May 2, 2007
Reading history is a favorite hobby. And I have happily returned to David McCullough's books time and again. His 1776 was not a disappointment. An informative, interesting read, as you would expect. One expectation I had that turned out not to be the case was that I thought it would have more on the Continental Congress and the writing of the Declaration of Independence. Instead it followed the less worn path of the military history of that year. Not a bad choice, I would say.
Perhaps the most surprising thing in the whole book however was the following statement:
In fact, the Americans of 1776 enjoyed a higher standard of living than any people in the world. . . . How people with so much, living on their own land, would ever choose to rebel against the ruler God had put over them and thereby bring down such devastation upon themselves was for the invaders incomprehensible. (p. 158)
It is a startling reminder to me of how much economic prosperity was even at the heart of the founding of the nation. It made me wonder if a sense of entitlement has been part of the ethos of the country from its very beginnings. Have we always felt we deserved unfettered freedom and so resisted those who would impose it? It's certainly part of who we are today.