David McCullough: 1776

Everyone raved about it. And for an historical novel, which are typically a dime a dozen, that says something. So I picked it up on sale at Barnes & Noble last week thinking I’d slog my way through it over the course of a few weeks. Little did I realize I would read all 297 pages in a single sitting (albeit a long one).

I’ve read some other accounts and histories of the American Revolution. I’ve read biographies of all the major players, Jefferson, Franklin, Washington, Hancock, George III. But while this book only covers the events of 1776, I have to say that if you want to understand the larger context within which the very idea of an American independence took root…this is the book that’ll provide it.

It doesn’t focus too much on any one person, although Washington obviously plays a large part in regards to surviving correspondence and such during this critical infancy of the Revolution. Instead, it successfully attempts to drive the very fragmented political, military and societal influences in America as well as England into the reader’s understanding. This context then is used as the foundation for explaining the almost mystical events around which this fledgling “insurgency” rallied in order to take on the world’s premier military superpower (sound familiar?). The difference being I’m not convinced Providence is helping the current insurgency as He was with Washington’s rag-tag excuse of an army. But still, after reading this book you won’t be convinced that such a thing isn’t possible today.

My favorite part of the book though was reminding me of Thomas Paine’s The American Crisis, which I had read in college…excerpted below:

These are the times that try men’s souls: The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.

Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly. Tis dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to set a proper price on its goods; and it would be strange indeed, if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated.

Britain, with an army to enforce her tyranny, has declared that she has a right (not only to Tax, but) “to bind us in all cases whatsoever,” and if being bound in that manner is not slavery, then there is not such a thing as slavery upon earth.

Even the expression is impious, for so unlimited a power can belong only to GOD.



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Filed under American History, Books, War

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