairly is the way to teach people our history so that they stop attacking it. We don’t need works of propaganda that paint the Founders as flawless angels. They weren’t and saying that they were won’t help change anyone’s mind. But, what might make a difference is speaking the truth about America’s history. To Begin the World Anew is a proper telling of that history. Maybe it will change minds. Even if it doesn’t, it’s a great book and great story that I think everyone should read. Starting, dear reader, with you.

By: Gen Z Conservative