Saturday, January 29, 2011

Mimi Coffey's Reading List

Mimi Coffey Reading List

Mimi Coffey's 2007-2018 Founding Father Reading List

My favorite thing to do outside of work is read. Just give me cold, hard facts, no spin… My favorite books are on the lives of our Founding Fathers. To understand those who formed this country and its constitution gives me the inspiration and guidance I need to carry on with those principles as I seek justice through the law to help others. Here is a list of books I have completed this year. The astericks mark my favorites. They are close in order to how they were read. Before television and radio, the intellects of generations past prized their books and shared their reading lists. To understand the books one reads is to have a window to their soul.

Reading List 2007:

1*Joseph Ellis: Founding Brothers-the Revolutionary Generation. Pulitzer Prize Winner
2.Joseph Ellis: Passionate Sage: the Character and Legacy of John Adams
3.Joseph Ellis: His Excellency: George Washington
4.Joseph Ellis: The American Sphynx: the Character of Thomas Jefferson
5.Richard Brookhiser: Alexander Hamilton, American
6.Thomas Fleming: Duel: Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr & the Future of America
7.*Nancy Isenberg: Fallen Founder: the Life of Aaron Burr
8.Walter Stahr: John Jay
9.*H.W. Brands: The First American: Benjamin Franklin , Pulitzer Prize finalist
10.Richard Brookhiser:Governeur Morris: the Rake Who Wrote the Constitution
11*Craig Nelson: Thomas Paine: Enlightenment, Revolution and the Birth of Modern Nations
12.Jeff Broadwater: George Mason: Forgotten Founder

Not only have I derived factual basis to understand our laws, these books have brought to life in my mind the cities of Philadelphia, New York, Paris,Boston, London and Washington D.C. as they existed in those times. It is with great excitement that I look forward to visiting (& revisiting for some but now with new knowledge) these cities to see monuments and tombs of those I most admire. Cicero once said: "Not to have knowledge of what happened before you were born is to be condemned to live forever as a child." Long live democracy through all it ugly aches and pains. – Mimi Coffey, Sr.

Mimi Coffey's 2008 Reading List
*1. General and Madame de Lafayette: Partners in Liberty's Cause in the American and French Revolutions by Jason Lane
*2. Samuel Adams: Father of the American Revolution by Mark Puls
3.A Son of Thunder: Patrick Henry and the American Republic by Henry Mercer
4. James Madison: The Struggle for the Bill of Rights by Richard Labunski
5. John Hancock: The Picturesque Patriot by Lorenzo Sears
*6. John Marshall: Definer of a Nation by Jean Edward Smith
7. Patriot Pirates: The Privateer War for Freedom and Fortune in the American Revolution by Robert H. Patton
*8. Boone: A Biography by Robert Morgan
**9. The Great Upheaval: 1788-1800 by Jay Winek (my favorite book covering the Founding Fathers period thus far, very well written and hard to put down)
10. American Creation by Joseph Ellis
11. American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House by Jon Meacham

2009 Reading List
1. Matthew Lyon "New Man" of the Democratic Revolution, 1749-1822 by Aleine Austin
*2. Rochambeau by Arnold Whitridge
3. Financial Founding Fathers by Robert E. Wright and David J.Cowen
*4. Two Fighters and Two Fines: Lives of Matthew Lyon and Andrew Jackson by Tom Campbell
5. Jefferson THe Scene of Europe 1784-1789 by Marie Kimball
6. 1776 by David McCullough
7. Revolutionary Characters by Gordon Wood
8. (Obama is a Founding Father on his own terms, hence his acceptance into my reading category) Dreams from my Father by Barack Obama
9. Forgotten Patriots by Edwin G. Burrows (the untold story of American Prisoners duringi the Revolutionary War)
*10. Adopted Son:Washington, Lafayette, and the Friendship that Saved the Nation by David A. Clarey

2010 Reading List
* 1. Undaunted Courage (the Lewis and Clark expedition) by Stephen Ambrose
2. The Intimate Lives of the Founding Fathers by Thomas Fleming
3. Libery to Lucy Moore (the Founders were influenced by France, this is a book on the French Revolution)
4. Signing Their Lives Away: The Fame and Misfortune of the Men Who Signed The Declaration of Independence by Denise Kiernan & Joseph D'Agnese
5. The Traitor and the Spy: Benedict Arnold and John Andre by James Thomas Flexner (no doubt Benedict Arnold would have been a huge Founding Father due to his military successes had he not lost his way, a sad tale on how he became a traitor)
6.Travels in North America in the years 1780-1781-1782 by The Marquis de Chastellux (fascinating to see the new America through the eyes of a French nobleman who fought our Revolution and was friends to everyone powerful at the time from Washington, Sam Adams , Thomas Paine to Madison...just proves that birds of a feather truly flock together)
7. Franklin and his French Contemporaries by Alfred Owen Aldridge 1957 New York University Press: great insight on how the French was influenced by Franklin and his attachments both scientifically, philosophically, diplomatically and socially with them. Amazing to know the French as a whole value Franklin even more than Americans.
8. The WOrks of Dr. Benjamin Franklin consisting of Essays, Humorous, Moral, and Literary: with his Life, Written by Himself, a rare book printed in 1835

2011 Reading List
1. The Private Franklin: The Man and His Family by Claude-Anne Lopez adn Eugenia W. Herbert 1975
2. The Secret Loves of the Founding Fathers by Charles Callan Tansill
3. Revolutionaries by Jack Rakove
4. The American Revolution 1763-1783 by William Edward Hartpole Lecky, M.P. arranged and edited by James Albert Woodburn, copyright 1898. This was a very interesting book as it is the American Revolution seen through the eyes of a British historian. Amazing to study our country's founding through this perspective. The British made way too many wrong assumptions and blunders. Had it not been for these, like Canada we probably would have remained British for a very long time.
*5. Aaron Burr: The Years from Princeton to Vice President, 1756-1805 by Milton Lomask, a great book on understanding how the natural cycles of politics work
6. A Magnificent Catastophe (the tumultuous election of 1800) by Edward Larson 2007, 2 valuable lessons from this book: 1) No way was Aaron Burr ever a traitor, he could have cinched the 1800 election easily and despite the tie vote did not for the good of the party (no wonder he was later found Not Guilty of treason in the western conspiracy). This proves that good character always pays off particularly in politics. 2) John Adams was hated by his own Federalist party for not declaring war on France when the country could least afford it but is respected for it now. Always do what is right in the situation, not what is politically expedient.
7. The Founders on the Founders by John P. Kaminski, a very interesting book on how the founders of our great country viewed eachother in their own words as found in their letters and writings
*8. Jefferson and Hamilton by Claude G. Bowers, 1925 Houghton Mifflin Co., so well written that you feel as if you are a fly in the room as Bowers takes you back in history and you witness so many great Founders in their bravery and wisdom as they interact between Hamilton and Jefferson. A true depiction of the genius of both of these two men.

2012 Reading List
2012 Reading List*
1. Stevens Thomson Mason: Misunderstood Patriot BY Kent
Sagendorph. Turns out he was the grandson of the first Stevens Thomson Mason of
Virginia who fought for freedom of the press when Congress voted to forbid
printing of the controversial Jay Treaty. This Mason was the boy Governor of
Michigan. An incredible story. He led the charge for Michigan to become a state,
built railroads and personally would rode around the state helping people when
cholera broke out and many people died. He truly loved Michigan and did
extraordinary tasks while it was still a wild west territory.

2. Founding Mothers by Cokie Roberts, great read. It's inspirational to read how the mother of 2 Founding Fathers ran 3 plantations all alone at age 16 and that a woman was brave enough to print the Declaration of Independence and also signed her name on the bottom willing to die with the signers themselves if caught.

3. Philip Freneau, the Poet of the American Revolution by Mary Stanislas Austin. Frenaua's poetry deeply moved the country at a time when emotions were all we really had in the lopsided battle. He also fought for the country on our seas and was captured and nearly died on a British war ship. He ended up living a long and productive life creating newspapers that assisted the political agendas of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. Makes you understand the power of the written word, you can move mountains.

*4.John Paul Jones by Lincoln Lorenz,published in 1943 by the US Naval Institute. A powerful and inspirational read of  a man who made miracles happen. When everyone said it could not be done, he made it happen: from capturing the Serapis while his ship was sinking to sailing the ice waters from Denmark to Russia. He was noble and principled, you could tell this from his friends (Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson). Thanks to him we have a navy with the highest principles.

5. Patriotic Fire: Andrew Jackson and Jean Laffite at the Battle of New Orleans by Winston Groom. An inspiring read on a battle that can best be described by the words of Matthew Arnold "Only two things are needed, the power of a man & the power of the moment." Andrew Jackson was that man. The battle looked unwinnable. Andrew Jackson was a man who would never quit, never considered defeat, always worked towards victory and had the heart of a lion. It is refershing and healthy to see the Baratarian privateer Jean Laffite and his brother get his due as well. The British tempted him with great riches to sell his ships and weapons (the most in all the region and necessary to win the battle) and he didn't flinch due to his patriotrism that history has largely questioned. Rich in enjoyable prose, Groom does an excellent job in bringing one of the US's most inspiring David versus Goliath stories to life. It is no wonder that the winning this battle made Andrew Jackson the 7th President of the US.

6. Robert Morris: Financier of the American Revolution by Charles Rappleye. Robert Morris sacrificed everything he had: wealth, credit, & time because he was dedicated first and foremost to helping our young, fledgling country in the most important way which was financing the American Revolution and new country. Despite all his hard work, many jealous politicians tried to accuse him of finanical impropriety but nothing could stick because the truth was if anyone owed anything it would be this country owed Robert Morris. Reading this book was inspirational and he belongs in the parthenon of most well respected Founders, without his financial genius our country could not have come into existence.

*7. Unlikely Allies: How a Merchant, a Playwright and a Spy Saved the American Revolution by Joel Richard Paul. This book is a joy. Silas Deane sacrificed everything to secure funding for the American Revolution: his business, his family (his wife died while he was in France, he never got to speak to his son again before he died with his political issues astrife while he was in Ghent). If Steven Spielberg ever got ahold of this book, it plays out with more drama than the HBO John Adams series (which was excellent). Once again, like the jealousies that surrounded Robert Morris some of the early Founders were jealous to an insecure point of making false accusations against Deane (accusing him of financial impropriety). Congress totally later vindicated him and paid his descendants the money his estate was justly due and restored his great reputation. He lived in France securing money for arms at a time when he had to secretly hide all his transactions as a merchant lest Britain start a war with France. He was the first unofficial ambassador to France from the US working at a time where he would go long months with no correspondence from Congress due to confiscated ships seizing mail, etc. Imagine being an unofficial envoy from an unoffical country. When I think of Silas Deane, all I can do is smile huge and be so ever grateful for such a true American hero back before it was known we would be a country. Cheers to Silas Deane.

8. The Drillmaster of Valley Forge: The Baron de Steuben and the Making of the American Army by Paul Lockhart. An inspiring read on how a foreigner with great military experience down on his luck immigrated to America and by giving it all he got, brought together an army that Washington could actually use by teaching it discipline and creating the first 'blue book' of rules and became one of Washington's most respected officers (Washington's last act as General was commending the Baron). To this day he is considered the favorite German immigrant in our Revolutionary history with German cultural parades around the country (in Chicago and New York) still honoring him.

9. John the Painter: Terrorist of the American Revolution by Jessica Warner.  Although "John the Painter" was not a Founding Father, he had contact with Silas Deane who was. While the Founding Fathers were trying to figure out how to end British rule, "John the Painter" was fighting fire with fire. He was burning seaside British towns in retaliation for the British burning down American seaside towns.  Whether rightly or wrongly, he proves that in war "fighting fire with fire" can be effective. Many British came to the opinion that burning seaside American towns was not right.

10. Benjamin Franklin: "Fart Proudly" a collection of Ben Franklin works edited by Carl Japikse. These writings show a humourous and witty side to the great Franklin.  Works that show not only was Franklin a genius, he was the kind of guy you would truly enjoy having a beer with.

