Unshackling America challenges the persistent fallacy that Americans fought two separate wars of independence. Willard Sterne Randall documents an unremitting fifty-year-long struggle for economic independence from Britain overlapping two armed conflicts linked by an unacknowledged global struggle. Throughout this perilous period, the struggle was all about free trade.
Neither Jefferson nor any other Founding Father could divine that the Revolutionary Period of 1763 to 1783 had concluded only one part, the first phase of their ordeal. The Treaty of Paris of 1783 at the end of the Revolutionary War halted overt combat but had achieved only partial political autonomy from Britain. By not guaranteeing American economic independence and agency, Britain continued to deny American sovereignty.
Randall details the fifty years and persistent attempts by the British to control American trade waters, but he also shows how, despite the outrageous restrictions, the United States asserted the doctrine of neutral rights and developed the world’s second largest merchant fleet as it absorbed the French Caribbean trade. American ships carrying trade increased five-fold between 1790 and 1800, its tonnage nearly doubling again between 1800 and 1812, ultimately making the United States the world’s largest independent maritime power.
"[A] lush, readable account of the war in all its complexity. Admirers of Mr. Randall’s biographies will not be disappointed with the intertwined tale the author weaves in Unshackling America: The events of the war unfold in an accessible, chronological narrative, peppered with lively vignettes from the front lines of battle, the drawing rooms of Washington and Europe, and the everyday experiences of ordinary noncombatants."
—The Wall Street Journal
"Far from another study of the War of 812, Willard Randall's fast-paced narrative sweeps across the history of America from its mid-1700's status as a colonial satellite through the Revolution against the other country and the growing pains of Federalism into the second and final war with Britain...The interweaving of the personal, political, military and geopolitical make Unshackling America a fine portrait in incipient American nationhood. That era was plagued by political rancor, trade problems, large personalities, refugee crises, and what seemed an unwinnable war. Sound familiar?"
—MHQ: The Quarterly Journal of Military History
"Compelling...Randall has the storyteller's gift."
"The book is written in a breezy, enjoyable tone; Randall is a very good storyteller...The stories are told well and Randall clearly relishes this."
"A well-researched history that shows how the War of 1812 created America's final separation from England." —Kirkus Reviews
"Randall brings to life the violent skirmishes that played out in the name of trade on sea, lake, and land."
"Randall is an engaging and adept storyteller" — Library Journal
"Those who enjoy reading history will profit from this book."— The Oklahoman
“a deeply researched, penetrating and exciting tale.” - Road to Hubbardton
"In Unshackling America, Willard Randall gives us an account of the early republic that finally makes sense of the “forgotten” War of 1812, even as it turns the conflict itself into an exciting drama. The big issues of that era--free trade, a refugee crisis, brutal party rivalries, and foreign meddling in American affairs–resonate with our own headlines. This is history as it should be written: illuminating insights grounded in gritty reality. An important book." —Jack Kelly, author of Band of Giants and Heaven's Ditch
"After America's War of Independence ended in 1783, the British proved to be sore losers. For more than three decades, with impunity they violated American sovereignty on land and sea. Randall's Unshackling America makes a detailed, powerful, and convincing case that America did not achieve true independence during the war of 1775-1783, but only after a far longer war of fits and starts that did not end until Andrew Jackson's rout of the British at New Orleans in 1815." —Richard Sylla, Professor Emeritus of Economics, Stern School, New York University
"In this fast paced, carefully researched and powerfully argued book, Willard Randall challenges the traditional notion that the War of 1812 was a second American Revolution. Instead, he lays out a convincing case that this war must be seen as the culmination of the American struggle for independence from Great Britain that began in 1776. A consummate stylist, Randall captures both the political tensions leading to the declaration of “Mr. Madison’s War,” and the drama of the military and naval battles that followed. This is an important book and one that both scholars and readers interested in our national past should read." —Carol Berkin, Presidential Professor of History, Emerita, Baruch College & The Graduate Center, CUNY