Book Review – The American Story -The Beginnings
By David Barton and Tim Barton
One of my favorite things about being retired is having more time to read. The American Story – The Beginnings by David and Tim Barton is one of the most enlightening books I’ve read in a long time.
I thought I knew quite a bit about our American history, even though I admit history was not my favorite subject in school. Sure, I learned about the discovery of America and that the pilgrims and early settlers came to America because they sought religious freedom. Back then all of our founding fathers were portrayed as heroes who fought and died for our country so that we might enjoy the freedoms we have today.
Today’s youth, however, often hear a different story, if they are taught history at all. Our founding fathers are often portrayed as vicious tyrants who stole from the Indians and enslaved people for personal gain. Yet, this book proves nothing could be further from the truth.
I love that The American Story has sixty-six pages of endnotes included that point to over one thousand original documents to support the claims written there. Unlike some so-called modern historians, this isn’t some made-up history by someone trying to prove a point. These original documents provide undisputable evidence to support each claim including the claims that most of the founding fathers were religious indeed and were seeking a better way of life, not only for themselves but for the generations that would come after them. They were selfless in their pursuits with many losing their possessions, families, or lives in their pursuit of freedom.
Many modern writers have made all attempts to remove any thread of Christianity from the history of America. This book puts it all back where it belongs. It’s filled with stories and quotes from our earliest founders, presidents, and leaders of their allegiance to God and to Christianity.
Below are a few of my favorite takeaways from the book
A shocking truth regarding native Americans
There were both good people as well as very barbaric people living in America when Columbus arrived. The Tiano tribe of Indians was very kind and generous, yet another tribe, the Caribs were vicious cannibals. Columbus discovered huts where the Caribs had captured and enslaved the Tiano women, raped them, a, unbelievably, eaten their children! Columbus, being a devout Christian, as witnessed by his quotations and prayers of thankfulness to God when he landed in the Caribbean and on other shores, fought against the barbaric Caribs. Unfortunately, Columbus is not always portrayed today as the true hero he was.
God’s Perfect timing
Have you ever wondered why it took so long for settlers to come to America after the discovery by Columbus? There was a religious reformation that began in the 17th and 18th centuries after people got the Bible printed in their language and were able to read it for themselves. From these Biblical principles, people began to learn the importance of religious freedom, representative limited government, free enterprise, rights of conscience, and private property protections. Had American settlers begun to appear before this reformation, it might have become just another tyrannical nation.
We all learned about Pocahontas and how she intervened in the killing of Captain John Smith However, I had forgotten that she was only 10 years old at this time! While it’s common knowledge that she saved the colonist from starvation by working as a liaison between her tribe and the colonist, I never learned that she converted to Christianity in 1614 having learned the Bible through her English teacher at the settlement. Civic leaders of that day often encouraged the settlers to open their homes to the Indian youth to teach them the Bible.
The Mayflower Miracle
It was a treacherous journey across the ocean from Holland where the pilgrims had originally moved to escape the religious persecution in England. During one of the storms, the main beam that supported the ship broke. There was no way to fix it and without a miracle from God, it would have certainly seen its demise. However, for some unknown reason, they had packed a inoperable printing press onto the boat and it turned out that the large jackscrew from the press was exactly what they needed to fix the issue.
As we all know, they made it to the new land and were able to comprise the Mayflower compact which shows their fierce dedication to God.
Having undertaken for the glory of God and advancement of the Christian faith, and the honor of our king and country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the northern parts of Virginia, do by these presents solemnly and mutually, in the presence of God and one of another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body…Mayflower Compact
Land purchases and Squanto
Many tales going around today state that the early settlers stole land from the Indians. However, original copies of deeds owned by WallBuilders, show that the settlers actually purchased these lands from the Indians even though the King of England often laid claim to them.
Thanks to Squanto, the early settlers learned how to work the land for food and survive in the new world. Ironically, Squanto had been captured years before and sold as a slave in Europe. There he learned to speak English and the ways of the Old World. Having found his tribe demolished by a plague upon his return, miraculously, he was there in America to help the early settlrs in their time of need.
Originally, the pilgrims had practiced a form of socialism. The fruits of their labor had been put in a common pot and distributed to all. But then some of the lazy people were inclined to receive distributions without working, resulting in unproductivity and inefficiency. At one time some in the Jamestown colony had even resorted to cannibalism because the food was so scarce. They saved their colony by implementing the Biblical principle “If anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he is denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (1 Timothy 5:8)
War with the Indians
As settlers began to convert many of the Indians to Christianity, Chief Metacom, of the Wampanoag tribe became very unhappy because it was causing the tribe to abandon some of their barbaric traditions, and he launched a ferocious attack on various settlers throughout the region. His goal was for every English settler in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Connecticut to be killed. They were to exterminate all Christians no matter how good they had been to them in the past. He also had many of the Indian Christians killed in an effort to completely wipe out Christianity. The settlers did kill Indians during this war, but they didn’t instigate war against the Indians, as some falsely claim.