11. Memoirs of Aaron Burr by Matthew L. Davis published in 1838.  Before Burr's death, he brought Davis all his writings, letters and works he wanted the world to judge him by. These included legal documents he created, intimate letters between him and his wife and others close to him.  These letters prove he was truly one of the greatest Founding Fathers of our time often overlooked or misjudged due to political jealousies of the time (eg. Jefferson's masterminded treason trial that was ridiculous and wholly without merit). Thank goodness this book was written. It sets the record straight for all future American generations to learn from one of the most brilliant Founders of our country.

12. Memoirs of Aaron Burr, Volume 2, by Mattehw L. Davis published in 1838. Volume 2 expounds upon the ridiculous trumped up treason trial in which he was found Not Guilty and the duel with Alexander Hamilton. In his later years he was crushed by the death of his daugher but took on two young ladies who lacked money for education and funded and encouraged them. He died with a dream that America would expand to the west.. it did. A true visionary and commanding Founding Father.

2013 Founding Father Reading List

1. Adams vs. Jefferson: The Tumultuous Election of 1800 by John Ferling. Interesting insights into John Adams' character as he experienced the loss of his reelection. Was disappointed in the lack of development of Aaron Burr's role as he could have single handily won the election but backed down in the era of gentlemanly politics. Quick light read beneficial to understanding the labyrinthian role of politics.

2. Moreau de St. Mery's American Journey 1793-1798 translated and edited by Kenneth Roberts and Anna M. Roberts published in 1947. The American Revolution inspired the French Revolution and at one time the Vice President of the French Commune (Congress) Moreau de St. Mery managed to escape France just before all the guillotining of powerful leaders. He fled to the US for 5 years and opened a bookstore in Philadelphia and became a member of the American Philosophical Society (which Ben Franklin was a member of), thereby getting to know personally some of the Founding Fathers including John Adams and Alexander Hamilton. It is interesting to view the Founding Fathers from a French diplomat's view. His American awakening is quite enlightening and a cultural enlightenment in many ways.

3. John Laurens and the American Revolution by Gregory D. Massey , 2000 by the University of South Carolina. They ought to make a Hollywood blockbuster out of this biography. I was truly moved. Young John Laurens, son of Henry Laurens- President of the Continental Congress, was born and raised in South Carolina. Due to a very cultured and visionary father, he was sent to Geneva, Switzerland and England for higher education including formal law school training (at a time when American lawyers just apprenticed under someone). He was almost finished when he returned to America to serve as General George Washington's secretary. He left behind a pregnant wife (too risky for her to travel due to fear of capture as his dad was even captured and made a prisoner of war in the Tower of London). He sacrificed everything and never asked for pay both serving in the military and as a diplomat to France to help Ben Franklin secure much needed loans. He was the epitome of honor and integrity in advancing this country's best interest. He died before 30, after the war, in a skirmish in South Carolina (the British were still raiding and foraging for food before complete evacuation). A very sad ending, but moving and inspiring to us now as we fight to try to keep the wonderful opportunities and freedoms for our fellow countrymen alive. May we all live to honor and fight for the good of others as he did. Hallowed is the name of young, noble John Laurens.

3. Redcoats and Rebels by Christopher Hibbert published in 1990. I have read so many books on Founding Fathers that I have now expanded into the military arena. What is particularly interesting about this book is that it is written by a well respected British historian. He is very accurate on facts right down to correcting the fact that at the decisive battle of Yorktown, the British did not play When the World Turned Upside Down in surrender (the song had not even been invented yet despite most American schoolkids being taught this). What was heart wrenching was discovering the extent of torture that happened to both sides in the Carolinas (particularly South Carolina) as the British abandoned the civil rules of war by slaughtering innocent civilians, etc. It is interesting to see how the ineptness of the Howes and Clinton probably cost the British the battle. As Ben Franklin always said: In order to persuade, you must use interest over reason. Clinton owned 4 estates in New York, and made protecting New York a priority rather than helping Cornwallis in Yorktown. Why choose a military leader soft on the Americans ? Fascinating read. One thing is for sure, the British have always had (even then) big fans of true democracy. Great read on leadership, lessons on how to be strong....

4. George Washington's Generals, edited by George Billias published in 1964. The book is divided into 12 chapters including one on George Washington and all his generals.  Every chapter was written by a different scholar. It exemplifies how it takes many different personalities on a team to effectively tackle a colossal problem. Knox was the artillery man, planner. Greene- the team spirit captain that kept everyone's spirits high. The Marquis de Lafayette- the young, eager "nothing is impossible" adored "adopted son" of Washington that he trusted most. The bravest- Anthony Wayne and Daniel Morgan. Gates- the professional soldier who brought training.  I really felt that there should have been a special chapter to include Baron Von Steuben who brought Washington's ragtag army much needed discipline and rules. We would not remember the Founders if it were not for these guys that made winning the Revolutionary War a reality. Any parent wanting to teach lessons on leadership should read through this book and share its stories around the dinner table. Great stuff.

5. Swamp Fox by Robert D. Bass, published in 1959. Marion Francis, otherwise known as the
Swamp Fox is the quintessential leader, much like George Washington, both professionally and personally. They say he created guerilla warfare in America. It is important to note however that he was never careless, reckless or bravado. He always placed the best interest of those fighting under him first. He skirmished when battles could not be one. He retreated to let his men live and fight another day. He was always merciful. When South Carolina later passed laws to protect military leaders like Francis from liability when they had to take property and provisions for their troops, he demanded to have his name left off saying that he had always lived his life to do right by others under all circumstances. Truly, one of the most remarkable men of character America has ever had.

6. Unwise Passions: A True Story of a Remarkable Woman and the First Great Scandal of 18th Century America by Alan Pell Crawford published in 2000. Gouverneur Morris who wrote the majority of the US Constitution, was the ambassador to France during the French Revolution, and was much like today's modern day George Clooney (in terms of a reputation of a much sought after playboy who refuses to marry)- quite the debonair ladies' man and successful businessman chose to marry Nancy Randolph late in life. Nancy was accused of miscegenation (having a slave as a lover, unacceptable in that day), murder (not formally but by her brother in law a powerful Virginian congressman) of her sister's husband, and rumors of killing an infant born out of wedlock to her brother in law (she was found Not Guilty). This book was a fascinating tale into the life of Nancy (Anne Cary Randolph), a girl who suffered much although born into a very wealthy family (her mother dying and she leaving the home young due to strained relations with her father's new wife). Through all her trials and tribulations she gained strength, perseverance and died a very wealthy woman who left much to her son with Gouverneur who became a successful businessman of New York who built a church, which still stands today, that entombs her remains. It is an inspiring tale of the strength of the human spirit and what it can overcome with goodness, charity and forgiveness to others, and hard work.

*7. The Extraodrinary Mr. Morris by Howard Swiggett published in 1952. After reading Unwise Passions, my interest in Gouverneur Morris was piqued yet again and I wanted to delve into his life once more. This biography proved to be a hundred times better than a previous one I read on Morris (more factual and dry). Swiggett really brings the idiosyncracies of Morris to life. One really feels as if you know him intimately after this exciting and page turner read. Morris was envied by many of the Founding Fathers he worked alongside because he was so much younger yet brilliantly talented. He was raised wealthy and this was the lifestyle he was both accustomed to and comfortable with. This came in handy when sent to France during the French Revolution, he helped many French nobles from certain death by guillotine. He was extremely educated and well read. His life is a most fascinating one.  He loved exercise and insisted on walking much despite his peg leg. His political popularity took traditional ups and downs and no matter the condition or party in power, due to his noble character and respect for all he was always asked to deliver eulogies of well respected Founding Fathers despite party affiliation which he did.  He died with  a political legacy  that proved patience and open mindedness for all views and party positions is necessary and important, no matter how passionate you feel about yours. He was one of George Washington's favorite friends.

8. Famous Queens of History: Marie Antoinette by John S.C. Abbott (published in 1910 or earlier by the Werner Co., date not listed).  In studying the Founding Fathers and American Revolutionary History, one becomes keenly aware that independence from Great Britain was not possible at that time without the tremendous funding of the French Revolution so I wanted to understand better the actual lives of the King and Queen of France who made it possible. This is indeed a very sad tale. Much of the stereotype of Marie Antoinette is not true. The French at that time had taken royalty to new heights (much ceremony in getting dressed, eating while visitors paraded by and watched you eat every morsel). Raised by a powerful Austrian Queen mother in Vienna, she had much distaste for all the French pomp and ceremony (most people think the opposite from the line of "Let them eat cake"), this offended her French ladies in waiting and from there the rumors proliferated. The country went broke and the French Revolution broke out due to its starving populace. She lamented her whole life that she was not educated properly. Maybe if she had, her and King Louis might have been able to avoid the low depths that brought forth both of their heads on a guillotine. This book shows her to be quite the doting and affectionate mother. Lucky for America, the French provided much needed funds. Unlucky for France, this cost came at too great a price for the happiness and security of their own people. Democracy is great, but as the tales of woe and mass beheadings tell in this book, rule of mob is never balanced.  A great history lesson for the world to remember.

9. The Whiskey Rebellion: George Washington, Alexander Hamilton and the Frontier Rebels Who Challenged American's Newfound Sovereignty by William Hogeland. Great read on politics. The impetus behind the Frontier Rebel movement was the fact that the tax scheme benefitted the merchant class (larger and bigger manufacturers of  alcohol) versus the small frontiersmen brewers. Great lesson on politics. Leave it to the frontiersman lawyer leading the movement to be the skilled, deft one able to compromise versus the violence of the angry masses. Lessons in what not to do: the Alexander Hamilton approach versus George Washington who eventually pardoned the two ringleaders sentenced to death.  Bottom line: there must be fairness and equity in our tax laws. True today as it was back then.

10. Blooding at Great Meadows: Young George Washington and the Battle that Shaped the Man by Alan Axelrod. This book is key to understanding the real George Washington. As a young man he was highly ambitious both in surveying which led to real estate business interests and in politics. He also followed the Washington tradition for generations of marrying into serious wealth. At the age of 16 he went into the Virginia wilderness for 33 days surveying with a very small band that taught him self reliance, wilderness smarts and bravery. At 22 he led his men to victory in the Great Meadows skirmish with the French and Indians only to capitulate to embarassing defeat at Fort Necessity on July 4, 1954. Batlling alongside British General William Braddock 22 years before July 4, 1776 Independence Declaration he learned firsthand the weaknesses of the world's strongest army at the time and gained invaluable wisdom and insight that would prepare him to lead victoriously the troops in the American Revolution. Branded an assassin for  the death of a French officer at Great Meadows, he learned to endure and overcome great obstacles. An inspiring read on what truly defines the great American can do spirit.

11. Revolutionary Management: John Adams on Leadership by Alan Axelrod. After the Revolution was over, hard to believe- but that's when the hard part started. Many a society has seen the rise of one revolution on top of another (look at the parties that rose to power in the French Revolution one on top of another amidst massive and constant bloodshed). This is because a society can't be stable without good government. Adams was the one key Founder who kept asking "What now ?" and make things happen. He had the right credentials that gave him keen insight into management. Before he was a lawyer, he was a teacher (understood education from a policy perspective), delegate to the Continental and Constitutional Conventions, ambassador to the Netherlands securing important loans America needed, a member of the delegation that wrote the Peace Treaty (also one of the 3 on the Declaration of Independence Committee), Ambassador to Great Britain once we became a country, a Vice President, a President. He also was an author of important pieces that were considered by our statesmen when they were shaping our government. So well rounded in so many important facets of policy making. This book contains from his writings (both of a public nature and private through his personal correspondence) in snippet form with analysis following his wisdom in management. To lead, you must at some level also be a good manager. So glad he existed when he did. He brought many unique gifts to the table which helped create an ideal framework of government. (this book read while on my honeymoon)

12. John Paul Jones Commemoration at Annapolis on April 24, 1906 compiled and printed in 1907 as a Resolution of Congress and reprinted in 1966. This 210 page book traces the journey General Porter undertook to find the body of John Paul Jones, navy hero extraordinaire of the American Revolution. It is a fascinating read as historical documents conflicted on important facts such as his burial location. When one reads the part about opening up his 113 year old casket and the description of what his flesh hand felt like (he was buried in a sealed lead coffin with alcohol and was surprisingly quite preserved) to the solemn and reverent joy of the festivities honoring his life on both sides of the Atlantic (Paris, France where he was found and Annapolis, Maryland) one is very touched. The whole event and all its details are truly surreal. So uncanny how such a hero was buried like a pauper in an unmarked grave only to have proper respect paid 113 years later. The book includes speeches made at the ceremonies from the likes of President Theodore Roosevelt and French dignitaries. It was very satisfying to me to read about  proper homage finally made to one of history's most incredible military heros and a personal hero of mine.

