An illuminating book of American history in which the author discloses the true heroes—the ordinary citizens who defeated...

LIBERTY'S FIRST CRISIS

ADAMS, JEFFERSON, AND THE MISFITS WHO SAVED FREE SPEECH

Slack (Hetty: The Genius and Madness of America’s First Female Tycoon, 2004, etc.) engagingly reveals how the Federalist attack on the First Amendment almost brought down the Republic.

The Sedition Act drama that played out from 1798 to 1801 was a political move much more than any protection of the public. The nascent nation was just coming into its own and creating a two-party system—at that time, the Federalists and Republicans. After the Alien Acts, Congress passed the Sedition Act due to the fear of war with the French. In reality, it was nothing more than a justification for oppression of the opposition. The author’s explanation of the First Amendment is clear and precise and will give readers pause as to how that bill could ever have been considered. He shows that the Bill of Rights is not the source of our freedoms but rather a mechanism of protection, disallowing Congress from enacting bills that would infringe on them. Furthermore, John Adams was not a charismatic, unifying force like George Washington; on the contrary, he was thin-skinned, petty and snobbish. His Federalist beliefs held that government needed to reinstate the people’s sense of duty to be ruled by their betters. Adams’ signing of the Sedition Act was nothing more than “a stark, personal betrayal of his deepest held personal beliefs.” Unfortunately, most of those convicted of sedition had criticized Adams. Curiously, the law came with an expiration date, when Congress and the president’s terms would expire. Political? Most assuredly. It omitted protection of Vice President Thomas Jefferson, a Republican.

An illuminating book of American history in which the author discloses the true heroes—the ordinary citizens who defeated these acts—while showing just how the concept of “government of the people” works.

Pub Date: March 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-0802123428

Page Count: 340

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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