My lovely bride bought me a book recently that I really, really enjoyed and wanted to recommend to those of your who are interested in and enjoy such things. It is Patrick Henry: First Among Patriots. She knows that Patrick Henry is one of my favorite Founders, and she surprised me by ordering if from Amazon for me. She heard that the Patrick Henry Memorial Foundation (www.redhill.org) had presented Governor McDonnell with a copy.
She is a wonderful helpmeet, and I am thankful that God has given her to me. We try to challenge and encourage one another to keep our minds fresh, flexible, active, and inquisitive, and what better accomplishes that than the gift of a good book! (Thank you, my love, it was great!)
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I really enjoyed this book. For the most part, I found it to be very balanced and well done. There are some places where I felt like Prof. Kidd fell into some modern, politically-correct type analysis that I don’t find all that helpful. For example, Prof. Kidd seems to occaisionally accept the prevailing “wisdom” that the American War for Independence was only about money and taxes. Much could be said on this, but it will suffice here to note that this requires us to ignore the words of the Declaration of Independence itself, which talks about a lot more than money. Were all of the Founders just liars who were only concerned about finances but clothed this little financial dispute with the motherland in grandiose language about liberty, freedom, and tyranny? I find such a proposition untenable, but I realize that makes me a distinct minority and probably disqalifies me from being an intellectual due to my audacity to take these people at their word. (Further, lest there be any misunderstanding, I think that economic freedom is enormously important. Right up there with religious and political freedom, as they all go hand-in-hand. Sort of like “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” which undoubtedly included the pursuit of property.)
However, overall, and with that said, I found the book well-written, historically accurate, fair, and engaging. As an example, he doesn’t hid Henry’s great talents as an orator, his devotion to the Christian faith, or his penchant for land speculation. He shows Henry as a man dedicated to freedom, and he fairly presents his opposition to the Constitution. He notes that many of Henry’s fears regarding the Constitution have come to pass, and, in a particularly well done chapter at the end of the book, he endeavors to tell us what he thinks Henry would think about our current situation. Here is a sample: “[I]t is no great leap to imagine that Patrick Henry would fundamentally object to nearly every feature of today’s titanic national government. This statement is not to place Henry on either side of today’s political spectrum: he would disapprove equally of the massive, top-down social programs championed by the Left, the globetrotting military power championed by the Right, and the bailouts of financial companies championed by a majority of politicians in 2008. Unlike many of his Christian conservative admirers today, he would not approve of America’s recent ventures associated with the War on Terrorism . . . . Henry would probably find that today’s America has almost nothing in common with the republic of liberty he envisioned in 1776. On the other hand, the national government has seemingly burst all bounds of power on the domestic and international stages, and on the other, the notion of a virtuous republic has been almost entirely abandoned in favor of what people of Henry’s age would have called “license.” To him, consolidated political power and ethical license historically triggered the loss of true liberty and the rise of moral and political tyranny.” (p. 252-253.) That paragraph certainly shows the fairness of the treatment of Henry and the modern situation!
I heartily recommend this book.