13. The Young Jefferson by Claude G. Bowers, copyright 1945. Jefferson was influenced early on by great characters- he hung out and studied law under Virgina's great George Wythe, included in the circle was the royal Governor of Virginia. One traces his love of music, architecture, fine wines, and books to his early  years as he cultivates himself with the finest minds of Virginia, goes abroad to Europe enriching his mind and tastes while representing our fledgling new country facing its' challenges as our French Ambassador. One sees the trials and great patience he had to grow to help our country become successful. The romance of his wife is a beautiful love story and she instills in him the love of family that he never forsakes even after her death.  Very enlightening read, great account of the mind and events that created the Declaration of Independence.

14. Monticello: A Family Story (an intimate portrait in depth of Thomas Jefferson and his family) by Elizabeth Langhorne, copyright 1989. Thomas Jefferson had two motivating great loves: democracy and family.  Of course he had other cultivated hobbies such as architecture, gardening, landscaping. philosophy and a dabbling into the sciences but all his life choices were premised on a furthering creating and strengthening our yound democracy and taking care of his family. In this book one sees a very soft side of Jefferson- the ever vigilant father taking care to give his daughters' excellent education, the doting grandfather, the helpful and guiding father in law sacrificing everything including what amounted to all his finances to care for his large extended and growing family when the son in law (later governor of Virginia) ran into obstacles.  One's heart is touched by the depth and solidity of his love of family. This kindness always also factored into his decisions regarding the treatment of his slaves he considered family members.  True to his deceased wife Martha's promise he never married again after her death dedicating everything to the family he brought into the world. He was a man of solid character when it came to family.

15. First Family: Abigail and John Adams by Joseph Ellis. It was a natural segway to go from reading Monticello to First Family as the lives of Jefferson and the Adams family interwined much. What is striking from this read is to relive the amazing accomplishments of John Adams and to see his son John Quincy Adams parallel much of it. Some of those amazing highlights both father and son shared: both were sent to negotiate a treaty at the end of a war (Revolutionary and 1812), both were US Ambassadors to Great Britain after war with Great Britain (Revolutionary and 1812), both served as ambassadors to the Netherlands and both became Presidents. One becomes acutely aware of the personal sacrifice that all members of this great and illustrious family made in the cause of always putting the country's needs and interests first. John and Abigail would spend years apart as he served the country both abroad and at home. Their letters and legacy evidence a true love story, one for which Americans can make claim to as the type of character that formed and sustained this great nation when other revolutions like the French came and failed. Proof that for democracy to succeed there must be good characters in leadership as well as good ideals.

1. Colonel William Smith and Lady: The Romance of Washington's Aide and Young Abigail Adams by Katharine Metcalf Roof in 1929. This old book is a rare find and I hope my analysis of it keeps twinkles of Adams precious history flickering otherwise lost to the dustbins of garbage refuses where old books too often find themselves. President John and Abigail Adams had one daughter: Abigail who married  the dashing, charming American Revolutionary officer Colonel William Smith whom she met while she was in Europe as her father served as Ambassador to Great Britain. This marriage was both a blessing and curse to Colonel Smith. Although George Washington recommended him for high office due to his devotion and bravery, many like Congressman Timothy Pickering manuevered to prevent high office and just rewards to Colonel Smith (Pickering tried like Smith his hand at land merchant speculating but did not prove as successful; John Adams always attributed it to his marriage with his daughter). Without reading this book, one would most likely form the wrong impression of how the Adams felt about their son in law (as I did by reading the above First Family by Ellis). The intimate letters tell a whole different story. John Adams was always recommending his son in law to higher office due to his achievements not patronage- but politics can be a tricky business as most often this failed. Abigail Adams, his mother in law, adored him. Colonel Smith came from a New York enterprising merchandising family and he brought that entrepreneurship ambition with him to the Adams family. Although some of his land speculations did not pan out, many did. John Adams encouraged him to enter law, this was never an interest of his. He preferred military sacrifice and business. He worked hard and honestly. In charge of troops when Washington died, he arranged a memorial service and monument erected to his honor in a highly esteemed manner in which Washington would have been proud. One side note of this book is the political melodramas that come to light regarding Burr (too often we only read the other version preserved by the Jeffersonian faction). Like Burr, although at one time very close to Jefferson (while they served together in international delegations in Europe) Col. Smith finds himself also at odds with Jeffersonian politics. The result of which produced him being dragged through a treason trial like Burr on unfounded charges (both found not guilty). He was very prescient about people and could distinguish noble men from traiters or posers. His warnings about General Wilkinson (hundreds of years later, discovered documents proved Wilkinson to be a double spy) manifested true although even this met criticism from President Adams his father in law who disagreed with him on this point. The great message of this book is his perseverance. One will always have political enemies and obstacles in life- just do the right thing and be good to those you encounter, write your history and the true history will bear you out. He was elected to Congress his later years in life and served admirably contributing much needed military guidance to Congress. His wife Abigail Adams patiently and loving served and beared well.  Beautiful story of good character, sacrifice, love and family.

2. Adventures of Jonathan Corncob: Loyal American Refugee written "by Himself", London, printed in 1787, newly reprinted by David R. Godine, Boston.  This is not the typical book on my Founding Fathers list but I read it because shortly after the American Revolution this was the hit fiction book read in Great Britain. It is still to this day a mystery who wrote it (although theories exist). This book's purpose was to expose to the British the "redneck, uncouth" American of that day. The story line is wild, hard to follow and of course Jonathan (whom I found out was a name the British thought described an American Forrest Gump of that day) describes his ridiculous escapades with women, the seas and military punishment observations.  The pleasure in the book is when the mystery author at the end explains all anonymous, so much of this sordid and outlandish tale is true.  I can't even fathom how a true Briton perceived Americans after this read.  It makes you wonder how much of American-British  history may have been colored by such extreme perceptions.

3. Barbary General: The Life of William H. Eaton (The amazing account of a flamboyant hero who was truly America's Lawrence of Arabia) by Samuel Edwards, 1968.  I honestly wasn't sure after reading and studying John Paul Jones in depth, if it was possible for there to be such another hero of the American Revolution time period defined by such blatant bravado and success (we know the generals had their share of defeating obstacles). Lo and behold, I found him- it is William H. Eaton. During early America, American ships were (much like the Somalian pirates of today) being pirated in the Barbary Coast. This was a huge problem to the early Presidents. Most European countries just paid the ransoms in the form of yearly "tributes" which were outrageously expensive. President Adams started building a navy, very nascent at that time. President Jefferson was not so keen on a big military so he was trapped in the ransom quandary while American seamen were being captured, and impressed into slavery.  William Eaton on his own came up with the brilliant idea of solving the problem by handling the politics from within.  With permission of President Jefferson he led a hardy group of adventurers (from different countries) and marched 600 miles across the Libyan desert from Alexandria to Derna, coordinated with the US Navy and defeated the Arabic Derna city defenders, deposed the dey's power and set up rule. Spectacular bravery, sacrifice and leadership on an unimaginable scale. He even self taught himself Arabic. The discipline he had to enforce on the march, the respect he had to earn from cultures foreign to his own to lead all point to the brilliance of a larger than life man.  Fascinating tale, inspiring read. Eaton- a true hero that defined the American can do on a grand scale.

4. The Barbary Pirates by C.S. Forester, originally printed in 1953, updated with new material by Flying Point Press in 2007.  After the spellbinding Barbary General read (see above) I wanted to get some background on the pirates off the Coast of North Africa. What struck me most in this book was the sad tale of the 307 American shipmen of the ship Philadelphia who were captured as slaves and held for over 3 years while our country tried desperately hard to win their freedom back and secure the seas. This was an informative read on the history and events that caused us to sing in our U.S. Marine Corps Hymn "From the Halls of Montezuma to the Shores of Tripoli; We fight our Country's battles in the air, on land and sea..." It took great bravery for our American seaman (both military and merchant) to sail halfway across the world away from ready resources and supplication to ensure justice on the Barbary waters.  My hat is so off to them.

5. Jefferson and the Gun-Men: How the West Was Almost Lost by M. R. Montgomery published in 2000. The book parallels the Lewis & Clark exploration (for this I recommend Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose) and Zebulon Pike's western exploration into Spanish territory alongside the "Burr conspiracy." The author is uninformed on important Burr details (I recommend he read Burr's 2 biographies by Matthew Davis full of direct correspondence) such as WHY the Supreme Court led by Marshall heard the nonmeritorious treason trial and rendered a Not Guilty (not because the federal system was "so small" but because law requires it and this after Kentucky and Mississippi dropped the bogus charges due to lack of evidence).  It would behoove the author to study what did and did not constitute treason  (for eg. Congress told John Paul Jones after Independence he was welcom to fight  for Russia's Queen Catherine the Great because it was legal and there was no war in the US, much like Burr exploring the western territories and action if in fact Spain declared war against the US). His case against Burr relies chiefly on General James Wilkinson whom history has proven to be a double spy, yet he refers to him as "that loyal Democratic-Republican" (p.284). The narrative on Pike proved interesting. It was disappointing to learn Pike (unlike Lewis & Clark) did not take care of his men (left 2 to freeze in the wilderness), lied to his men about the reason for the expedition and where they were going. He never even climbed Colorado's Rocky Mountain's "Pike's Peak." I have, and am very much impressed with it- just not the name sake. Inspiring read on the hardiness of what it takes to cross the western territory on horse and canoe, especially in the dead of winter without enough supplies, food or clothing.  Sad tale how Lewis committed suicide years later as Congress was fighting him on his expenses (which they eventually paid). Great perception by the author that adventurers enlighten but it is hard core economics of mines, land for farming and cattle that expanded our country's borders. " the long run picks and plows far outweigh guns and glory. Work defeats adventure, every time."

6. American Traveler (The Life and Adventures of John Ledyard: The Man Who Dreamed of Walking the World) by James Zug, 2005. Before the Lewis and Clark expedition, young John Ledyard had already expressed to Thomas Jefferson his dream to walk across the American continent. He was a hardy, adventurous visionary. He was on Captain Cook's third and final voyage.  Very insightful (Captain Cook was murdered by angry Hawaiin natives) he wrote in his journal witnessing Captain Cook's "disgustful behavior" in Tonga "Perhaps no considerations will excuse the severity which he sometimes used towards the natives... he  would perhaps have done better to have considered THE FULL EXERTION OF EXTREME POWER IS AN ARGUMENT OF EXTREME WEAKNESS." In his college years he went to Dartmouth and made an extreme canoe voyage of 220 miles down the Connecticut River which is still a tradition on campus today. He hiked across Siberia and was on  an African adventure when he died. Ironic how his portrait was hung in the Somerset House, the headquarters for the Royal Society in London, the same building where eight years earlier he had went to collect his pay for the Cook voyage. From a sailor to world celebrated hero of the Royal Society, John Ledyard teaches us what it means to follow your dreams.

7. John Dickinson: Conservative Revolutionary by Milton E. Flower. Known as the "Penman of the American Revolution, he wrote The Farmer Letters (much like Thomas Paine's Common Sense which helped turn the tide of political feeling towards Revolution), Letters of Fabius (much like the Federalist Papers that helped convince the states to vote in favor of ratifying the Constitution), and the majority of our first form of government, The Articles of Confederation.  He rose to the the executive governor position of both Pennsylvania and Delaware. Many know him infamously as one of the Founders who voted against the Declaration of Independence; however, this fails to take into account that after being on the wrong side of that vote (calculating  at the time that our country did not have the military might and resources) he dedicated his life to winning the war effort and serving our country quite nobly.  Ironically, one of his political adversaries in the royal Penn government, Joseph Galloway (who eventually fled to England to live after the Revolution) attacked John on the streets of Philadelphia one day only to have the colonial government insist that while serving as governor, John live in the mansion he built. A fascinating and most impressive read on one of our most least celebrated Founding Fathers who deserves his rightful place in history.

