Author: Winston Groom
Publication: National Geographic, hardcover, 2020
Genre: HistoryDescription: When the Revolutionary War ended in victory, there remained a stupendous problem: establishing a workable democratic government in the vast, newly created country. . . Groom tells the unique story of how three brilliant men – John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Alexander Hamilton – emerged from a population of just five million to build the foundation of the United States. Their lives could not have been more different, and their relationships with each other were often rife with animosity. And yet they led the charge–two of them creating and signing the Declaration of Independence, and the third establishing a national treasury and the earliest delineation of a Republican party. The time in which they lived was fraught with danger, and their achievements were strained by vast antagonisms that recall the intense political polarization of today. But through it all, they managed to shoulder the heavy mantle of creating the United States of America, putting aside their differences to make a great country. Drawing on extensive correspondence, Groom shares the remarkable story of the beginnings of our great nation.
My Impressions: For fans of the Hamilton musical, this book is more accessible (not to mention shorter) than Ron Chernow’s epic work and, as a bonus, you get Jefferson, my hometown boy, John Adams (admittedly, I always preferred Abigail), and George Washington. It is full of anecdotes that bring the history to life. For example, most children learn in school that the winters in Valley Forge were cold and difficult for the soldiers, many of whom did not have shoes. Groom brings it to life by describing how Washington wrote to Henry Laurens, president of the Continental Congress (father of Hamilton’s friend John) and told him the army faced three choices, “Starve, dissolve, or disburse.” A month later Laurens sent a committee to inspect the troops and they were so appalled to see “tattered scarecrows living in unsanitary conditions in scores of rude log huts,” that finally resulted in better food and clothing.
When John Adams went to France in 1778 to negotiate support for the Continental Army from Louis XVI (although someone who spoke French might have been a more logical choice), Benjamin Franklin was already in Paris as a Minister to the French Court. While supportive of Adams’ presence, he was busy being the toast of the town and did not seem to understand the urgency of the situation:
The jovial Franklin, whatever his other accomplishments, was a hopeless libertine who enjoyed the company of his fashionable friends. Despite being ill-dressed, old, and bald, he was adored by the ladies, and he enjoyed that reputation. He even asked Adams to let it be known in America that Dr. Franklin was much to be envied: “The ladies not only allow him to [kiss] them and to embrace as often as he pleases, but they are perpetually embracing Him.”
Adams duly reported the information to Abigail but he soon became annoyed with Franklin’s frivolity and the excesses of the French courtiers. He made several trips to France in the service of his young country, which cannot have been easy for Abigail, back in Massachusetts with several of their children and a farm to run. Interestingly, at one point she began a flirtation with James Lovell, a congressman from Lowell, Massachusetts. Groom says it was conducted by letter and was harmless; I always thought Abigail needed someone a little less dour than John in her life! I suppose she loved his mind.
Overall, this is an entertaining and extremely readable book for fans of early American history and would be a good holiday gift.About the Author: Groom may be best known for the novel, Forest Gump, but he is an accomplished New York Times bestselling historian for his books, The Allies and The Generals. He died in September at 77.
Links: Bookshop.org * Barnes & Noble * Amazon * IndieBound * Book Depository
Hamilton Fans: Some Hamilton fans prefer fiction and some prefer nonfiction. Here is my post with 10 Books for the Hamilton-obsessed with something for everyone.
Source: I received a copy of this book from the publisher and TLC Book Tours for review purposes. Please visit other stops on the tour by clicking below: