A blow-by-blow re-creation of the battle royal that raged in Congress in the 1830s, when a small band of representatives, led by President John Quincy Adams of Massachusetts, employed intricate stratagems to outwit the Southern (and Southern-sympathizing) sponsors of the successive "gag" rules that had long blocked debate on the subject of slavery.
If you are wondering whether or not to read this, dive in - it is well worth the time.
We don't learn these good things in a year, but rather, these qualities "are the gathered harvests of many seasons' sowing of poetry, literature, history."
When Miss Mason talked about sowing literature and history, she was referring to putting children in touch with good books. Lucidity, personal conviction, directness- these are some of the qualities we look for when selecting the books for our children to read. We want what Charlotte Mason called 'living books.'
One such book is Arguing About Slavery. I knew we had found a living book, one written with that personal conviction which Charlotte [Mason] mentions, when I read this in the introduction:
"I discovered the true story told in these pages while I was working on
something else- on "America's Moral and Intellectual Underpinnings," as I
rather grandly put it. I had decided to deal with that subject, not a small
one, by telling stories. When I came across this one, it grabbed me by the
collar, threw me upon the floor, sat upon my chest and insisted on being told."
The author is William Lee Miller. He researched the congressional records during the decades prior to 1861, reviewing the discussions, arguments, and fights on the issue of slavery. He shares them here, with plentiful commentary and background research, meticulously documented. His style is riveting, the story fascinating, and his personal conviction clearly evident.
Our two oldest girls read it when they were 14 and 16. They were captivated. My eldest made a copybook of quotes from this book alone. MIdway through the 500 page
volume she had six pages (double sided) of handwritten quotes. She met people in the pages of this book whom she felt she 'knew' and she was eager to find out more about them.
The (then) 14 y.o. was also working through the book on her own, making her own
copybook. The two girls planned to share their quotebooks when they were
done, to see if they selected any of the same quotes. Years later, this remains one of their favorite books ever read for school or any other reason. The Head Girl actually wrote a fan letter to the author (we are not fan letter writers in general), and yes, he responded. She still keeps her notebook and refers to it occasionally. This was probably one of the ten most important books we've ever read for school.
It is not enough, said my educational mentor, "to teach reasoning, logic, we must have knowledge of character, of principles, of God most of all, because "without knowledge, Reason carries a man into the wilderness and Rebellion joins company."
Arguing About Slavery is full of good seed to sow.
Miller creates a great context to understand the nation and slavery's place in it--the growth of abolitionist movements, both within the church and outside of it, as well as the growing abolitionist press.