In September 1740, New England experienced a social earthquake. It arrived not in the form of a great natural disaster or an act of violence, but with the figure of a twenty-year-old preacher. People were abuzz with his stunning oratory, his colorful theatrics, and his almost ungodly sense of power and presence.When George Whitfield arrived in the American colonies, his reputation and growing legend had been built on his brilliant speeches and frightening tirades, and his fame exploded. He demanded his listeners repent their sins and follow the true word of God—his. He had knowledge that only he could unlock for the American people. Whitefield's message also carried a threat, and he brooked no dissent. Whitefield's power over his listeners grew, and New England was in the uproar of a social revolution. This period became known as The Great Awakening, and it would weave its way into the very fabric of what American would eventually become. Soon after Whitefield reached his zenith, things began to fall apart. The puritanical utopia that once seemed so certain vanished like a dream. American Demagogue is the story of this rapid rise and equally steep fall, which would be echoed by authoritarian populists in later centuries and American demagogues yet to come.
J.D. Dickey is the New York Times bestselling author of Empire of Mud, a history of the troubled rise of Washington, D.C., in the nineteenth century and Rising in Flames: Sherman’s March and the Fight for a New Nation, also published by Pegasus Books. He lives in the Pacific Northwest.
"Dickey’s book contemplates the curious tendency of populism to veer off in radical directions that its originators (including Whitefield) do not intend. A sprightly, engaging narrative. For [Revolutionary] soldiers, what Whitefield preached was what they fought for: the spirit of Christ and of liberty."
– Wall Street Journal
“Dickey tells us in graceful prose how 18th century American evangelists held their audiences spellbound—the same techniques employed by one demagogue after another. Masterful. The Great Awakening was a popular and inclusive uprising spearheaded by Whitefield and his apparent demagoguery but by no means confined by them. And that uprising presumably made Americans of us all.”
– The New York Review of Books
"A thoughtful take on an intriguing period of American history."
– Library Journal
"Politics intersected with this religious, populist fervor and the seeds of the American Revolution were sown and began quickly to grow, affecting decades far beyond the Revolution itself. Journalist and U.S. historian Dickey (Rising in Flames, 2018) enhances his account with illustrations from contemporary sources, which give readers compelling images of this era’s vivid personalities."
"Ineresting. Dickey looks at the march mainly through the eyes of soldiers and other participants."
– The New York Times Book Review (Praise for RISING IN FLAMES)
"Superlative and impeccably researched. Dickey tells the story of Sherman’s march unforgettably, with power on every page."
– Publishers Weekly (Praise for RISING IN FLAMES)
"A page-turning and highly original account. No one interested in Sherman’s March should be deprived of his lively narrative. Absolutely spellbinding."
– The Wall Street Journal (Praise for RISING IN FLAMES)