8. George Washington's Secret Six by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yeager. A great read on how we won the American Revolution because we had the better spy network. It is very well researched. I was inspired by two great life lessons: Benjamin Tallmadge was smart enough to embrace new spying techniques against tradition and that is why Washington promoted him and put him in charge (it is always smarter to go with expertise and stay abreast of new developments). Go with the guy/gal whose heart is in the right place. Although Robert Townsend was quiet and understated and on paper would not look the best part for his role, he would turn out to be Washington's best spy because despite all outward appearances, when it mattered most his heart was rock solid in the right place.  This book makes me appreciate all the undercover Americans who have and still risk their lives for our country's security. Thank you to you...

9. The Treason Trials of Aaron Burr by Peter Hoffer. I wrote a blog about this book: .I was very inspired by the strength of Aaron Burr to withstand and fight back against false treason charges that were the convenient result of a symbiosis of double agent (paid Spanish spy) General James Wilkinson and Thomas Jefferson's political animosity towards Burr. Wilkinson needed to stop Burr from settling the American West (Spain's interest) and after a casting of ballots 36 times in the contested election of 1800 (in which Burr refused to canvas or campaign for votes as was the gentleman way of the times) Jefferson wanted to rid himself of Burr's political threat. This case has been cited 383 times in federal court since 1807 for basic principles such as the right to an attorney, to bail , to view and inspect the evidence, to cross examine your accuser but most importantly for the principle that the executive branch can't use the judicial branch for its own political purposes.

10. Glory, Passion, and Principle: The Story of Eight Remarkable Women at the Core of the American Revolution (2003) by Melissa Lukeman Bohrer. This is an inspiring read on eight women who defied the odds from Deborah Sampson, who dressed as a man to join the front lines of the Revolution to a poweful Indian Cherokee leader Nancy Ward who exhibited the kind of wisdom and compassion we often see so little of in time of wars amidist inflamed prejudices.  An interesting historical note, the story of Phyllis Wheatley, a slave who became one of the greatest poets of that generation at a time when most slaves and free blacks could not read or write, was not believed by Thomas Jefferson (quite disappointing, George Washington on the other hand was most impressed and her and saved her letters and poems).  The power of the pen is sometimes mightier than the sword as Thomas Paine proved, but few school children can appreciate it was the mighty pen of Mercy Otis Warren and her supreme use of effective sarcasm that also fueled the Revolution. Great quick read.

11. Forgotten Founder, Drunken Prophet: The Life of Luther Martin by Bill Kauffman (2008). After reading The Treason Trials of Burr, I was inspired to read about this great criminal defense lawyer and Founding Father. It turns out he was quite the Anti-Federalist (a very important ideological group at the time needed to argue for the balance of state versus federal powers). He was instrumental in not only being responsible for the Not Guilty treason trial of Aaron Burr and Not Guilty impeachment trial of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Chase (both political retribution trials); he was the delegate at the Constitutional Convention who defined the treason statute correctly knowing that this would be used by politicians against others for political purposes. He argued strongly against the federal government being able to have constitutional powers to summon up state militias. Unfortunately, his predictions have come true as we have seen in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was wise before his time. Although he did not prevail on many good points that would have wisely limited the federal government, his contributions were colossal. We can thank his efforts in large part for the fact that we have a Bill of Rights.  The original Martin Luther is credited with leading a religious reformation. Martin Luther King's efforts have been rewarded with a national holiday. Yet, the Constitutional Convention delegate Luther Martin, who took up unpopular views of limiting federal government at a time when George Washington could easily have been made a king, is a forgotten founder. Thank you Bill Kauffman for writing this tremendous piece on a great and largely unknown founder. Our country would be better off remembering Luther Martin's cogent arguments that keep freedom alive in the face of an exponentially growing federal government. Our roots are our history, and his- some of the best.

12. The Making of a Patriot: Benjamin Franklin at the Cockpit by Dr. Sheila Skemp (2013). First, this book was exciting to me as it was written by Dallas' County Criminal Court no. 3 Judge Doug Skemp's sister. She is a colonial history professor at the University of Mississippi. Her history expertise is spot on. This is the story of how Ben Franklin went from a cool and level headed diplomat acting as a go between into a passionate rebellious incendiary all basically because of the beratement and humiliation he suffered from the British at the "cockpit." The hearing that was suppose to be a perfunctory act, turned into a public mockery of Ben when the British found out he had leaked Massachusetts' royal governor's Thomas Hutchison's correspondence in an effort to explain American frustrations.  King George got mad at this secretive act of Ben's and stripped him of his American postmaster job.  All the while, Ben was working hard to turn Pennsylvania into a royal colony. Very interesting read, it definitely shed light on aspects of Ben Franklin most Americans don't know. If it wasn't for the cockpit incident, Ben might have been successful in getting England to concede to American demands. When they finally did by sending Admiral Richard Howe to concede all American requests, Ben Franklin (after the "cockpit" debacle) said it was too late. A great practical life lesson in never making someone a spectacle- a poor taste in politics can sometimes start a revolution !!!!!

13. For King and Country: The Maturing of George Washington 1748-1760 by Thomas A. Lewis 2006. Want to know George Washington's least favorite day of the year ? Yup, July 4. Why ? Because way back before he led the Continental Army to freedom he surrendered in defeat Fort Necessity on that date.  Not only did he surrender in defeat, his killing of Lieutenant Joseph Coulon de Villiers de Jumonville sparked the 7 year French Indian War all over a mistaking a band of French/Indians who claimed they wanted to talk for a war party. Washington teaches us that we all make mistakes. It is learning from them and overcoming them that makes great leaders. An insightful read on what formed his incredibly resilient and strong temperament. A book that teaches all good things come at a price. Nothing great ever happens easy although it may appear so. It is years of discipine, learning from our mistakes and forging ahead with courage and hope that builds a great people. Thank you George Washington for never giving up on yourself and thus your country.

14. The Family Life of George Washington by Charles Moore 1926. This is a very old book, a true relic and  treasure. When the author was a child he had a visitor that shared he used to sit on George Washington's knee as a child. The author goes into great detail about his Washington's family. I dare say many of the details are probably not known by Washington scholars unless they have read this book. It was very interesting to read about Daniel Parke, the paternal grandfather of Martha Washington's son (George Washington's stepson) John Parke Custis. Daniel Parke's life's story is an important one to learn from. He had a fiery temper, although he rose to extreme success despite it (becoming a favorite of Queen Anne and awarded with a Carribean governorship) he died a most gruesome death (dragged out of his house, back broke and left to die on the street) at the hands of his very dissatisfied subjects. Parke's daughter (Washington's stepson's mom) apparently inherited her father's bad temper as her husband was so happy to be free of her, his tombstone declared the years he lived away from her in his "bachelorhood" to be his happiest (making his tombstone that still stands today one of the most bizarre ones where it lay). It just goes to prove two principles: what goes around comes around and the apple does not fall far from the tree. Funny how throughout history the names change but the stories repeat themselves.  As for George Washington, this book gives keen insight into his solid, moral character and how he was most magnimous with friends and family.  As a salient political note and lesson, when he discovered that his mother, Mary Ball Washington, was petitioning the federal government for a pension, he put an end to that by continuing to suppport her needs till her death rather than burdening the government. This is a great book with true, rare historical jewels.

15. Desperate Sons: Samuel Adams, Patrick Henry, John Hancock, and the Secret Bands of Radicals Who Led the Colonies to War by Les Standiford 2012 (Harper Books). The Sons of Liberty were not just in Boston, but in New York, South Carolina and all throughout the colonies. They arranged the Boston Tea party, rebellion from the ground up against various acts like the Stamp Act and Townshend Acts, and galvanized the people's heads and hearts towards independence. They were both of the learned class as well as artisans. They rallied around symbols such as the Liberty Pole and strategized in taverns. Paul Revere is one of the greatest success stories, as his business flourished and Reverware remains to this day.  Several others, with a flair for risk taking and disregard for the law, died in poverty and with tragic tales.  A good moral to the story is: rebellion for the right reasons can be productive but the ends as a way of living never justify the means.  Principal is key and sometimes calls for actions outside our comfort zone, but solid living based on character and respect for others is the only true map for success. Thanks to these brave and daring souls, we live in this great country founded on liberty and justice for all.

*16. Paul Revere & The World He Lived In by Esther Forbes, published in 1942 by Riverside Press. Well written (makes you want to read her other books, well researched, communicated and pithy). Paul Revere can best be described by two words: enterprising perseverance. He was always the man for the job. He manufactured gunpowder when Boston needed it (a trade he had to learn);  cast bells and copper sheathing for boats after the Revolution when there was a dire need; and invented dentures out of wiring and sheep's teeth for his friends out of need, just to name some of his ventures. So it is no surprise that when the Sons of Liberty needed a dependable man on the spot, Paul Revere was that guy.  Although he was captured before Concord, his midnight ride still started the chain of reactions that readied the colonists and gave time for Sam Adams and John Hancock (both serving in the Continental Congress) enough time to escape capture. His silver crafstmanship, of master quality, remains in museums today. His son carried on his business growing it to over 10,000 workers. Even at 80, his political passion could be relied upon. His is the first signature during the War of 1812 on a petition of local Boston men who pledged to carry out actions and supply the town's needs. He lent money generously to those in need, always took care of family and extended family (his mother lived with him till she died), and died a well respected man of means. It was not the ride that made the man (as the famous Longfellow poem makes obvious), but rather the man who made the ride. America can be very grateful for an early founding father who truly proved  the principal- the harder you work, the more you contribute.

17.  John Hancock: Patriot in Purple by Herbert Sanford Allen, 1953. This New York  journalist quit his job and spent 5 years doing major historical research on John Hancock because a definitive biography of him had never been written. He did a fantastic job This book is truly a gift of historical insight with a story which needed preservation for the ages as we honor our Founding Fathers.  The man with the biggest signature on the Declaration of Independence, who sacrificed his wealth for our fledgling nation when it looked impossible to win a Revolution, who served as President of the Continental  Congress, and a multi-term governor of Massachusetts deserves an in depth study of his life and his contributions.  John Hancock worked hard for his wealthy merchant uncle who had no children of his own. He eventually inherited his uncle's business. His forbears helped create Harvard University and were educated there, as was John Hancock. John joined up with the Boston Sons of Liberty early on, at a time when monied interests sided with the British. He sacrificed much for the cause, even financing the construction of a ship for the war effort.  He worked tireless hours during the Revolution and was rewarded by the love of the people with many terms as the head of Massachusetts. He always adhered to style and class, yet the love of his heart for his country resulted in many balls, parties and festivities thrown for the benefit of the people both in political function and outright celebrations for the masses. As he  got older and suffered serious health problems with gout, the people overlooked his inabilities to serve and kept reelecting him. He surrounded himself with a trusted cabinet that could get the work done. His administrations were judged effective due to his even tempered hand in conciliating and working with all sides. It is amazing he could even keep his business afloat with all the years his attentions were directed in government.  He brought a broad mind and outlook to government assisted by the fact  he had spent time in Europe prior to the Revolution. Most Americans think that the Declaration of Independence was signed by all immediately. Not true. His was the first and only signature for a time period, him knowing full well that this was treason and he would be hanged if caught. During the Revolution he and Sam Adams lived under a cloud of being wanted and threatened with a treason trial and death. This never stopped him.  Both his beloved children died, and his wife remarried quickly after his passing. Those candles and many others have burned out forever, but the work and heart of John Hancock for his country will live on in perpetuity because he lived for "the people" and democracy for all. John teaches us that when you put your all into what you believe  for the right reasons and for righteous causes, nothing is impossible and greatness happens for many as a result.  Long live the legacy of John Hancock, a great man for all times.

