SIGNERS OF THE DECLARATION by Katherine & John Bakeless


Email this review


Both fuller and sharper than the McGee Famous Signers, this collective biography of all 56 pin-points the tangible and intangible contributions of each, limns his personality and character forcibly in the context of his life, and incorporates much that is significant and/or interesting in relation to colonial history; it will serve equally for information on obscure delegates and for understanding of the major figures. The introductory chapter, moreover, corrects some common misapprehensions concerning events preceding and following the signing and cogently traces the lineage of the Declaration (which was not particularly original in ideas or expression). Although few are likely to read the book through (and those who do will find much necessary repetition), there is something to pique the reader on every page: of Sam Adams and the Boston Tea Party we learn that ""they really missed their tea,"" when John Hancock is at Harvard, the regimen is rigorous but, spirits flow at dinner; in another vein, Matthew Thornton's Scotch-Irish Presbyterian family is persecuted by the Massachusetts Pilgrims (whence their removal to New Hampshire) while Charles Carroll's wealthy Catholic clan has no political rights in now-predominantly Protestant Maryland. To the testimonials of John Adams and Benjamin Rush and other Signers frequently quoted is added the candid appraisals of the authors; their only weakness is a tendency to insert gentle reproofs or commendations (""It is always easier to deal with persons of good manners"") and to overstress the ""cultivated home"" and sacrifice of property. Overall, however, this is a resourceful and intelligent treatment of material that might, en masse, have been deadly.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1969
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin