In this biography, author Michael explores the twin questions of who was truly America’s first president and why has he been forgotten?

Born in 1715, the aristocratic John Hanson grew up on a tobacco plantation located (ironically) near the Mount Vernon estate now revered as George Washington’s residence. Michael readily acknowledges that he is a Hanson family descendant but avoids hagiography, frequently scolding Hanson (and other Founding Fathers) for owning slaves. In 1781, the Continental Congress unanimously elected Hanson president of America’s first government—eight years before Washington took the helm of the country’s first constitutional government. Previously, Hanson was the first state legislator to argue for independence, and the first to enlist militias for the Revolutionary War—which he helped finance. During his one-year presidency, Hanson decreed July 4th as Independence Day and the last Thursday in November as Thanksgiving. He also launched the Postal Service, the census and the custom of presidential portraiture. And yet, not only is Hanson unknown to most Americans, his probable grave site has been paved over. Michael believes that Hanson is overlooked, in part, because the nation’s first government was designed to be weak, and because many of Hanson’s diaries and personal effects have been lost. But he also builds a persuasive argument that 20th-century historians deserve a share of the blame, singling out (but not naming) presidential historians as “the handmaidens of American amnesia.” He also calls out and identifies websites, particularly Wikipedia, which routinely post gross inaccuracies about Hanson. Stylistically similar to a monograph, Michael’s narrative presents, and all too-often repeats, a torrent of information in fine detail. But this is the first comprehensive biography of “the most forgotten major figure in American history,” and reading this volume is nothing if not enriching. An unrefined but rich trove of information about a major historical figure who has largely been forgotten.


Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2012

ISBN: 978-1467958066

Page Count: 452

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2012

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

Did you like this book?

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


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

Did you like this book?