Category Archives: American History



Professor Ralph Wood, the gifted writer and teacher, works his craft at Baylor University. Ralph recommended that I read The Demon in Democracy. I’m glad he did, though it was not a comforting read.

Legutko’s big idea is that the liberal democracy of our day shares many of the same features as communism. There are commonalities such as a penchant for utopianism. There is also an undying belief that one’s system of thought is perfect and so should be immune from critique.

Most of us simply accept that everything about liberal democracies is wonderful so questioning any part of it would be un-American. Actually, the opposite is true. Serious questioning of political institutions is at the heart and founding of our history, something most of us have forgotten.

Legutko teaches philosophy in his homeland of Poland.   He is not opposed to progress per se, but finds a troubling hubris at the heart of many modern notions of progress.

More than once I put a marginal note of “no dissent allowed” to characterize the lack of scrutiny most Americans give to the modern notion of liberal democracy. And it is the modern notion, not the older versions of liberal democracy, that is in the author’s crosshairs.

If you want to know more about why serious thinking and free speech (on both the left and right) has gone the way of the Dodo bird, this book has much to offer.


My general rule that so far holds up is this: Take the total number of pages of a book and divide by two.  If my marginal notes exceed that number, then the book, though I may have some serious disagreements with it, was worth reading.  

In this case, Wood’s little book on the American Revolution is 166 pages long.  My markings came in at over 150.  This was an extremely worthwhile read.

I read a lot of American history, but am always looking for resources to better connect events and people.  Wood’s book does not disappoint.

If you are looking for a short book to better understand the American Revolution along with a helpful explanation of the immediate years leading up to the Constitution, it is hard to imagine a better book.



Because of several visits over the years to Boston and New York City, I have become increasingly interested in the work of Frederick Law Olmsted.  Olmsted is the first American landscape architect and responsible for many park designs, including Central Park.  If you are not familiar with Olmsted, here’s a nice video to introduce him to you:


Click on any picture below to enlarge.

The Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Yale is one of the world’s best.  Unlike Harvard’s collection, you don’t need to wear white gloves.  Once we were vetted, we were shocked by the freedom they give to scholars.

Here are a few things we looked at.  First, is Jonathan Edwards Bible.  Paper was rare, but Jonathan liked to write…a lot.  You will see that the small sheet has the passage of Scripture and then two blank pages to take notes on what he was reading.  And did he ever take notes!  I did somewhat of a quick count of his handwritten notes on Genesis and each page has about 2500 words!  On a similar size sheet of paper I write about 250 words. 

Jonathan’s wife, Sarah, along with their daughters, made fans.  When the fans were no longer of use, Jonathan would take the delicate scraps and weave them into a book where he could write down sermon notes, etc.

Doreen got choked up when she held Jonathan’s Bible in her hands.  The word that kept coming to my mind was “humbling” as you see the great effort Jonathan exerted to make sense of God’s Word.

Fabric from Sarah’s wedding dress.

Our dear friend, Dr. Dave Mahan, is the director of the Rivendell Institute ( and teaches at Yale Divinity.  Dave set us up with Susan Howe, who is a world-renowned poet.  In 2017, she won the Robert Frost Medal for “distinguished lifetime service to American poetry.”  Susan was a sheer delight to be with.  We spent two terrific hours at her beautiful home in the country.  Susan is candid about not being a Christian, but she is captivated by the beauty and respect for language she finds in Jonathan and Sarah Edwards.

I headed over to Yale’s Sterling library and was thrilled to see they have my first book. 

Michael McClymond is Professor of Modern Christianity at St. Louis University.   Doreen met Mike in college some thirty-five years ago!  She had not seen Mike since, but he happened to be at Yale the same time as us.  Mike told us about his various writing projects, one of which he happened to remember quoting my book, The Battle for Hell.  Mike is a wonderful guy, expert on Jonathan Edwards, and graciously offered to be a resource for Doreen with her book on Sarah.

Check out Mike’s work here:

The great folks at the Overseas Ministries Study Center made our time fun and fruitful.  Many thanks to Dr. Tom Hastings, Pam Huffman, Pam Sola, Michael Racine, Ray Sola, Judy Stebbins, and the ever present help of Chee-Seng and Sharon!

Check them out at

I will close with a foodie picture.  This is Nica’s Market (, a terrific and reasonable place to grab a bite (or many bites!) to eat.  The guy behind me seems skeptical about my choices, but trust me, they were good.



Image result for American Lion Jackson

I’ve read several good books about President Jackson.  None have been duds.  All of them taught me fascinating and important things about Jackson.

Jon Meacham combines some of my favorite features for biography: wonderful wordsmithing, lucid prose, an eye for the salient details, and a nose for smelling out the proper drama.

If you are looking for a terrific biography of Jackson, this is the place I would recommend.