Magazine November 25, 2019, Issue

Richard Brookhiser’s Give Me Liberty: A Manual for Patriots

A woman in period dress walks past a cannon at the Jamestown Settlement, a museum of 17th-century colonial life in Williamsburg, Va., in 2007. (Jim Young/Reuters)
Give Me Liberty: A History of America’s Exceptional Idea, by Richard Brookhiser (Basic Books, 272 pp., $28)

Richard Brookhiser describes his new book, Give Me Liberty, as an examination of “thirteen documents, from 1619 to 1987, that represent snapshots from the album” of America’s “long marriage to liberty,” from the days of the 13 colonies to the Cold War. This is too modest. Brookhiser has created, with an artistry at once subtle, economical, and gripping, a primer on the American idea of freedom, a manual for patriots.

He achieves his effect by skillfully blending storytelling and character portraiture with analysis of the nature and meaning of America’s free-state philosophy. His brief account of Jamestown, the story with which

This article appears as “Primer for Patriots” in the November 25, 2019, print edition of National Review.

Michael Knox Beran — Mr. Beran is a lawyer and writer. His book WASPs: The Splendors and Miseries of an American Aristocracy is to be published this year.

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