New Book Challenges Popularly Held Views of the American Revolution

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Arsonist: The Most Dangerous Man in America defies conventional wisdom, elevating one obscure rebel to prominent position and describing a revolutionary process that was far more coordinated and earth-shattering than previously thought.

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“Serious students of the American Revolution …will find this comprehensive book a fascinating read. Allen is a thorough researcher and skillful writer … a highly readable book that is never dull.”
ForeWord Clarion Reviews -- Five Stars (out of Five)

Arsonist, to be published July 4, 2011, explores the world of colonial Massachusetts from the 1740s through the 1760s and is one of those rare epic works that fundamentally alters the way we view early American history.

Arsonist focuses on the role of one man, James Otis, Jr., and the ways in which he set the world “in a flame.” In the first chapter, the book explains that “By the winter of 1760 this provincial bourgeoisie, one of the wealthiest and most intelligent men in the British colonies, had become fully radicalized. He threatened to set the province aflame though, he confessed, he would likely be consumed in the fire. That his words – a promise and a prophecy – came to full fruition and his predictions about the province and his own life were entirely accurate would be unbelievable if it didn’t actually happen.”

Otis was the leader in a decisive battle between the past and the future, and the result would determine the direction of Western history. In the battle, every smear known to politics would be employed: allusions of miscegenation, sex scandals, insanity, and corruption. Otis would be the first major politician to champion the end of the slave trade from the position of human rights instead of religious convictions. The fate of the world hung on the actions of a few men, and none more so than Otis. And many officials in the world’s greatest empire, from local customs officers to the Prime Minister, wanted Otis dead.

Tackling colonial history is “difficult,” says Arsonist author Nathan Allen, “because everyone knows or thinks they know the basic story. The challenge is to get beyond the conventional story and convey the real truth of the matter.”

And the story of colonial events in Boston in the 1760s has never before been told in the riveting way Arsonist presents it. The book’s most dramatic argument is that the primary accomplishment of the rebels of the 1760s was a highly successful attack on the feudal hierarchy that dominated Europe and the colonies. The book posits that Otis was the most dangerous kind of man to the feudal oligarchy; his substantial influence was derived entirely without the assistance or approval of the ruling elite. If people did not depend on the ruling elite for their success, why were the elite needed at all? The world was at a crossroads: would there be a powerful, influential middle-class or would the strict feudal hierarchy continue to order society?

Arsonist then reveals the intricate web of manipulation that Otis employs to turn the ruling oligarchy against itself. “No one has really analyzed the period this way,” Allen asserts. “Historians generally assume that Otis was simply crazy, but this crazy man manipulated the turbulent events around him to masterful effect … after all, he successfully challenged an empire.” And in the process, Otis virtually invented the modern media and political campaigns, laid the foundation for the fourth amendment, and assailed the use of warrantless searches and juryless courts. And the issues of warrantless searches and juryless courts are alive today more than ever.

John Adams later claimed that not only was Otis the most important actor in the revolutionary drama but that Otis’s 1761 Writs of Assistance law suit was the first shot of the revolution. “Adams said that as far as Boston was concerned, the revolution was complete by 1766,” Allen said. “Those who were there knew that Otis was the most influential catalyst for the Revolution in Boston.”

The book states that, “The idea that the Revolution was a proper affair conducted by gentlemen in drawing rooms is but an illusion, a historical slight-of-hand wherein the victors pull a cordial philosopher out of the fog of war.” Rather, Arsonist contends that, “The Revolution was so radical precisely because it was so unlikely. And it was conducted by gentlemen philosophers and street brawlers alike. People were killed, private homes were destroyed, and everything was turned upside down. Mobs ruled streets and manifestos rolled off printing presses. And a few were consumed by the radicalism of the ideas they brought to life. The methods that brought forth the American Revolution are oft obscured because the society it created was unique to history. And yet battles, blood, passion, betrayal, high-minded idealism and ruthless acerbity – all the usual ingredients of revolution – were abundantly present in the American Revolution.”

The 1760s was the single most decisive decade in history wherein a fundamental reinvention of society would battle against a thousand years of feudalism. “Both the objectives and the means of the rebels in early 1760s Boston were far more global and coordinated than most realize. Even some of the best historians have gotten the era completely wrong,” Allen said.

The book’s website and Facebook page are counting down the “Top 10 Surprises in Arsonist,” some of which are actually quite surprising. “If you don’t know who James Otis is,” Allen says, “then perhaps all of them will be surprising. But he was targeted for attack and execution by everyone in the empire, from the local customs officials right up to the Prime Minister. That gives you an idea of how important he was.”

Reviews

“Serious students of the American Revolution and early colonial America …will find this comprehensive book a fascinating read. Allen is a thorough researcher and skillful writer … a highly readable book that is never dull.”
Five Stars (out of Five)
--ForeWord Clarion Reviews

A “historical tale that boasts compelling characters and a plot that ultimately packs a wallop.”
--Kirkus Indie Reviews

“The work adds deep perspective to the underlying intellectual and moral foundations of the American Revolution, and in particular helps present the difference between the traditional view (taxation without representation) and a much more nuanced and philosophically founded view, objection to the entire feudal hierarchy that placed power in the hands of a very small elite …this is a very important contribution to scholarship, to humanity, and to We the People …”
--Robert Steele, #1 Amazon Nonfiction Reviewer

Arsonist: The Most Dangerous Man in America is published by Griffins Wharf. The 501-page paperback book retails for $19.00.

ISBN-10: 0983644608
ISBN-13: 978-0-9836446-0-6

Website: http://www.jamesotis.net
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/James-Otis/136142326427960
Publisher: http://www.griffinswharfproductions.com

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Nathan Allen

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