Land of the free

This morning we continue our look at the new (Fall) issue of the Claremont Review of Books (subscribe here.) Reviewing Bill Bennett’s new two-volume history of America, the estimable Michael Barone observes:

For many years the dominant narratives of American history were written by the New Deal historians, who depicted Franklin Roosevelt as the equal of Lincoln, the culmination of progressive thinking from Thomas Jefferson and Theodore Roosevelt to the social workers and union leaders of the 1920s and ’30s. These histories gave way to those by the New Leftists, who depicted our history as one outrage after another committed by privileged white males against women and people of color.

But Bennett is determined to redress the balance, which is good, because to know American history is to be proud of it. The engines of Bennett’s story of America are its great men. “Twentieth-century leaders are given their due,” he writes, “Roosevelt and Reagan more than the rest — for taking the nation from difficult times into important triumphs. But the central figures in this narrative are George Washington, preeminent among the founders, and Abraham Lincoln, sublime in his seeming simplicity, who elevated and held together the Union, the last best hope of mankind. I think Bill Bennett’s got it right.”
Barone is of course the omniscient writer for U.S. News & World Report, principal co-author of The Almanac of American Politics series and author most recently of Our First Revolution: The Remarkable British Upheaval That Inspired America’s Founding Fathers. He notes in passing that “Bennett has relied on secondary sources, and in my view has chosen them well (including my Our Country: The Shaping of America from Roosevelt to Reagan)…”


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