18. Ten Tea Parties: Patriotic Protests that History Forgot by Joseph Cummins, published in 2012 by Quirk Books in Philadelphia. Great quick read that glosses over ten tea parties in early America that were instrumental in galvanizing the country. We find them interesting history now, but back then identifying openly with the tea parties was a treasonable offense. This book goes into the history behind the ta tax, tea consumption as a culture and how different colonies bonded together over the tea crisis with varying responses. Philadelphia was able to send the Polly ship loaded up with tea back to England avoiding a Boston tea party destruction. This book fulfills an important need in reminding Americans that there was more than just one Boston tea party.  It was not that Americans could not afford the tax on tea, it was the principle of no taxation without representation.  To this day, we as a society look back at those tea parties as important gestures of our dedication to a representative democracy.

19. Dr. Joseph Warren: the Boston Tea Party, Bunker Hill, and the Birth of American Liberty by  Dr. Samuel A. Forman published in 2012 by Pelican Publishing Company. Dr. Samuel Forman is both a physician and has served in the mililtary, so he blessed us all with this excellent book based on his curiosity into a Founding Father who was both a doctor and served in the military as well. This book is extremely well researched, with poignant personal parts (such as sharing with the reader when he visited the grave of Mercy Scollay, Dr. Warren's lover in widowhood prior to his death) and top rate myth debunking. Schoolchildren across America can recite the names of Paul Revere, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and sadly so few know Dr. Joseph Warren.  It becomes very clear that history may very well have recorded the name of Dr. Joseph Warren as one of its Presidents had he not died so early on in the battle of Bunker Hill (technically on Breed's Hill). In a short time, Dr. Warren served as the President of the Provincial Congress, Chairman of the Safety Committee, and led his men on Breed's Hill.  A self made man, whose father died when he was 14, he graduated from Harvard, taught school, got his master's and apprenticed under a British trained doctor. He advocated for minimum standards in medicine among practicing physicians. He had a robust practice due to his sharp skills and excellent way with people. He wrote pithy and powerful patriotic pieces. He founded a Mason's group in Boston and advocated for peace between the two resulting Mason lodges. He was a visionary. Due to his work, weapons for the Revolution were seized at Fort Ticonderoga. He was the one who gave Paul Revere the signal before he started on his famous ride. He treated both wounded American and British soldiers. He treated the poor. He braved smallpox by volunteering in early smallpox vaccination clinics. When the first Continental Congress was meeting he was holding fort in Boston and trying to maintain civil order and a separation of powers with the military minutemen. He was a visionary, he coordinated a trip to England for Josiah Quincy to try to broker peace with the mother country. He was smart, diplomatic, not capable of maintaining enemies with his magnanimity, charm, and forgiveness; he was a leader among leaders. When the shots bellowed forth, his men at Breed's Hill needed a leader. He fulfilled this role sacrificing his life having no idea that the Continental Congress had appointed him a General 3 days earlier. Dr. Joseph Warren was a phenomenal leader, a phenomenal man.  Cheers to that rare leader of leaders who was instrumental in the early days of our Revolution and always put the good of his fellow man before himself. He died with four parentless children as his wife had already passed. There was no sacrifice he considered greater than the urgent needs of his young, desperate, fledgling country.

20. The Muse of the Revolution by Nancy Rubin Stuart published in 2008 by Beacon Press. Mercy was an author, playwright and astute observer of history. Why ? One of her brothers was not so interested in school and she took his place. Pity all girls were not afforded an opportunity for education back then. She had an unquenchable thirst to write the history of the American Revolution and did. Funny how she was married to James Warren (member of the Provincial Congress, on the Board of the Navy) who could have been a signer of the Declaration of Independence or top military officer but she always held him back. Whenever he was asked to step up to the plate and serve in important positions, she would hold him back. The result ? The sins of the father came back to haunt the sons. When her two sons needed assistance from the Continental Congress, none was to be found, even pleas to President John Adams who was a dear family friend who on many occasions tried to get James Warren to serve in important needed positions.  One of her sons traveled to Portugal in hopes of becoming an ambassador and the other sought a pension due to losing a limb in the Revolution. Ironic, how she was so ambitious yet held her husband back.This perspective and studying Mercy's personal life really makes you appreciate the sacrifices of the women who supported their spouses to the highest level, such as Martha Washington and  Abigail Adams. Mercy was inspiring in that she never let age stop her. She finished her monumental  history annal when she was well past 60. Bright as can be, her writings helped stir a Revolution. They were necessary sparks at opportune times, much like Thomas Paines' Common Sense. Great read, especially the insightful history tidbits such as when her son sailed back to America with the notorious Captain Landais, who serves as a poignant life lesson to heed warnings about unstable personalities (Congress had ignored John Paul Jones and Ben Franklin's warnings about him). Landais actually fired at an American ship during the war and was so brutal, his own crew mutinied and took over the ship.  Pleasant read on an important figure. After all, history is for those who write it. Interesting to delve into the life of the author behind the powerful pen. Her work was most impressive.

1. The Whites of Their Eyes: Bunker Hill, the First American Army, and the Emergence of George Washington by Paul Lockhart published in 2011 by Harper. Not only is the author an excellent military historian, but his prose reads like a novel come to life. There are great lessons to be gleaned from this book. The first is that it is so important for a military leader to ensure his grand strategy goes into effect. Interesting to note that the battle redoubts were not to be initially built on Breed's Hill. Who knows how the battle may have went and how many lives saved, had Artemis Ward's original strategy been implemented. History leaves it to Prescott or Putnam for responsibility  in the change of plans,  but no one really knows. This demonstrates the importance of having a sanctioned and appointed top military commander. There cannot be a battle of the egos on the field lest one courts failure. This all took place before the Continental Congress had appointed George Washington the commander in chief. Second, recognize brilliance and reward it.  John Stark was the clever officer who determined impromptu the battle must be fought behind some form of barrier. He immediately had his men construct the rail fence which was responsible for the large amount of British casualties and the saving of many American lives. This form of brilliance is neither situational nor coincidental. John Stark went on to capture the mercernaries at Saratoga by sheer genius which allowed Horatio Gates to win the Battle of Saratoga. Yet Stark was never promoted to General. Who knows how much shorter the Revolution may have been had he been strategically placed in proper command ?  Author Paul Lockhart, through his tool bag of lively and impeccably placed narration, brings the military side of our American Revolution to life in sheer wonder.

2. The Minutemen and Their World by Robert A. Gross, published in 1976 by Harper Collins. After reading Lockhart's Bunker Hill book, I was fascinated by the Minutemen and the role they played in the Revolution. Robert Gross does an excellent job in describing the demographics, politics and life of Conord, Massachusetts. I was struck by the fact that whether loyalist or patriot, after the Revolution the most powerful families rose back to power. This small town example gives a lot of credence to the old saying that you can take all the money away from the wealthiest people in the world, give them 5 years and they will earn it all back. It was interesting to see how church membership was so integral to status back then.  The influential families that used their influence and sacrifice to help win and inspire the Revolution was postitively motivating.

3. Benedict Arnold in the Company of Heroes by Arthur S. Lefkowitz, published in 2012. What a magnificent piece of scholarship !  Mr. Lefkowitz details the lives of the courageous men who went with Arnold to Quebec. It is inspiring to see how this experience made them some of the best soldiers and officers in the Revolutionary War. It was fascinating to learn about them from their beginnings to death.  It was interesting to learn of the plot to kidnap Arnold after he became a traitor, that almost come to fruition. It was not a surprise to see that Benedict Arnold, although a courageous soldier, had many shortcomings and depravities when it came to moral values.

4.  Christoher Gadsden and the American Revolution by E. Stanley Godbold, Jr. and Robert H. Woody, published in 1982 by the University of Tennessee Press. Christopher Gadsden was the Samuel Adams of the South. He was a firebrand revolutionary early on. He served in in the military, spent almost a year in solitary confinement as a prisoner of war, served in the Stamp Congress and both Continental Congresses. He served many years in various capacities in the South Carolina state government. He was elected governor of South Carolina but due to bad health, turned it down and served on the governor's privy council. His service to the country was unwavering and noble. Interesting to note, as an old man he reflected on his life and remarked, "He that forgets and forgives is the best citizen." He  made many political enemies with his firebrand style. It would appear that he did not advocate this style of politics in his later years. He requested to be buried in an unmarked grave. His wish was carried out. Gadsden is an inspirational character, yet at the same time an instructive life lesson on how diplomacy trumps acerbic politics.
5. Nathan Hale 1776 by Henry Phelps Johnston, published by Yale University Press 1914 (only a thousand copies made). Heroes are born, not made. They are great men and women of character who rise to the occasion. This biography touches on some of the sterling character that made Nathan Hale a hero, America's first spy killed in action. This book is a rare gem in that it makes use of never before unearthed firsthand sources (original letters) to add to the story of America's beloved hero. Loved the  appendix which proved as enlightening if nor more so than the narrative.

6. Scientist, Soldier, Statesman, Spy Count Rumford: The Extraordinary Life of a Scientific Genius by G.I. Brown, published by Sutton Publishing (paperback edition) in 1999. Franklin Delano Roosevelt declared American born Benjamin Thompson the greatest scientist America has ever produced right up there with Benjamin Franklin. Benjamin Thompson (otherwise known as Count Rumford) made landmark studies into heat. He invented a stove and heating system that would feed the masses. Always the opportunist and his life philosophy, during the American Revolution he became a spy and later immigrated to England. He started the Royal Institute there and was invited to France's equivalent. He lived in Bavaria many years in a high position of government. Always thinking with a scientific mind, he embarked on a massive project to take the homeless off the street (making it a crime and giving them jobs in a factory he built) and make them productive. Not only did he achieve this, in order to accommodate them he came up with the aforementioned inventions (mass heating and stove system). His personal life was not exemplary, as he was not loyal to anyone including his own family (leaving his first wife and a taciturn relationship at times with his American born daughter), yet his accomplishments due to his industriousness and scientific mind are inspirational.

7. The Heartbreak of Aaron Burr by H.W. Brands, published by Anchor Books in 2012. Aaron Burr is one of my favorite founding fathers. He is much misunderstood and falsely so (we need to get textbook writers who touch the surface to revise based on research and truth versus lazy snippets that are merely repeated). University of Texas Professor H. W. Brands is one of my all time favorite authors. When I read his biography of Ben Franklin, I literally could not put it down. I recall spending an entire Sunday in pajamas from sunup to bedtime literally in my bed reading that book. This is a short masterpiece. In true H.W. Brands style, it is a page turner. Aaron Burr's love for his daughter, grandson and country leap off the pages. What I would pay for H. W. Brands to write a 700 page comprehensive report of Burr's life. In this little American Portraits series you see inside the soul of Aaron Burr. You witness his genius, his political savvy and unparalleled love for his daughter. The final pages will have you in tears as you share Burr's heartbreak over what he loves most: his family.  Brands quotes enough snippets of the Burr treason trial to convince even the history novice of the ridiculousness of such charges. Great book on a great man who should be the torch on how to be the world's best dad. The unjust sufferings he went through are simply gargantually unfair.

8. Aaron Burr The Conspiracy and Years of Exile: 1805-1836 by Milton Lomask published in 1982. Great read on Burr's later years. He surmounted many obstacles including the death of his beloved daughter, only grandson, the treason trial and years of exile abroad in Europe. Through all his most difficult times it was the love of his daughter that motivated him to be strong. This book is an inspirational story of the power of love between parent and child and how it can get you through anything.

9. Nathanael Greene by Gerald M. Carbone published in 2008 by Palgrave Macmillan. This is an inspiring read of George Washington's right hand man. Greene helped secure independence by winning the Southern campaign. He also placated and played peacekeeper to the French, whose navy was vital to the battle of Yorktown. He had impeccable judgment in people. He warned Washington against General Lee, who as it turned out had given plans to the British on how to capture the American army. Greene personally signed off on supplying his army with uniforms when they were naked. The fledgling Continental Congress did not have the funds. Greene was never repaid and was besought by creditors and died shortly thereafter at the age of 44. Serving nine years as General, he went years without seeing his wife and family and sacrificed all for the independence of this country. Washington made an excellent choice in Greene. Our country is forever grateful.

