Happy Independence Day! Enjoy this thoughtful reading list from guest contributor Robert Weers featuring biographies of some of the most influential personalities involved in the founding of the United States.

The books that I have selected for this Fourth of July holiday all relate to the founding of our country. The authors reflect a modern, more discerning viewpoint that tends to puncture the clutter of myths about our forebears, more clearly illuminating our country’s often jagged development.

In these books I have searched for answers to whether there are historic precedents for the contentious civil strife that we are experiencing today and how these issues were addressed in the past. What was the democratic society envisioned by our forebears and how has this been passed down to the present day? What can we say is the American civil character?

These books introduce the origins of American culture, which we can reflect upon in our present times. Unfortunately, like today, deep sectional rivalries, clashing political philosophies, unprincipled competition, racism, and religious intolerance were the scars of that period. Yet, our nation endured with our founders’ commitment to the dream of our country’s future. The following quotation from the flyleaf of David McCullough’s biography of John Adams indicates that some of these conflicts were eventually overcome, perhaps giving hope as well for our times:

“Crucial to the story, as it was to history, is the relationship betwen Adams and Jefferson, born opposites––one a Massachusetts farmer’s son, the other a Virginia aristocrat and slavemaster, one short and stout, the other tall and spare. Adams embraced conflict; Jefferson avoided it. Adams had great humor; Jefferson very little. But they were alike in their devotion to their country.
“At first they were ardent co-revolutionaries, then fellow diplomats and close friends. With the advent of the two political parties, they became archrivals, even enemies, in the intense struggle for the presidency in 1800, perhaps the most vicious election in history. Then, amazingly, they became friends again, and ultimately, incredibly, they died on the same day––their day of days––July 4, in the year 1826.”

Here are some of the books I have enjoyed reading and have found helpful in illuminating my journey to understand the course of our times:

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