Saturday, April 29, 2006

Book review: A Son of Thunder by Henry Mayer

I enjoy history. I enjoy reading about the history of The United States, and the history of the world. While earning a BS in Physics I took almost enough history credits to get a BA in History. Through all the history I've read Patrick Henry seemed to be a supporting actor in the creation of the US.

Last year my family and I went to Colonial Williamsburg. For one of the events Richard Schumann acts as Patrick Henry. Mr. Schumann stands out under an Oak tree. He greets the audience, informs them of the events of the day (in 1776) and then takes questions from people. I was so fascinated and so enjoyed this the first day I went, that I went every day I could for the rest of the week, and when recently we flew back to the East Coast to see Washington DC and Colonial Williamsburg, I went again.

You can learn more about Richard Schumann's interpretation of Patrick Henry here, and even listen to him give the famous speech. And here you can read an interview with Richard Schumann.

In response to some questions, Richard Schumann as Patrick Henry will "speculate" on the future. I asked if he thought there would be any good biographies written on him. As a typical Patrick Henry speech, he responded with a five to seven minute answer. He talked about the first biography written, about 30 years after Patrick Henry died, and gave the background on a number of other biographies written over the last 200 years. Finally he recommended "A Son of Thunder" by Henry Mayer.

This is a well written book. It is informative and engaging.

The book moves chronologically through Patrick's life. It starts with his ancestors, focusing on his parents. We learn of some of the major events in his childhood. As a child Patrick Henry was pretty easy going and had little drive. One he got married Patrick Henry finally grew up and started studying to become a lawyer.

Patrick joined Virginian politics and led a major change. For decades politics were run by the Virginian aristocracy. Patrick worked with the common men. He supported them, and they supported him.

Patrick is known for his ways with the spoken word. He was very gifted. The book gives some insight into how he developed this gift. As a lawyer he lost few cases. In fact after he beat Thomas Jefferson in a case, Thomas Jefferson gave up law.

Patrick Henry was very influential in the creation of the United States. The first ten amendments, the Bill of Rights, are largely due to Patrick Henry forcing James Madison to commit to supporting them.

The book shows that Patrick Henry was a good man. He had a few flaws, but Patrick Henry rates high in my mind for making the effort to make a difference.

This is a good book to read. If you have any interest in the creation of The United States of American, this book is worth reading.

(I'll post a variation of this review to

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