Top critical review
A very mediocre read
Reviewed in the United States on April 13, 2019
Concentrating on correspondence and personalities of the time, this book is poor on going into the larger historical reasons for events. For example:
- McCullough writes about the British closing Boston Harbor after the Tea Party. Not once does he mention how large an issue “Taxation without Representation” was, especially to those of Puritan decent in Boston. This issue had VERY large roots in the English Civil War. In brief: In 1642 Charles I attempted to levy ship money under the divine right of kings. The Puritan faction was dead set against this and the winning side in the English Civil War won the right to taxation with representation – which was every bit as significant as the Magna Charta.
- McCullough writes how John Adams was against political parties (they were fractious). Given their prominence not only in England with Whigs and Tories (let alone throughout history), how could have John Adams even though such a thing? What did he expect? – that the voters in a democracy would vote as atomized agents? We are never told.
- That the King of England had claimed to oppose American Independence for the sake of his people. What did this even mean? Was it the economics of trade and (limiting the colony’s ability to) manufacture? Was it taxation to pay for the debt incurred in the French and Indian Wars. We are never told the King’s/English side of why the colonists were refused representation in matters of taxation. Certainly, owing to the English Civil War, everyone must have knew what a hot button issue it was.
- Nationalism and love of country did not mature until after Napoleon. Before that it was God and King that people felt loyalty to. Or was it? You wouldn’t know from reading this book.
While this book DOES go into the personality conflicts among the founding fathers (making them very human), in so many ways this book falls short of how their attitudes played out against the larger/deeper issues of the day. For this reason, for me, it was a very mediocre read.