by Brad Nelson
After having read — and been so throughly impressed by — McCullough’s book, John Adams, I thought that a little more American history was in order. One can’t even be a mere Sunshine Patriot without some grasp of our nation’s founding. One’s aspirations and complaints need to be shaped in the context of reality, not a Zinn-like fantasy, or else one all too easily becomes a dupe for other people’s agendas or infected with various half-truths and myths.
So you may be supposing, as I did, that history therefore must be boring because it’s supposedly good for you. It must be distasteful like spinach. And some histories are indeed quite boring, even if vital. But I was surprised (even after having read his John Adams which was a delight) that McCullough’s 1776 was such a page-turner. It is the history of General Washington and his army in the year 1776 (and the first few weeks of 1777). And it is brilliant.
Many histories, perhaps necessarily so, jump around and (to their credit) try to give the overall picture. But 1776 is tightly focused on Washington’s trials, tribulations, and high points (few though they may have been) in 1776. Because the focus is limited (and because of the author’s skill), you are able to read a true narrative of what life (and death) was like for these men. Instead of a profusion of dates and names, you follow Washington and his army (as well as the British) from the siege of Boston clear to his crossing of the Delaware and his unexpected victory at Trenton.
Replacing dates, names, and places, you will instead gain an insight into the times, the troubles, the ambitions, the hopes, and most of all the mind and skill (or lack of at times) of General Washington. You’ll read this book and wonder how the hell we ever survived long enough to even have had a chance to fight the British, let alone beat them. You will discover that, although ultimately he became a great general, Washington by no means started that way. But “perseverance” was his watchword and he had a cause that he — and the core group of men around him — believed in.
When you read this book, you will inevitably ask yourself “With Washington’s rebel army in tatters, would I have run to Admiral Howe and taken him up on his offer of pardon?” Many did. Many in the New York and New Jersey areas were heavily Loyalist to begin with. The question is not why some came running back to King George but why so many did not. There was an American spirit and independent obstinance then that may be difficult for those of us in our time to wrap our minds around in this entitlement culture where we scream bloody murder if some supposed “right” isn’t handed to us on a silver platter.
Most of us — even the good Tea Party members — are indeed Sunshine Patriots compared to those who actually stood for freedom in enormously difficult and long-odds circumstances. It boggles the mind. We owe so much, but tend these days to think only in terms of what we are supposedly owed. This book helps put things into perspective. I put this in the must-read category as part of the core curriculum of StubbornThing’s own advanced conservative studies. • (3769 views)