Saturday, March 10, 2007

great book!

Adams vs. Jefferson, by John Ferling, is an interesting book that took me all of about three days to read. It is about the hotly contested election of 1800 and the events that led up to it. Although the book is factual and historical, it is as exciting as a mystery.
The two main characters in the book are John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. They had little in common. Their lifestyles and their views of the world clashed. The one thing that they had in common was that they were trying to create a nation where none had existed. They were trying to invent a government that was new and different from the British monarchy that each had rejected.
What this book makes clear is that American democracy seemed to be doomed from the start to failure. When the U.S. constitution was enacted, a large percentage of the population was disenfranchised, including black people and women.
The book also addresses the issues of slavery, which, in 1800, was legal in nearly every state in the union.
It became clear to me, when I read this book, that many of the problems facing the U.S. government today are nothing new. For example, the Patriot Act is far from being the first law to limit the freedoms of Americans. in the 1790s, President John Adams managed to get an alien and sedition act through Congress. This legislation banned newspapers from insulting the president, among other things. Unprovoked wars, also, are nothing new. George W. Bush's war against Iraq is another example of how he is following directly in the footsteps of John Adams. John Ferling goes into some detail about a scandal called the XYZ affair and how that almost led the United States into an unprovoked attack on France. Apparently, the information that John Adams received that encouraged him to push for this pre-emptive assault was nothing but lies, sort of like the information that George W. Bush received about the so-called weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. In the 1790s, however, Congress was not quite as willing to play along with the president. John Adams asked for a declaration of war against France, and Congress refused to do so. George Bush got Congress to "authorize force," but he never asked for a declaration of war.
Other interesting characters in the book include George Washington, James Madison, Abigail Adams, and Aaron Burr.
This well-documented book is written in an easily accessible style. The founding fathers of the United States are depicted as real people who are very much like any of the governmental leaders of today.
This is a great book! Read it if you get a chance.

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