This review is also available on my blog, Read Till Dawn.
This may not put me in the best light here, but when I chose to receive a copy of American Patriots I honestly didn’t know that Rick Santorum was a politician. His name on the cover looked vaguely familiar, so I assumed he was some historian or author I’d read something from a long time ago. When I actually cracked the cover open and read the author description, I realized my mistake. He’s a pretty conservative Republican, right? I honestly haven’t read up on him at all, but after reading this book I’m pretty sure that must be the case.
Basically, he takes everything and makes it about religion. And I guess that’s not entirely unreasonable, since people were so focused on faith back then and several of the patriots he described were literally pastors, but when he started explaining how “the pursuit of happiness” from the Declaration really meant “the pursuit of virtue,” he lost me. I’m a Christian, sure, but I don’t believe in twisting history to make it fit your personal outlook. Then again, I don’t worship either the Declaration or the Constitution (and there’s no way I think all those slave-owning men really meant for the rights given to “all men” to go to minorities and women!), so I’m probably not Santorum’s target audience. Every time he mentioned how modern-day America is “under attack” from liberals who want to destroy the principles established by the Founding Fathers, I could barely suppress an eye roll. I’m not exactly stirred to action by that sort of rhetoric; I’m mainly just annoyed by the constant finger-pointing and devil-calling that goes on in modern politics.
Anyway, that aside, I did enjoy reading about all these little-known people from history. I think the only historical figures I recognized in the entire book were Phillis Wheatley and Nathan Hale; the rest of them were completely new to me. My favorite was probably Haym Salomon, the Polish-born Jew who single-handedly kept the revolution financially stable through the war and into its first years as a nation. He seemed like a great guy! Each little chapter focuses on a different historical character (or sometimes a couple characters who have attributes in common). There’s a little description of their backstory, key details about their dramatic contributions to the revolution, and then a summary of what happened to them later in life.
Also, just a note: out of twenty-five people mentioned in the book, only six of them are women–and only one of them get a chapter to themselves. Four of them (Emily Geiger, Elizabeth Maxwell Steele, Phillis Wheatley, and Elizabeth Lewis) were lumped into a single chapter. I know that the world was a much more man-dominated place in the 18th century, so it might have been impossible to get enough details to flesh out a lot of character sketches of women patriots, but I for one would have liked to see a little more emphasis given to the women from history.
Basically, I enjoyed learning some more about important characters from history (even if I’m a little hesitant to apply the word “hero” to all of them). If you don’t mind the messages Santorum is trying to mix in with his history lesson, then you might love this handy little anthology. Otherwise, though, it’s probably best to steer clear.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book through the Tyndale Rewards program (click here to check it out, and by using my link to make an account you’ll get 25 credits (enough to order a book) just to start and I’ll get 10!).