Empire of Liberty – USA from 1789-1815 (Review)

The stories of the Revolutionary War and that of the Civil War are both fascinating to any fan of history.  Last year I enjoyed reading the entries from the Oxford History of the United States on each of those two time periods.  I figured it was about time to read about what happened in the interim, so I read through Gordon Wood’s Empire of Liberty.

It was fantastic.

Here are a few of the things I took away from this great book:

*When people say “the Founding Fathers believed” they either ignore or forget the fact that the founding fathers were diverse and had different views.

*I was surprised that so many in early America expected there to eventually be a king, and that most were okay with that.

*I really liked Alexander Hamilton, he came out of this as my favorite founding father.  On the other hand, Wood made Washington appear kind of as a weak president, being pulled between Hamilton on one side and Jackson on the other.  In other words, I do not feel like I knew Washington better after this book, but you really get to know Hamilton, Jefferson and Madison.

*I already knew I would like the religious history chapter, but I was surprised how interesting I found the chapters on economics and judiciary.  The chapter telling of the growth of the Supreme Court and the story of John Marshall was interesting.

*I also enjoyed learning more about the war of 1812.

*Finally, the existence of slavery in early America continues to blow my mind.  It is depressing how so many who spoke so highly of freedom and liberty did not pass this to the slaves.  Further, it was incredibly sad to learn that right after the revolution most in the south thought slavery would just end but a variety of reasons led to the growth and defense of slavery to new levels.

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