10. American Emperor: Aaron Burr's Challenge to Jefferson's America by David O. Stewart published in 2011 by Simon and Shuster. This is a very slanted read by an author who obviously dislikes Burr. Despite this, I learned some very interesting facts about Burr. Most fault Burr for the Hamilton duel and the fallout was immense. Very few know that this was actually the 3rd duel scheduled between them but Hamilton had apologized on two previous occasions. Hamilton also wrote prior to the fatal duel that he would withhold fire. This he did not do, yet many believed he had and therefore attributed moral depravity to the duel. Undeniably according to the boat witnesses, they heard two shots (both fired). It is also interesting to see how far Thomas Jefferson went against what we know him for (rights) in a relentless pursuit to see his biggest challenger prosecuted for treason unsuccessfully. It is quite disturbing and a great lesson in that one must not trust a person will always live up to their professed principles, many do not when it benefits them- particularly where power or politics is involved.

11. Henry Knox: Visionary General of the American Revolution by Mark Puls. Henry Knox was not only a jack of all trades, he was its master too. He was Washington's chief General on artillery. He helped beef up the Navy (convincing Congress to buy 6 cheap but cutting edge ships when it could afford none), he came up with the 3 tiered government of checks and balances and communicated this with Constitutional Congress delegate Governeur Morris who made it happen. He was loyal to Washington when Conway's Cabal almost replaced Washington with General Gates. Always a man of action, impeccable smarts, a visionary and of good character, the county owes much to this one incredible man. He was the Ben Franklin of diplomacy in both the congressional and military arena. Yet it all started when he started working as an understudy at the age of 12 in a bookstore (reading voraciously) to help put food on the table for his mother and brother. A man of good heart achieves much, a fantastic and inspiring read.

12. They Were Not Afraid to Die by A.C.M. Azoy, published in 1939 by The Military Service Publishing Co. of Harrisburg, Pa.  This is a very old book with great historical insight. Interesting to learn how the Battle of Bunker Hill could have been won had the Americans had more ammunition. One of the New York battles suffered a great loss because in the frenzy of military planning, some hot air officers full of confidence refused to consider a small passage which turned out to be a back door entry of defeat. Interesting to see how General Gates was really a coward, nowhere to be found at the Battle of Trenton and refused to end the Battle of Saratoga early because he was neither a man of action nor courage. A historical gem with facts that should not be lost to history but carefully detailed in this delightful book.

13. Recollections of the Jersey Prison Ship by Albert Greene take from the manuscript of Captain Thomas Dring, Prisoner, published in 1829.  A harrowing read of how American prisoners of war were treated on a British prison ship. The book describes Dring's rescue which is a true tale of hope and inspiration. Right down to the particulars of how they would get sick from the copper pot the food was cooked in and the dirty water, to lack of sunlight and hygeine, the book brings to life the inhuman struggles our forbears went through to bring us independence and democracy. It makes you realize the problems of a modern world not at war are very minor and inconsequential in comparison. May we all do our best to make our forbears proud by spreading kindness and truth so that all may have a fair shot at happiness and opportunity.

14. Weathering the Storm: Women of the American Revolution by Elizabeth Evans, published in 1975 by Charles Scribner's Sons. In focusing on the "Founders" and military leaders of the American Revolution, we often don't think to remember the huge sacrifices and risks that women took to create this country. This book glosses over in nutshell fashion the struggles of eleven women: from Deborah Sampson Gennett,who dressed as a man to join the army, to Grace Growden Galloway, who lost everything due to her ties to the loyalists. What really struck me was the injustice of war and how the best of  people can lose their moral sense of right and wrong and how this can even seep into and then dominate governmental policies. It is not right to strip people of their land and property just because they were associated to the losers of war. The strength of one's character can be seen not only in times of struggle, but particularly more so in victory and power. Many women before us exercised tremendous strength, risk and sacrifice in giving to the greater good. Let us never forget this.

15. Martha Washington by Patricia Brady, published in 2005 by Penguin Books. Wow. The image I had before of Martha being the doting grandmother (which she was) does not hold a candle to the strong willed, visionary Rock of Gibraltar Martha Dandridge Custis Washington was. In a day and age where the classes really did not intermarry, young and ambitious Martha broke the mold. She fell in love with wealthy Daniel Parke Custis. His patrician father forbade the union. Martha, on her own, made a visit to the stalwart man and changed his mind. As Daniel lay dying in bed (whose illness also took their infant son), they both bucked tradition by not having him do a will appointing a trustee to look after Martha and family. Instead, upon Daniel's death, Martha took over the details of running their large land ownings. This made her a most eligible widow with George Washington winning her heart. She would sacrifice and brave the weather, roads and danger in winter campaign months to support George as she travelled to Valley Forge and other winter campsites. She kept the morale of the officers and troops up. She always had many in her home from raising grandchildren to taking in relatives and their children, as well as special guests. She was a sincere lover, not in words only but action to George. She was brave and a risk taker, during the American Revolution they stood to lose everything but she was always fervent in the cause an ardent patriot. She was a true gift to our nation's first President. May we all honor her example and legacy for all time to come.

16. Leader by Destiny by Jeanette Eaton, published in 1938 by Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., New York. What a gem. As you read the first chapter, it is so descriptive you think you are reading a film script. The hand illustrations are quaint, the prose flowery, the story real. That illustrious, untouchable image of George Washington becomes very lifelike and human in this lively book written to entertain. The factoids and snippets of history not otherwise common knowledge come to life in this well written piece. His love for his  brothers growing up is palpable. His mother' sense of entitlement and George's aversion to her attitude and the challenges he overcame despite her attempting to hold him back garner respect for his selfless attitude and strength. The love story between him and Martha is beautiful. How Sally Fairfax was his muse and in many ways his rock is enlightening. Not everyone grows up with such a powerful cheerleader with potent opportunities for career success at perfect moments. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

17. Andrew Jackson by H. W. Brands, published in 2005 by Doubleday. H.W. Brands is a mastermind so anything he writes about is touched with his gold. Andrew Jackson comes to life in all his bravado in this book. Jackson fought duels, survived an assassination attempt, fought off the Indians where he was needed, settled lands permanently and then established governments (Florida's first governor). He lost his wife and best friend Rachel right before he was to ride off to Washington D.C. to assume the Presidency. He did not falter. Alone, bereft, grief stricken, not only did he manage the country well, he had to do it by replacing an entire cabinet who did not all agree with him. Despite powerful political forces, he carried through his promise to end the national bank whom he felt benefitted the wealthy ("stock jobbers") at the cost of the average American. One gets glimpses of his soft side too. He loved children and took in two Indian orphans who had no families. Great read.

18. The Lost War: Letters from British Officers during the American Revolution edited and annotated by Marion Balderston and David Syrett, published in 1975 by Horizon Press, New York. For over 200 years these letters were tucked away in the library of a British Lord (Denbigh) in Warwickshire, England till they were discovered. What gems. The war became palpable from a British perspective in understanding their struggles to fund it, understand it and survive the bitter political battles in Parliament. What struck me was the fact that while we Americans look back at the battle of Yorktown as the decisive military victory in obtaining independence, this represents but one more straw that broke the camel's back. At this time France and Spain had declared war against Great Britain and invaded the English Harbor so the British citizens feared invasion while John Paul Jones was terrorizing the British coasts. To add to the frustration, the Netherlands also declared war on Great Britain.  It was fascinating to read the hatred of the British officers for the people of Boston (one even saying he would sacrifice his arms and legs just to see the town of Boston burned). It reminds us how wars are often fought without the support of the people. There were riots on the streets of London against continuing the military struggle.  May we all learn that soldiers of war are precious and should not be sacrificed for politics, where avoidable.  One is happy to see that through it all Great Britain was able to keep its own country or they might possibly be all be speaking French today had they persisted in fighting America with its precious resources.

19. William Henry Drayton & the American Revolution by William M. Dabney and Marion Dargan published by the University of New Mexico Press in 1962.  My favorite line of the book is a quote by William Drayton himself, "In republics, the very nature of the Constitution requires the judges to follow the letter of the law." William Drayton was a very powerful South Carolina Founding Father. His vast wealth and influence had him firmly in the King George camp at the outbreak of the Revolution but he eventually became a firebrand patriot who signed the Declaration of Independence. William was extraordinary. He became an admiral in the navy even though he had no prior sea service. He became a chief judge in South Carolina despite having no law degree. He was an excellent judge of character as a politician. Very little is known of his personal life. He died in his 30s He was  educated in Great Britain. He had  family ties to the reigning British government in South Carolina before the Revolution. What is a good political lesson in William's story is that when King George had an opportunity to appoint a loyal South Carolinian to several important posts, he deferred in favor of  British appointees from the mainland who had no connections to or real understandings of  the colony. Moves like this lost him favor across all 13 colonies, and lost him allegiance from leaders who eventually turned into key players in making the United States of America happen. A good politician can never be deaf to indigenous needs and qualified appointees who have the people's interest at heart over the shallow  act of awarding political favors.

19. William Henry Drayton & the American Revolution by William M. Dabney and Marion Dargan published by the University of New Mexico Press in 1962.  My favorite line of the book is a quote by William Drayton himself, "In republics, the very nature of the Constitution requires the judges to follow the letter of the law." William Drayton was a very powerful South Carolina Founding Father. His vast wealth and influence had him firmly in the King George camp at the outbreak of the Revolution but he eventually became a firebrand patriot who signed the Declaration of Independence. William was extraordinary. He became an admiral in the navy even though he had no prior sea service. He became a chief judge in South Carolina despite having no law degree. He was an excellent judge of character as a politician. Very little is known of his personal life. He died in his 30s He was  educated in Great Britain. He had  family ties to the reigning British government in South Carolina before the Revolution. What is a good political lesson in William's story is that when King George had an opportunity to appoint a loyal South Carolinian to several important posts, he deferred in favor of  British appointees from the mainland who had no connections to or real understandings of  the colony. Moves like this lost him favor across all 13 colonies, and lost him allegiance from leaders who eventually turned into key players in making the United States of America happen. A good politician can never be deaf to indigenous needs and qualified appointees who have the people's interest at heart over the shallow  act of awarding political favors.


1.  Benjamin Rush: Signer of the Declaration of Independence by David Barton, published by Wallbuilders Press in 1999. Great read on a Founders who his contemporaries put on a pedestal alongside Washington and Franklin. He was a physician who also became heavily involved in improving the living conditions and treatment of those in insane asylums as well as prisons. He was instrumental in the abolition movement to free slaves. His goal in life was to "be spent" for the good of others. He fulfilled this and then some. Great read (heavy on religion though).

2.  The Fabulous History of the Dismal Swamp Company: A Story of George Washington's Times by Charles Royster, published by Vintage in 2000. This is an epic historical compilation of the great Virginia Founding Fathers and businessmen who invested in real estate. This was a time when being a politician did not pay a salary that would pay the bills. Many, including Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington invested heavily in real estate including the Great Dismal Swamp. They were convinced that if the swamp could be drained it would be rich, fertile land that would be prime money making real estate. At the end of their days, it turned out that timber in the swamp was the only thing that brought money (much of which was being thieved off the land). George Washington proved to be a wise businessman, although in his lifetime this swamp investment cost him more than it made him.  This is a great book that teaches some invaluable business lessons and makes you respect these Founding Fathers more knowing how tough their day to day life was in producing income versus balancing their real estate risks. Lots of insightful trivia on many of the Virginia Founding Fathers, of which I greatly enjoyed. 

3.  The Siege of Boston: An On-The-Scene Account of the beginning of the American Revolution by Donald Barr Chidsey published in 1966 by Crown Publishers, Inc., New York. Succinct read on the battles of Lexington and Concord as well as the history of the siege of Boston and its eventual evacuation by the British. It includes the famous rides of Paul Revere, Richard Dawes, and Sam Prescott. It touches on the spy story of Dr. Benjamin Church- who had top access to all the patriot planning and activity. One marvels at the courage of our forefather patriots. Nice and simple read.

