For presidents’ day

The vast majority of books published are overlong and underneeded, if not worse. Submitted for your consideration are two exceptions relevant to today’s holiday — you know, the one that replaced the holidays that used to honor the presidents born on February 12 and February 22. Who were they again?
Brandeis history professor David Hackett Fischer has undertaken the task of getting to the truth of the legendary stories of the revolutionary period while retaining their dramatic and inspirational qualities. Ten years ago he did it with the story of Paul Revere’s ride, and this year he has done it again with the story of Washington’s crossing of the Delaware. Today’s Boston Globe has a good interivew/profile of Professor Fischer in connection with the new book: “A revolutionary view.” Among Fischer’s discoveries, according to the author of the profile: “Despite the low grades historians have given him as a general, Washington was in fact a great commander in this campaign, not only in tactics, but in inventing a way to lead an army of free men.”
It’s hard to believe that any current book on Abraham Lincoln is needed, but Allan Guelzo has established himself as a Lincoln scholar with a profound understanding of his subject. His new book is on the Emancipation Proclamation, and Eric Fettman’s New York Post review of the book persuades me that the book is important: “Lincoln’s finest hour.” I know from speaking to audiences of bright high school students that virtually everything they “know” about the most important issues in American history is wrong; Guelzo’s book should serve as a corrective to the damage done on this issue by Richard Hofstadter in particular.

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