Saturday, September 15, 2012

Hamilton v Jefferson

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This week we studied world history during the years of President Washington's time in office: the French Revolution, Napoleon, Andrew Jackson, and William Wilberforce. More on them later. For this entry I want to share the exciting "new" book I discovered that is enlivening our studies in American history!

Last summer I purchased a handful of recommended history books which by the time we entered the 18th century, I found them failing in vital or even correct information. Frustrated I've been looking, stumbling, hoping for better books...thus my plan that I shared last week to delve into more biographies. While I was planning this week's lesson on President Washington's term in office, I pulled two books out of my bookcase. One was from the recommended book list last summer. This book might be factual but was definitely boring, but another book was beckoning to me. In fact it had been simply yearning for me to open its pages to read all last spring as we studied the 18th century. I was swamped with other books to read then, so I kept postponing this book which was begging for me to open it. Now that I drive my daughter to and from college, I have "cornered" reading time. There are some days she has only one class, so I tend to find a coffee shop (to confuse them and order a cup of tea, =) and read a school book.

On one of those days last week I brought this book that was hoping I would choose "it." I did! I sat down in a cheery spot with my cup of mint tea. I opened it. I read it. I was impressed! I flipped towards the end of the book to this week's lesson that I was planning, on the Federal Era. It made the National Bank and partisan politics rather comprehensible! Then I flipped to the front for the beginning of the 18th century. It too went into a bit of background on colonial America before the revolution, but unlike the horrid book of inacurracy I put away last spring, this was quite a bit spot on! Then I flipped to the end and saw a mistaken representation of Napoleon as a tyrant. I was heartbroken, No, no, this author must read Vincent Cronin's book on Napoleon which is well documented and researched. I guess his specialty is in American history but I hope Cronin book will implore him to read it.

Then I read the introduction. This author teaches American history in Edinburgh, Scotland. Hmmm. I've "met" another man who does that at Colonial Williamsburg. Surely they are not the same person. What are the odds? The more I read, the more I wondered. Hmmmm. I pulled out my smart phone and did a google search on him but all I could bring up were his books. He seems to spec1alize in Thomas Jefferson. I was a bit disappointed only because I was hoping he had an American history series so I could have American political history this good to cover through the modern era. However a search on my blog brings up his name! Aha! I have "met" him! He didn't meet me but I saw him at a special program about Thomas Jefferson and John Adams in the election of 1800 at Colonial Williamsburg last President's Day weekend! That was a great program and he's one of the reasons why! He's super friendly, knowledgeable, accurate, informative, and great! He partnered with another professor (who had taught him years before) who was great too! They humorously pretended to be these two men of the past, Jefferson and Adams, and threw political slurs at each other to show how elections haven't changed all that much.

I am absolutely thrilled to have Frank Cogliano's Revolutionary America 1763-1815: A Political History in my bookcase and to have "met" him! I'll go to one of his programs any day! Some of you have asked me for great rhetoric history books, this is one! I like it far better than any of our other recommended rhetoric history books because it has a much easier read and flow than most collegiate books I'm used to. (Because rhetoric books are usually collegiate.)

How did this book end up in my bookcase? I found it last summer at the used bookstore, interestingly about the time I had ordered that box of books I didn't like. This book beckoned me. I wanted to read it there but needed to press on. It's been calling to me from the bookcase for months. I don't remember how many times I pulled it out to read only to put it back. Shame on me. If only I had listened sooner, I most certainly would have used it in lieu of other books when we studied the 18th century. He covers the background of colonial America, including the economy (mercantilism), population, social class, etc, etc, etc. He covers the various tax laws that were passed without colonial representation. He covers many of the battles of the American Revolution, something that the "other" recommended book barely touched on. It has a chapter on the Confederation and another on the Constitution. This week we studied the Federal Era. The notes on the white board above were gleaned from the information in his book, which we discussed in our Socratic history discussion this week. My son will take a quiz tomorrow on this information. He'll have to write an essay comparing Hamilton's views with Jefferson's. That seemed to me to be the driving force in Washington's administration, despite everything Washington tried to do to avoid partisan politics. It ends up being tied in to the French Revolution. American history is not isolated, so I do like to study world history alongside American history.

Lesson learned: I should hearken to the beckoning calls of my books more often.

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