Writers from F. Scott Fitzgerald to George F. Will have maintained that the United States-unlike other nations-was founded on an idea.
“France was a land, England was a people, but America, having about it still that quality of the idea, was harder to utter,” Fitzgerald wrote in the Saturday Evening Post in 1929.
However, an upcoming book by Nicole Eustace, an assistant professor of history at New York University, sheds new light on this nation’s history as it approaches the annual Fourth of July holiday. Eustace, in Passion Is the Gale: Emotion and Power on the Eve of the Revolution, shows that a significantly different force-emotion-was a fundamental component in fueling the American Revolution and the eventual creation of the Republic. The book, which will be released by University of North Carolina Press in January, describes how emotion bolstered the political philosophy of the nation’s founders.
According to Eustace, one of the primary architects of emotion’s role in the American Revolution was Thomas Paine-perhaps a surprising conclusion given his authorship of a pamphlet titled Common Sense.
“In the waning days of King George the Third’s American reign, Thomas Paine issued a clarion call to ‘examine the passions and feelings of mankind,’ confident that emotional scrutiny would lead to the acknowledgement of natural rights and, consequently, to support for American independence,” Eustace writes. “Paine believed it to be a simple matter of common sense to regard ‘the passions and feelings of mankind’ as ‘the touchstone of nature,’ the best basis on which to form judgments on any matter, even the vexed choice between reconciliation and revolutionary rebellion that faced Americans in 1776. When Paine claimed that ‘the passions and feelings of mankind’ were granted by nature equally to all and were intended to provide a moral touchstone accessible to all, he argued implicitly for the natural right to political participation.”
Reporters interested in speaking with Professor Eustace, or in reading portions of the manuscript, should contact James Devitt, NYU’s Office of Public Affairs, at 212.998.6808 or email@example.com.