Thursday, December 4, 2014

History Corner: The Jefferson Rule by David Sehat

Disclosure / Disclaimer: I received this ebook, free of charge, from Edelweiss for review purposes on this blog. No other compensation, monetary or in kind, has been received or implied for this post. Nor was I told how to post about it


In The Jefferson Rule, historian David Sehat describes how liberals, conservatives, secessionists, unionists, civil rights leaders, radicals, and libertarians have sought out the Founding Fathers to defend their policies.

Beginning with the debate between Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton over the future of the nation, and continuing through the Civil War, the New Deal, the Reagan Revolution, and Obama and the Tea Party, many pols have asked, “What would the Founders do?” instead of “What is the common good today?” Recently both the Right and the Left have used the Founders to sort through such issues as voting rights, campaign finance, free speech, gun control, taxes, and war and peace. They have used an outdated context to make sense of contemporary concerns.

This oversimplification obscures our real issues. From Jefferson to this very day we have looked to the eighteenth century to solve our problems, even though the Fathers themselves were a querulous and divided group who rarely agreed. Coming to terms with the past, Sehat suggests, would be the start of a productive debate. And in this account, which is by turns informative, colorful, and witty, he shows us why.


This is NOT a book for the casual reader. It needs to be taken in by chapters, and it is not light reading. Sedat does an excellent job in his historical research, especially in the first third of the book, where he really breaks down how chaotic our founding government was, and how personality strifes influenced it. That should be no surprise if you know anything about history.And I recommend the first half of the book for any historical reader. 

My quibbles came with the second half of the book where it seems like the author's more liberal leanings help influence his writing. To me it felt like 2 different books put together, and that the second half of the book was primarily intent on taking down the current political conservatives and making them look like fools. But based on a historical perspective. SIGH. I don't think we'll have a neutral historical look at the past 20 years of American politics for another 50 years. When current feelings can be taken out of the equation, then facts can be a little more equal.

So this is basically a 3 out of 5 star book- the first half is 4-5 stars, but the second is a solid 3. If you really want to know more about our countries founding, check out the book, just look for a different resource for current history.

About the Author:

David Sehat is Associate Professor of History at Georgia State University. His first book, The Myth of American Religious Freedom, won the Frederick Jackson Turner Award from the Organization of American Historians.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Follow Bless Their Hearts Mom