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Saturday, August 20, 2005

Pure Vidal

Gore Vidal is an icon of American Literature, no doubt. I’ve enjoyed his works for many years, but I have never quite enjoyed Vidal as much as did in his recent book, Inventing a Nation, which I just completed. Vidal clearly demonstrates that while Conservatives and today’s Republican Party try and claim the Founding Fathers, that their vision of America was largely a liberal one: Hamilton saw the good Government could do to build a nation, Jefferson believed in individual liberties above all, and Madison understood that Federalism involved check and balances as well as deliberation before making hasty decisions about current circumstances. Vidal also points out correctly that while the founding fathers drifted into political factions and differing ideas, the whole summation of each man’s contribution created the ideals that we have long called America. We could not have America if we had let’s say Hamilton and not Jefferson or vise versa. While man grew to despise each other politically, the disagreements were based on principle and differing visions of what the new nation was to be.

Vidal also explores an area most historians tend to ignore: That George Washington was so deferential to Alexander Hamilton that Hamilton was in many ways the Founding Father who made the most lasting contributions to American Government and how it is practiced even today. Hamilton’s control of Washington’s psyche, allowed the United States to drift towards conflict with France and also for the Federal Government to become large and activist despite what had been ironed out in Philadelphia as a largely state driven constitution just a few years earlier. Vidal also discusses Hamilton’s dealings with the English in a way not covered in any other historical text: That Hamilton was in fact working with the British to use the new nation to undermine France. Jefferson of course had pro-French leanings and thus this as much as any other philosophical difference ultimately led to the formation of factions and political parties.

While reading Vidal, you must reread portions because his thoughts unlike the vast majority of authors are so poignant, I feel I must digest its true meaning before reading on. He is truly one of the most remarkable men to ever write about the American nation.

1 comment:

Tim L said...

I like vidal. Good review.

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I am the host of the Major League Soccer Talk and EPL Talk Podcasts and am frequent guest on other (world) football shows. I am also the publisher of various other websites including this one. I work in public/government relations in addition to my soccer work and have a keen interest in history, politics, aviation, travel,and the world around us.