The Faith of a Liberal: Selected Essays by Morris R. Cohen

By Morris R. Cohen | Go to book overview

27
AMERICA: DREAM, EPIC, AND REALITY

AS A NONACADEMIC HISTORIAN, James Truslow Adams writes not for the classroom or for his professional brethren, but for the general public that reads only when intrigued by an author's substance or manner. The often illuminating insight of his The Founding of New England, and the genuinely high tone of his book on The Adams Family have made it possible to think of him in connection with the great American galaxy of nonprofessional historians from Bancroft, Prescott, Motley, and Parkman to Lea and H. O. Taylor. But it is doubtful whether, in writing the book before us, Mr. Adams has had that tradition in mind. He seems to have aimed at journalistic fluency more than at substantial depth, at producing a good best seller rather than a classic.

It is of course refreshing to find historical events and figures described in the language of living men rather than in the stilted phrases of conventionalized pedagogues. Freedom of language makes for freedom of judgment. One who is not afraid to speak of "the stark and damnable injustice of the present regime" can see how the large mill-owners have dictated the policy of the United States and how patriotic American employers try to prevent the union of labor by stirring up hatred between its different sections, black and white, native and foreign-born. Not being connected with any college or university,

____________________
Published as a review of James Truslow Adams, The Epic of America, in The New Republic, Vol. 69, p. 274 ( January 20, 1932).

-256-

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