Brian 's Reviews > Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815

Empire of Liberty by Gordon S. Wood
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's review
Jan 08, 12

bookshelves: american-history-early-republic

Empire of Liberty traces the roots of the early years of the United States examining the constitutional convention and its implementation through the end of the War of 1812 where the United States became united and not a collection of colonies. Wood covers one of the most tumultuous times in the history of the United States as institutions were tested, developed and reformed from the framework the founders had set out. John Marshall's definition of the court, George Washington's defining of the presidency and Madison's efforts in Congress became the hallmarks for our form of modern government. Wood starts the book off by talking about Rip Van Winkle and clearly shows that anyone living at the time who looked at the 20 year history of this time period would not recognize what had once been following the American Revolution.

While I can see the argument by some that this book is pro-Jefferson I did not feel that it detracted from the main points nor did it injure what the author was arguing. The expansion of the United States was creating a new empire of sorts and it had its subjugated people from slaves to Indians to the loyalists that did not assimilate as the US expanded. The book covers the Louisiana Purchase, the acquisition of Florida and finally Andrew Jackson's expansion efforts in the War of 1812. IN addition to this southern expansion the efforts of William Henry Harrison to fight the Indians in the north throughout the Ohio and Indiana territories are well covered and assessed with regards to the Prophet Pontiac and the battles that would turn a general into the shortest run presidency in American history.

Overall the book is clear and concise given the broad range of things that happened during this time period. It is heavier focused on the early part of the time period regarding the development of government institutions and the social changes occurring throughout the country. The annexation of Florida and the end of the War of 1812 are very quickly covered but more time is spent on the War of 1812 itself. It is a book that focuses more on the Virginian presidencies spending a great deal of time on Washington, Jefferson, and Madison. It is another great addition to the Oxford History of the United States and a must have for anyone who is interested in this time frame of history.

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