4. General Washington and the Jack Ass and Other American Characters in Portrait by J. H. Powell, published by A.S. Barnes and Co., Inc. in 1969. Mr. Powell is an antiquarian historian (my favorite type). He tells historical stories in rich detail with no underlying messages, just the stories. He does this very well minus some references (albeit some very accurate) of John Adams that almost come across as his personal vitriol (which an acceptance of the fact that John Adams was not a historian would solve). My favorite chapter was the "Innocent Blacksmith", the moving tale of Pat Lyon who was falsely accused of robbing a Philadelphia bank and languished in a yellow fever infested prison for 3 months despite evidence of his innocence. The powers that be (bank officers, magistrate, prosecutor, judges) refused to consider exculpatory evidence largely due to his class (mechanic class versus the gentlemanly scholar upper crest). A bank officer turned out to be guilty and returned the money yet never was punished. Pat Lyon, a man of principle, hired a lawyer and was the first person in the US to pursue  a civil lawsuit of malicious prosecution. Loved the chapter showcasing George Washington's love of farming and his dream  project of breeding the strongest mules in the country. The first chapter on Andrew Hamilton the lawyer who envisioned and made the creation of the Philadelphia State House come to life was inspiring, He was a true warrior of justice. My heart was warmed by the homecoming of the Marquis de Lafayette fifty years after independence. Great book in which all Americans can come to appreciate more the foundings of justice in law in this country and revere to an even larger pious sense some of the great characters that moulded our national character.

5.  The two volume biography on Paul Jones: Founder of the American Navy by August C. Buell published by Charles Scribner's Sons in New York in 1900.  The life of John Paul Jones is truly remarkable. This two volume book was delightful. It contained portions of his correspondence (to and from John Paul Jones) with some in original French (which after studying 3 years of French I enjoyed refreshing to try to glean original meanings), paintings (one of which was his favorite), and the coin Congress had minted in his honor (it adorns the front cover of both volumes). Many associate John Paul Jones with his famous words "I have not yet begun to fight." Buell does an excellent job in not only laying out a timeline of his heroics but taking the reader into John Paul Jones' mind and heart by sharing his philosophies in life through both circumstance and his letters. Jones was loyal, honest and courageous. He found himself not only excelling at the sea but also in diplomacy (dealing with prize moneys of American ships through the governments of France, Holland, and Denmark). He is a great case study in that all heroes overcome remarkable obstacles. For Jones, this also included a very serious false criminal allegation in Russia which was proven fabricated by his political foes. Loved the nuggets of wisdom gleaned from his writings such as 'cowardice and falsehood going hand in hand' as well as the  recitation to his sisters of the Pope's Universal Prayer. He truly proves that good character is the foundation for true greatness. Thoroughly enjoyed my time and reflection over these two volumes. The US is so fortunate to have such a hero as Father of our Navy.

6. The Pirate Coast: Thomas Jefferson, the First Marines, and the Secret Mission of 1805 by Richard Zacks. Great book on one of the greatest heroes in American history. William Eaton. He led a few (10 in all) marines across 600 miles of desert through Egypt to find and restore Hamet Karamanli to power in Tripoli to free over 320 captured American sailors of the USS Philadelphia. The grueling trek across the desert included getting captured by a Turkish band (and imprisoned), mutinies and threats of desertion. After capturing the City of Derne, and on the cusp of military victory to stop the payments of tribute and ransomed sailors, Tobias Lear negotiated a peace treaty.  This entailed questionable terms and was problematic when all of this could have been avoided had Eaton been allowed to finish his mission. Later, history has revealed that Tobias Lear had a conflict of interest in negotiating such terms as he had a commercial wheat venture that Tripoli could endanger. Such a brave and intrepid tale of a true hero. There are many political lessons in this book but none better than cowardice and conflicts of interest have no place among our statesmen. 

7. Aaron Burr by William Wise published in 1968 by G.P. Putnam's Sons of New York. Learned some interesting facts about Aaron Burr that are not well known: for example, he ran away from his uncle's house at the age of ten and managed to be a cabin boy on a boat for year before he was discovered; when he marched to Quebec with Benedict Arnold he fortuitously surmised that Arnold could not be trusted without supervision.  His military genius comes through in this book. Did not enjoy the author's missplaced and incorrect conclusory negative statements about Burr {for example that Burr has no morals and Hamilton did, it was Hamilton who cheated on his wife (the famous Maria Reynolds scandal)- not Burr}. Quick and fast read that proves Burr was not just a great statesmen but a courageous military hero (he saved Henry Knox's regiment out of Manhattan despite Knox's protest over the escape that proved to save everyone's lives).

8. Give Me A Fast Ship: The Continental Navy and America's Revolution at Sea by Tim McGrath published in 2014 by The Penguin Group. Author Tim McGrath writes a comprehensive biography of our nation's navy from its concept to the successful end of the American Revolution. Within the pages lie the inconceivable struggles of funding the ships to the improbable and miraculous victories on the sea. Also detailed are all the political and naval struggles from not being able to pay our sailors and officers to the blow up of the American frigate, The Randolph, when an American cannon backfired blowing up the entire ship including its brave leader, Nicholas Biddle. One comes to idolize John Barry and John Paul Jones within these pages(among other navy greats) and is bewildered at how Robert Morris and Ben Franklin were able to keep the Navy alive through adept encouragement and creative financing when of our bankrupt country.  It is disheartening to see the futile battles that wasted precious energy and resources, as officers battled each other and Congress over rank (a problem also faced with land officers, much to the chagrin of George Washington as well). This book also details the age old story of how some were more concerned with rank and title over actual sacrifice and deeds. True heroes are always evidenced by their feats, not their rank.  Much information in a thoroughly researched and well told anthology.

9. Through A Howling Wilderness: Benedict Arnold's March to Quebec, 1775 by Thomas A. Desjardin  published by St. Martin's Press in 2005.  This book gives an excellent account of the extraordinary feats of Benedict Arnold's service to the Revolutionary cause (and a succinct blurb on his unsuccessful aftermath after his treason). Ultimately his ego got the best of him and this led him to his treason. The book details this  unbelievable trek through the wilderness of Canada and Maine which has reached almost mythical dimensions (and deservedly so). There were times in the book where I had to put it down because I was so upset and disappointed at the near misses which could have turned the tide of the Battle of Quebec. What if they had launched the attack once they reached Quebec without delay ? What if Enos had not retreated with 100 men ? What if it had been a dry night and their muskets had all fired ? The end of the book gives some solace as to how (even though a defeat) this trek can be calculated into the overall equation of contributing to the American Revolution victory. It is truly inspiring to see what fortitude these men had, all in the name of liberty in a day and age where so many don't even take the time to vote.  Men eating shoe leather, dying from frostbite, wading through icy waters carrying hundreds of pounds above their shoulders (their bateauxs),  fighting through smallpox,.... This book is a triumph of the human spirit. It really makes you proud of our men who gave it their all in the name of American Independence and for the idea of freedom. May we all strive to be the most productive American we can be. We owe it to eachother, those in the future, and to those (like the men on this incredulous trek) who truly gave it their all.

10. Rough Crossings: The Slaves, the British, and the American Revolution by Simon Schama first published in Great Britain in a different format in 2005 by BBC Books, later published in the US by Harper Collins in 2006. This book is one of the best written books I have ever read. The research, understanding and excellent writing skill makes this book a true gem. There is not a lot of emphasis placed on the slaves when taught about the American Revolution. This book changes that. The author does an excellent job of not only historically documenting the movement of the slaves to the British side for their freedom, but making one feel as if they are a slave on the run. The story of the American slave fighting their way to freedom is incredulous. With the loss of the War, the biq question of what to do with the slaves was a pressing one for the British. They moved many to Nova Scoita, Britain and then a free slave colony of Sierra Leone. What the British people and their leaders: Granville Sharpe, Lieutenant John Clarkson, William Wilberforce and Thomas Clarkson achieved among others, is astounding. Freeing the slaves was an issue that tore the United States apart in the Civil War, yet the British found out a way to do it early on and without bloodshed. The chapters that outlined the founding of the Sierra Leone colony, its trials and tribulations are nothing short of inspiring and herculean. The British people and their story of freedom to the African slaves that spread across the world is one that needs to be told again and again. Frederick Douglas shared that he always felt like a man in Great Britain, but not so in the United States.   Great story. This one needs to be made into a Hollywood blockbuster so that the world can bask in this incredible and uplifitng story.

11. Daniel Morgan: Revolutionary Rifleman by Don Higginbotham published in 1961 by the University of North Carolina Press.  Daniel Morgan marched through the cold and wild Maine wilderness to scale the walls of Quebec. Had his strategy been followed. the battle might not have been lost. He was crucial to winning the Battle of Saratoga. He hunted down the most feared British officer, Banastre Tarleton, met him at the Battle of the Cowpens and won  a decisive victory. For doing such, he  is credited for crippling the British army which led to the American Revolution victory at the Battle of Yorktown. His tactics of combining the militia and Continental army was so effective at the Battle of the Cowpens, General Nathaniel Greene used it to save our southern army at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse. He rallied his troops, was in the thick of all the battles, was an expert marksman, and had a tough as nails resolve. This is a refreshing book on all the traits that make a great General !


1. Burr, Hamilton, and Jefferson: A Story in Character by Roger G. Kennedy, published in 2000 by Oxford University Press. This is clearly the hands down best book I have ever read that proves Aaron Burr was framed by Thomas Jefferson for political reasons. It is clear that Jefferson feared the new western states would be anti- slavey unless he quashed Burr's political clout. Years later when asked about Burr, he candidly admitted that you would have to be a madman to think he was guilty. It was very disturbing to learn how Jefferson paid to ship his slaves to Louisiana to punish them by caning for discipline. Great study into the hero Aaron Burr was. It is time to get the record straight on Aaron Burr. Loved this book.

2. The Life of John Marshall (volume 1) by Albert J. Beveridge published in 1916 by Houghton Mifflin Company. This book stems the breadth of Marshall's birth to his role in the ratifying Constitutional Convention of Virginia. It is fascinating to study the seeds of germination of arguably the greatest Supreme Court Justice the country has ever had. He grew up with many brothers and sisters, honorable parents (his father also participated in politics), and bravely served his country during the Revolution. He was undoubtedly a gregarious favorite who knew the secrets to diplomacy, assisting him much in his career. His brilliant efforts helped ensure not just Virginia (as they held a lot of weight), but the country adopt the Constitution he would later interpret while sitting on the United States Supreme Court. This was a very easy to read and most pleasant book.

3. Young Patriots: The Remarkable Story of Two Men, Their Impossible Plan and the Revolution that Created the Constitution by Charles Cerami published by Sourcebooks, Inc. in 2005. For one to appreciate  the Constitution, it is necessary to understand its story: the necessity, the Constitutional Convention, the battle for ratification in the separate colonies, the bargain for the Bill of Rights, and the masterminds of the two young revolutionaries who made it all possible: James Madison and Alexander Hamilton.  The Constitution is truly one of the greatest documents ever created in mankind to govern democratically and adapt to each generation's needs. This is a well written insight into all these forces and more. What is remarkable is that despite its greatness, it stands alone among other countries of the past and present. The founders tried to be both succinct and as broad as possible at the same time to allow for it to have life breathed into it as opposed to a document that is sterile and restrictive.  Lovely quick read that is both enlightening and inspirational.

4. The Life of John Marshall (volume 2) by Albert Beveridge published in 1916 by Houghton Mifflin Company. This volume covers his diplomatic mission in the XYZ affair (attempt to avoid war with France), his lawyering, and his successful run for Congress. He was part of a diplomatic trio that was sent to France in an attempt to negotiate in order to avoid war with France. He came to the belief once he was there tha unrestrained liberty must result in despotism. Although they were not successful (the French not really interested in such discussions without a hefty payment), he shone brilliantly in his logically written summation of demands. This piece cemented his enviable genius among his colleagues and he was to rise nationally thereafter. Marshall was known for succinct logic without fluff as an attorney. Francis Gilmer thankfully describes Marshall's style for posterity as an advocate, "So perfect is his analysis that he extracts the whole matter, the kernel of the inquiry, unbroken, undivided, clean and entire. In this process, such is the instinctive neatness and precision of his mind that no superfluous thought, or even word ever presents itself and still he says everything that seems appropriate for the subject.... The characteristic of his eloquence is an irresistible cogency, and a luminous simplicity in the order of his reasoning. His arguments are remarkable for their separate and independent strength, and for the solid, compact, impenetrable order in which they are arrayed." As a politician, he stuck by his principles. Athough it made him vastly unpopular with the stalwarts of the Federalist party, he opposed the alien and sedition act. His invaluable counsel earned him the position of Secretary of State under President John Adams, followed by Supreme Court Chief Justice. 

