Liberty as Bedrock

I enjoyed reading and reviewing Richard Brookhiser’s recent book about John Marshall. Brookhiser has an easy and genial biographical style that has made for engaging narratives about Gouverneur Morris, James Madison, George Washington, and others. The Marshall book certainly fits into his larger body of work.

This new book looks a little different, however, and clearly has something of an edge in it. Here, Brookhiser is intending to intervene in contemporary points of fracture within American conservatism concerning freedom and American exceptionalism as a partisan for one side of that disagreement. It will be interesting to see whether the book retains Brookhiser’s trademark style or goes in a different direction. The book is Give Me Liberty: A History of America’s Exceptional Idea (Basic Books).

“Nationalism is inevitable: It supplies feelings of belonging, identity, and recognition. It binds us to our neighbors and tells us who we are. But increasingly — from the United States to India, from Russia to Burma — nationalism is being invoked for unworthy ends: to disdain minorities or to support despots. As a result, nationalism has become to many a dirty word.

In Give Me Liberty, award-winning historian and biographer Richard Brookhiser offers up a truer and more inspiring story of American nationalism as it has evolved over four hundred years. He examines America’s history through twelve documents that made the United States a new country in a new world: a free country. We are what we are because of them; we stay true to what we are by staying true to them.

Americans have always sought liberty, asked for it, fought for it; every victory has been the fulfillment of old hopes and promises. This is our nationalism, and we should be proud of it.”

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