The Patriot’s History Reader: Essential Documents For Every American, by Larry Schweikart, Dave Dougherty, and Michael Allen, read by Tom Weiner
Does the thought of listening to more than fourteen hours of the reading of important documents from colonial periods to the Obama administration interest you or terrify you. If it is the first, you will likely appreciate this selection of documents, framed with thoughtful questions and an interesting (and often libertarian) perspective by the authors. If it is the second, you are probably not someone who knows American history very well and you could probably use the encouragement these authors provide in giving students of all ages a better understanding of American history through important documents. I must admit that I would not have chosen this particular group of documents myself, nor do I agree in all cases with the perspective of the authors. But I do appreciate the perspective of the authors and the work that they do in bringing sometimes obscure but important texts to the attention of readers, and how they present the course of American history as one of a decline from original principles of freedom and responsibility to increased pandering to identity politics and increased calls on government to step up for people who cannot and will not take responsibility for their own lives.
Without a doubt, there are a lot of documents to be found here. There are some famous documents included–Supreme Court decisions like Marbury vs. Madison, Dred Scott vs. Sanford, Plessy vs. Furgeson, and Roe vs. Wade among them; the Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation, and Constitution, and so on. There are writings from obscure social thinkers, policy speeches from George Washington, Herbert Hoover and FDR. We have Lincoln’s first inaugural (but not his second inaugural) and Emancipation Proclamation, Bush’s Washington Cathedral speech and Obama’s Cairo speech. These various speeches and documents, many of them excerpts from longer works, go on for more than fourteen hours, and are organized chronologically. There appears to be a particular interest in executive orders and Supreme Court decisions of dubious legality that show the justifications that people have and the precedents that people seek to justify the decisions they make. The authors make some note of the approaches of the various people and comment on when America made disastrous foreign policy mistakes, as with trusting the Soviets during World War II and trying to coddle the Arab Street under Obama.
In reading (or listening) to this book, someone gets a couple of indications. For one, the authors are intensely critical of the decline of American society in terms of freedom and in faithfulness to God. For another, the authors are keen readers of the context and tone of text, and occasionally offer criticism of people for saying the right thing but saying it in a way that did not appeal to certain important parts of the audience. Above all, the authors make it clear that they have abiding mistrust for the behavior of the Supreme Court from the get go, and this mistrust is fair given the way that the Supreme Court has often served to enshroud injustice and wickedness with the protection of the highest court, whether that be slavery, segregation, abortion, or the widespread theft of private property for bogus purposes. This book is not easy listening at seventeen hours of documents and questions and summary, but for those who want to know more about American History and where and how things have gone wrong, this audiobook has a lot to offer, even if you’re going to be listening to it for a while.