The Puritans came to America several years after the Pilgrims. According to their writings, their purpose was not only religious freedom for themselves but to further spread the gospel to the natives. The first Bible ever published in America was written in the language of the Algonquin tribe of Massachusetts, which John Eliot had transcribed into their language.
The falling away and the Great Awakening
I have lived, sir, a long time; and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see this truth: That God governs in the affairs of men.Benjamin Franklin
Sadly, almost a century after the country had begun with such Christian zeal, people started losing interest in religion. Then Rev. George Whitfield came on the scene. He traveled for 34 years from colony to colony preaching nearly 18,000 sermons. He helped spark the Great Awakening and helped unite the colonies which helped to prepare them for the revolutionary war. Over 80% of Americans heard him preach at least once. A new love for the Bible and its teachings swept across the nation.
Massachusetts enacted the first public education law in America and the reason was to make sure that everyone would be able to read the Bible for themselves. The first public school textbooks included the Bible and taught the fundamentals of the Christian faith and Harvard college was started to “train ministers and evangelize and educate Indians. Princeton college president, John Witherspoon proclaimed, “Cursed be all that learning that is contrary to the cross of Christ.
Samuel Adams wrote the first circular letter to help unite the colonies before the Revolutionary War. In it, he called on Americans to study “The institutes of the Great Law Giver and Head of the Christian Church, which are to be found clearly written and promulgated in the New Testament.”
Religious Quotes from founding fathers
That all may bow to the specter of our Lord Jesus Christ and the whole earth may be filled with His glory.John Hancock
I hope we shall not forget that to Divine Providence is to be ascribed the glory and the praise.George Washington
Religion and good morals are the only solid foundations of public liberty and happinessSamuel Adams
The signers of the constitution knew they were probably signing their death warrants, yet they did it anyway. They should be hailed as heroes as many did pay a great price. I never knew that:
Nine died of wounds or hardship during the war.
Five were captured or imprisoned often with brutal treatment.
The wives, sons, and daughters of others were killed, jailed, mistreated, persecuted or left penniless.
One was driven from his wife’s deathbed and lost all his children.
The houses of 12 signers were burned to the ground.
Seventeen lost everything they owned.
Each one was hunted as a traitor, yet no signer defected or changed his stand throughout the darkest hours, even though they were offered immunity if they would.
A praying, Bible-believing nation
The first constitution ever written in America was the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut in 1639. Its very Christian beginning statement was “to maintain and preserve the liberty and purity of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus which we now profess.”
In 1782 Congress approved the printing of the first English bible to be used in schools. How iroic that it is now illegal for the Bible to be taught in school.
During the War for Independence, the congress issued at least eight different prayer and fasting proclamations followed by thanksgiving proclamations and by 1815 civil governments had issued at least 1,400 official prayer proclamations and is a tradition that continues to this present day.
These quotes by just a few of founding fathers attest to their strong belief that Christianity should be the foundation of a successful nation. There are just a few in the book.
Whoever is an avowed enemy of God, I scruple not to call him an enemy to his country.john Witherspoon
The great pillars of all government and of social life, virtue, morality, and religion.Patrick Henry
Free government cannot exist without religion and morals, and there cannot be moral without religion, nor religion without the Bible.Zachary Taylor
It was news to me that only fourteen percent of people supported Independence from Great Britain. Yet, these sold-out patriots along with the providential, miraculous help from God, who more than once used the weather to the patrioit’s favor, were able to turn the tide and gain our freedom. It’s a miraculous story and proves to us today that we each can have a part in the destiny of our nation. Where we feel it’s not on the right track, we can pray for our leaders and we can work to achieve the needed changes. It doesn’t take everybody, but only takes a few committed people.
In The American Story The Bartons show how many of the laws came directly from the Bible, including our oath-taking clauses, the election of our president, the death penalty, separation of powers, to name a few. The entire preamble, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessing of liberty are Biblical principles.
Fifty-five different, diverse individuals framed our constitution. Some were farmers, businessmen, attorneys, ministers, physicians, soldiers, and political leaders. They ranged in age from 29 to 81. They were all wise and most were god-fearing individuals. As Calvin Coolidge said. “To live under the American Constitution is the greatest political privilege that was ever accorded to the human race.”
Bill of rights
Our Bill of Rights were put into place to protect our God-given rights from the government. The founders determined these to be the right to life, liberty, property self-defense, justice, speech, assembly and religious liberty. One of the most mis-represented today is religious freedom.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
The Bartons debunked the common myth today that government should have no part in religion by showing numerous quotes from many of the top early leaders that prove they believed the Christian religion should influence government.
