Ethan Allen: His Life and Times

Willard Sterne Randall. Norton, $29.95 (464p) ISBN 978-0-393-07665-3
The brash, multifaceted ebullience of the United States at its birth comes through in this rich portrait of Ethan Allen (1738–1789), one of its iconic founders. Historian Randall (Benedict Arnold: Patriot and Traitor) gives us a complex, protean Allen: strapping frontiersman; cunning entrepreneur; rationalist philosophe whose deistic manifesto scandalized Puritan divines and influenced Thomas Paine; amateur soldier whose impetuosity led to the capture of Fort Ticonderoga, the first strategically significant American victory of the Revolution, and later to disaster; finally, he was a Machiavellian politician who played the British off against the Continental Congress. Allen's saga was founded on a giant real estate swindle—the royal governors of New Hampshire and New York sold the territory of modern-day Vermont twice, to rival cliques of developers—that took on insurrectionary dimensions as he led his Green Mountain Boys militia against absentee landlords trying to evict settlers (a project that handily benefited his own byzantine land deals); the result, as Allen trod "a blurred line between land speculator and latter-day Robin Hood," was a new style of politics mixing populist ideals with canny corruption. Randall incorporates a wealth of research and colorful detail into an absorbing, well-paced narrative that highlights Allen's distinctively American energies—and contradictions.16 pages of illus. (June)
Reviewed on: 03/14/2011
Release date: 08/01/2011
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 617 pages - 978-0-393-34229-1
Open Ebook - 617 pages - 978-0-393-08228-9
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