5. The Life of John Marshall (volume 3) by Albert Beveridge published in 1919 by Houghton Mifflin Company.  In this volume, one is introduced to the powerful reasoning of who was to become to date our greatest Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court.  We take for granted today the landmark principles he established as if they were to be inevitable, but this could not be furtherst from the truth. President Thomas Jefferson was to engage in fierce battles with the Supreme Court Justice and lose. Jefferson believed that individual states could reject the federal laws they disagreed with (he wrote the Virginia and Kentucky resolutions).  He further believed to his core that judges should not be able to pass upon the constitutionality of laws. He challenged Marshall directly in the specious trial of Aaron Burr. The grand jurors were so disgusted by Jefferson's witch hunt of his political rival Aaron Burr that 7 out of the 16 wanted to indict Jefferson's star lying witness, General James Wilkinson. At every turn Jefferson challenged Marshall. Afer Marshall's fair presiding of the trial and the subsequent Not Guilty, Jefferson directed the Attorney General to distribute funds and attempt to secure any witnesses that he felt would testify against Burr. Historical proof leaves evidence that in the fervent prosecution of Burr, Jefferson had mail rifled (spied upon), and witnesses for Burr were imprisoned, tortured and offered bribes. Chief Justice Marshall reigned supreme. In Marbury v. Madison, he established the separation of powers. In Fletcher v. Peck, he ruled that individual states can't pass laws that violate contracts. Had Jefferson been able to his establish his jurisprudence over Marshall's , it is very likely the states would not have had incentive or supervision to prevent an inevitable secession into separate countries.

6. (reread from 2011, read for a second time): 5. Aaron Burr: The Years from Princeton to Vice President, 1756-1805 by Milton Lomask, a great book on understanding how the natural cycles of politics work. I read this book 6 years ago but decided to read it again for a more in depth review of the life of Aaron Burr. One discovers that Hamilton's friends and Jefferson's greatly respected Burr. Jefferson and Hamilton were to hold a jealous grudge against Burr their whole political lives and actively sought measures to destroy him. Great book on how he was a lawyer that never lost (unlike Hamilton), a great state and federal legislator (inventing the science of political engineering), and a man of great character (his word was his bond, he often was one to forgive his political enemies). One goes away from this book knowing that history has done him wrong (printing works of Jefferson's and Hamilton's that would see the historic light of day).

7. Aaron Burr: A biography by Nathan Schachner published in 1937 by the Frederick A. Stokes Company (reprinted as a Perpetua Edition in 1961). In my quest to understand one of the most courageous and talented men in American history, I was most thoroughly pleased by Nathan Schachner's biography. I would recommend this biography, if anyone wanted to read just one book on Aaron Burr. Schachner does a beautiful job of putting the reader in the victim's shoes, with Aaron Burr as the victim. One understands how Burr was right on many military issues (invasion of Quebec would have been successful had Burr's plan been adopted) and this caused jealousy. His prose on Burr as a successful lawyer is classic inspiration. One feels the pain as Burr is turned down for top, key positions as the Minister to France (which then set you up for the Presidency) and Chief of the Military (nominated by Adams) when war almost broke out with France due to the machinations of Alexander Hamilton. This book is an A+, accurate comprehensive study on Aaron Burr which I highly recommend. 

8. Aaron Burr Memorial Prepared and Edited by the Grand Camp of the Aaron Burr Legion in Commemoration of the 147th Anniversary of the Birthday of Colonel Aaron Burr published by Charles Felton Pidgin of the Aaron Burr Legion. This is a tribute compiled by the members of the Aaron Burr Legion. It contains poems, articles, and interviews with people whose family members had direct contact with Aaron Burr. It is a refreshing compilation of Burr's attributes and defenses from those who understand Burr's false victimization through history.

9. The True Aaron Burr: A Biographical Sketch by Charles Burr Todd originally published in 1902 by A.S. Barnes and Company in New York. This book clears up some rumors and speculation about Aaron Burr. Yes, he did indeed attempt to carry his commander's body (Montgomery) off the snowy terrain when he was shot dead in the Battle of Quebec. He had to leave the body there to avoid death, but did return for it when the battle was over. Burr did in fact love children. This book carries a beautiful story of Burr playing with the children of a house guest by acting as a horse carrying the children around in a wicker basket. An interesting story which would explain Burr's deadly accurate aim with pistols was told related by his house servant Harry. Burr used to retire to the back porch with his guests after dinner and shoot apples in the air. Harry reports that Burr rarely missed. I suspect the author of this book is distantly related to Burr. The affection he has for him in the material is evident. This is a delightful, short read.

10 & 11. Aaron Burr (volumes 1 & 2) : A Biography Written in Large Part, From Original and Hitherto Unused Material by Samuel H. Wandell and Meade Minnigerode publshed in 1925 by G.P. Putnam's Sons. The first volume is very smooth. The authors do the duel justice. They explain how Hamilton had apologized twice before for inappropriate remarks and that Burr was done by the third time. It does a nice job of painting Burr's perspective. Both seconds in the duel agree that both parties fired off a round (despite Hamilton's will to the contrary written the night before the duel in which he professed he could never take a life and would therfore hold his first shot). The second volume is quite sobering. It is very unapologetic in exposing Burr's flaws and mistakes. It was interesting to know how he fell in love with a Madeline while trying to settle the Bastrop properties waiting for a war to break out with Spain. When he was doggedly pursued on the false treason charges he asked her to accompany him but she refused. I became very incensed when reading about the charges and trials. Reality does not create truths. The masses forget that charges and the ministerial acts of a trial do not make false allegations true. It is very angering to see how even in our own early history, politicians took great liberties to quelch political rivals (as Jefferson did to Burr much akin to the reigning acts of terror that politicians used in the French Revolution.)  It was painful to read how Burr in his exile in Europe decided the ends would justify the means and in his neverending quest to be a hero (rescue Mexico and Texas) committed some indiscretions that he later regretted (such as claiming British citizenship and trying to interest ANY country in his venture despite the conflicts they posed). The authors do prove how Burr lived a life of struggle due to his bad money management. He was never able to shake the pitfalls that besieged him due to his poor money management (which factored in his divorce granted the day he died).

12. The Life of Aaron Burr by Samuel Lorenzo Knapp originally published in 1835. What makes this book so super special is that it was published in Aaron Burr's lifetime. The author challenges anyone to dispute his work. It it incredibly cool to read a contemporary describe Burr after his own detective work in dissecting the false treason allegations and sources of jealous, political turmoil that plagued Burr after he got Thomas Jefferson in power. No doubt, the Burr story is a tragic one. His index even documents how one of the paid hound dogs of James Wilkinson (Thomas Jefferson's tool in the false allegations whom history has now revealed as a spy), a witness in the trial, admitted everything he had written in an affidavit after being paid by Wilkinson to testify against Burr was a lie. Chief Justice disallowed his further testimony and the young man then committed suicide feeling so guilty about attempting to convict an innocent Burr. Refreshing read.

13. The Private Journal of Aaron Burr, During His Residence of Four Years in Europe: With Selections From His Correspondence (volumes 1 & 2) edited by Matthew L. Davis,  reprinted by Forgotten Books originally published by Harper & Brother in New York 1838. These two volumes are tastefully edited. One gets the sense of the challenges, highlights and frustrations of his journeys during the four years he went to Europe. A running theme is his open attitude towards learning new cultures, meeting new people and studying their forms of governments and laws. No matter where he went, he prided himself of unveiling his daughter Theodosia's portrait at every new location. He lived for her and begged her to seek treatment for her cancer in England. It was very unsavory to see Thomas Jefferson using his political power to interfere with Burr and his friends' travels (an example, Jefferson prevented Eric Bollman from travelling to France by having the port authority not allow him on a ship bound to France named The Union). Burr made lots of friends, bought thoughtful gifts for his daughter and grandson (he loved to buy medals) and spent most of his time trying to figure out how to help Mexico in its dreams of liberation (the European countries were not interested). Although at many points completely destitute, you don't get much of anything but a positive attitude from Burr showing his great strength of character. These four years made him an even stronger and more open minded man.  Great insights in these two books.


1. The Life of John Marshall, vol. 4 by Albert J. Beveridge published by Houghton Mifflin Company in 1919. This volume was dedicated to "The Building of The Nation" years 1815-1835. What was fascinating to me was reading how he would compliment the lawyers in front of him whom he disagreed with and ruled against. He was the epitome of diplomacy.. At the time of his death, it was said no one was more revered in this country than him other than George Washington. He had such noble strength of character: always kind, generous, known for never saying an unkind word about anyone. With such an affable personality, he was able to magnetically draw everyone to him, even if they vehemently disagreed with him. He was so wise with people, the law, and the needs of the country that he was able to forge the much needed doctrine of nationalism when our nation needed his leadership most. It is fascinating reading to read the back stories behind some of his most instrumental, landmark cases. It was heartbreaking to read how he had to deal with the seeds of the civil war that was rearing its ugly head at that time through threats of  nullification and Georgia's defiance of his opinions. Being Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court was the perfect job for him at the perfect time. Oh, what a pillar of justice he was.  So much reverence for him as a man, husband, lawyer, statesman, and judge.

2. Memoirs of Jeremiah Mason 1768-1848, Our Greatest "Common Law" Lawyer: Memoirs, Autobiography, Correspondence by G.J. Clark,  copyright 1917 by Boston Law Book Co. It is hard to imagine a time when practicing law had so few laws and arguing "common law" was part and parcel of the practice. Jeremiah Mason was known as the greatest "common law" lawyer of the period. He also served our country in the United States Senate as well as the State House of New Hampshire. He was a master at studying people. When meeting someone new he would bullet them with questions. He became an expert in people's behavior and this made him a master at cross examination. He knew exactly how to approach a witness psychologically to get exactly what he needed out of the witness to win his case. It was said that in an age of grandstanding, where lawyers would perform to impresse the gallery with flowery verbosity to impress, Jeremiah was incognizant of everyone except the lawyers, judges, and witnesses. He was famous for winning the impossible cases. Much valuable insight for the trial lawyer is within these pages. He also was an incredible family man, prizing the education of his children.  Should be required reading for every trial lawyer. Thoroughly learned from this book. Very inspirational.

3. Great Americans of History: James Otis, the Pre-Revolutionist by John Clark Ridpath copyright 1898 by The University Association. If one person can be attributed as the igniting spark to the American Revolution, it is James Otis. His grandfather and father were both pre-eminent in the law. He was the attorney general for the Crown but gave up his job on principle and argued against the arbitrary writes of assistance which allowed the King's operatives to search any colonist's home randomly. His famous arguments against the writs of assistance were against his law professor (who was very proud of the pupil). His words planted the seeds of the American Revolution. John Adams was there and was awe inspired. He refused to play dirty politics, but was its victim. A King's custom officer was so irate over his publication that he almost killed James Otis in a surprise and random attack. James never fully mentally recovered but did fight at the Battle on Bunker Hill. His personal life was full of disappointment. His wife was said to be a loyalist and his oldest daughter married a British officer and moved to England. He died as he so often professed a great desire: by a lightning bolt. James Otis is a true American hero.

4. Israel Putnam "Old Put", Major General in the Continental Army by Increase N. Tarbox, published in 1876. Israel Putnam was the hero of Bunker Hill. He was the one Washington trusted to lead the troops in New York, as this was where the next big battle scene was predicted after the British evacuated Boston. He and Washington were the only Generals unanimously confirmed by Congress. Israel Putnam was fiercely brave. He was so couragous that when the townsmen of Pomfret, Connecticut found the local wolf terrorizing the people, only Putnam was brave enough to go into the den to kill it. He escaped an Indian burning (where he was captured and was set to burn) as well as capture from the British. He was merciful to British prisoners. Studying his life is a refreshing joy on the lessons of moral courage and bravery.  "Old Put" was the type of officer and soldier General Patton would have found much in common. Fabulous book. Incredible man.

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