This final book by Garet Garrett, The American Story, is one we took a very long time to put into print, mainly because a book of this significance–it is a complete biography of a country in 400 pages–needs time to settle in among those who prepare it and write the summaries and things. His section on the Civil War was initially a stopper for me (his view favors union but opposes Reconstruction, the classic perspective of an old-style American liberal circa. 1900) but the remainder of the content soars above all conventions.
He provides an excellent account of the founding period and 19th century industrial history, understanding the latter like few other American historians. He uses his novelist style to tell an unforgettable story of how and why America became dominant in market after market. There are insights here I’ve not seen anywhere else. Unions are not treated as manna from Heaven but rather bumps on the road to prosperity. He has no regret for the passing of the agricultural age to the industrial and steel age, which makes his account delightfully politically incorrect from the point of view of left and right. After all, this is Garrett, also known as “profit’s prophet.”
With regard to political history, he celebrates the abolition of the national banks and condemns war consistently. He is against entry into WWI, and my goodness his section on the New Deal is blistering. And now we get to the surprise of this book: its revisionist treatment of Pearl Harbor. Maybe I should have expected it but I didn’t. His narrative makes the back-door theory impossible to resist. Then he covers Yalta with exceptional insight and even takes us all the way to Korea.
But I suppose what I like most here is his choice of what to cover in American history. It is not a story about political leaders and their glories. It is a story of freedom, productivity, and the emergence of a parasitical class that lived by devouring both.
In short, this is a gem. The store page collects many quotations from the book. Who should read it? High schoolers come to mind but the truth is that anyone would gain from reading a book of this level of seriousness. The prose of course is impeccable. Garrett was just bursting with creativity as a stylist and thinker.