No nation has ever yet existed or been governed without religion – nor can be. The Christian religion is the best religion that has been given to man and I, as Chief Matistrate of this nation, am bound to give it the sanction of my example.Thomas Jefferson
The religion which has introduced civil liberty is the religion of Christ and His apostles, which enjoins humility, piety, and benevolence; which acknowledges in every person a brother, or a sister and a citizen with equal rights. This is genuine Christianity, and to this we owe our free constitutions of government.Noah Webster
The Bible is the best of books and I wish it were in the hands of everyone. It is indispensable to the safety and permanence of our institutions.President Zachary Taylor
A little-known truth about slavery
I was surprised to learn that only eight percent of Americans owned slaves. I thought that almost every American in the South had slaves. While eight percent is too many, this statistic sheds new light on the subject and we have to appreciate the other ninety-two percent of Americans who were against slavery. I compare it to today’s atrocity of abortion. While millions of unborn children have been killed in our country, most Americans are totally against it. It took fifty years for the Supreme Court to right the wrong; still, abortion is legal in some states.
In 1773 Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Massachusetts passed anti-slavery laws. Regrettably, in the early 1800’s, the Democratic party began to push for pro-slavery laws, and the Republican party was formed as a means to combat this. In 1860 Abraham Lincoln became the first president of the Republican party and he believed that God had called him to be an instrument to help end slavery.
Eventually, the pro-slavery states pulled from the union, resulting in a bloody civil war. Over 600,000 Americans gave their lives to end this disgraceful act. America led the way in abolishing slavery in the world during that time and was one of the first nations to ban the slave trade. These are but a few of the little-known facts about slavery written in the book. According to the Bartons, today in our modern world over 40 million people are still enslaved and slavery is not criminalized by 94 countries in the United Nations. Shouldn’t we celebrate the fact that our nation totally abolished slavery in its infancy and focus to eliminate the current slave trade of our time instead of continuing to dwell on one that was resolved centuries ago?
Quotes from more recent Presidents who knew that Christianity was the source of America’s prosperity.
We cannot read the history of our rise and development as a Nation without reckoning with the place the Bible has occupied in shaping the advances of the Republic.President Franklin Roosevelt
The teachings of the Bible are so interwoven and entwined with our whole civic and social life that woud be literally – I do not mean figuratively, I mean literally – impossible for us to figure to ourselves what that life would be if these teachingss were removed.President Theodore Roosevelt
Of the many influences that have shaped the United States of America into a distinctive Nation and people, none may be said to be more fundaental and enduring than the Bible.President Ronald Regan
God uses the imperfect
Of course, none of the founding fathers were flawless, as none of us today are either and The American Story doesn’t shy away from showing the flaws of the early founders. Except for Jesus, the heroes of the Bible were all flawed as well and the Bible is quick to point that out. We are a fallen race, but we should give honor where honor is due.
Today America is under vicious attack from within. There is a force working to divide her, and take her apart piece by piece by distorting the history of the greatest nation ever built, causing its own citizens to hate each other and their native land. What motivates people to want to discount the spiritual foundations of our nation? Perhaps they are enemies of our country and everything it stands for and hate the fact that God had such a hand in the development of our nation. Perhaps they really do believe that a nation without God is a better nation. But, they are wrong.
We were taught in school, that freedom isn’t free and many people paid a terrible price for the luxury of freedom we enjoy today. Just as our founding fathers fought hard to establish this country and many gave their very lives, now, it is our turn to fight the freedom fight. But this time we don’t have to bring out the guns of war. We just need to stand up for what we know is right and true and speak out while we still can to preserve our nation. The Bartons have done that so well with this book and I applaud them.
In The American Story they show that two times previously in America we almost abandoned Christianity and turned away from God, and both times a Great Awakening occurred and turned the hearts of America back toward Him. May we once again awaken to what God has entrusted us with and work to keep America in His hands for the sake of our children and grandchildren. Our standing firm for the truth, praying, and voting for the most Godly, courageous people into every office from the smallest city council to the president will change the course of this nation.
In this review, I’ve only scratched the surface of the incredible historical content in the book, most of which you perhaps have never heard. I highly recommend you pick up a copy of The American Story for yourself and your children and grandchildren. We all have a right to know the truth about our beloved country.
“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32
The church must take right ground in regard to politics. The time has come that Christians must vote for honest men and take consistent ground in politics. God cannot sustain this free and blessed country which we love and pray for unless the church will take right ground. Politics are a part of a religion in a country such as this, and Christians must do their duty to their country as a part of their duty to God. He will bless or curse this nation according to the course they take.Charles Finney 1792 – 1875