Monday, June 23, 2008

"Ladies of Liberty" by Cokie Roberts

Like most book reviewers, I get more free books than I know what to do with and seldom have time to read books that I'm not reviewing or judging or using for research. But once a year, my wonderful brother remembers my birthday* and always sends just the right book, one that I will read just for myself. Last year it was "Infidel" by Ayaan Hirsi Ali; this year it was "Ladies of Liberty" by Cokie Roberts.

I love biographies, especially those that incorporate little-known primary documents — in this case, private correspondence. What made this book even better was that it contains so much that resonates with my own political views. In the very first chapter on Abigail Adams, I found the following snippet. President John Adams, Abigail's husband, had just declared a day of fasting to avoid war with France:
He was following in the footsteps of Washington, whose Thanksgiving proclamations had caused one clergyman to voice a complaint echoed so many times in the centuries since, "I feel ministers have stepped out of line and preached politics instead of the Gospel." It was Thomas Jefferson's turn to sulk in his tent, telling his daughter, Martha, "Politics and party hatred destroy the happiness of every being here."
It's important to note that political parties were brand-new to the United States, and yet they were already making people miserable. Imagine what Jefferson would have to say about the current state of affairs; he probably wouldn't be at all surprised at the recent surge in the numbr of independent voters.

* June 6. You still have time to send me a fully loaded iPod Touch or a Coldwater Creek gift certificate or two tickets for an adventure cruise through Alaska's Inland Passage.

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