The American Miracle
Divine Providence in the Rise of the Republic
Crown Forum, New York, 2016, 416 pages
Book Review published on: June 16, 2017
The 2016 American presidential election has reinvigorated discussions of nationalism and American exceptionalism: What is it about the United States that makes it, in the eyes of many people, a uniquely “great” Nation? In the well-timed The American Miracle: Divine Providence in the Rise of the Republic, Michael Medved, host of a daily radio show and author of thirteen books on American popular culture and politics, presents the case for America being an exceptionally—even divinely—fortunate Nation, leading to unique progress and success. Medved engagingly recounts the undeniable dramatic coincidences throughout the formative events in early American history, some of them implausible to the degree that many would presume the involvement of a higher power. In doing so, he effectively demonstrates how one break in a chain of events might have drastically altered the course of our nation.
The American Miracle has thirteen chapters, beginning with the passing of Founding Fathers John Adams and Thomas Jefferson on the fiftieth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. Although not labeled as an introduction, Medved explains his intent for the book here. The next chapter covers the Pilgrims’ voyage in 1620, and all subsequent chapters continue chronologically through the end of the Civil War and the abolition of slavery in 1865. Within these chapters, Medved establishes the role of divine providence in well-known events such as the Constitutional Convention (1787) and the Texas Revolution (1836), along with perhaps lesser-known events such as the Battle of New Orleans (1815) and the Mexican-American War (1846-1848). The final chapter, though not labeled as a conclusion, summarizes Medved’s argument and looks to the future.
While any reader will likely have a basic knowledge of the events during this formative period in the Nation’s history, Medved’s recounting of the backstories to these events are what make the book such an attractive read. For example, how did Andrew Jackson seemingly cheat death as often as he did, eventually defeating a superior British force at the Battle of New Orleans, thereby confirming American control of the recently acquired Louisiana Territory? How did Sam Houston, a down-on-his-luck former governor of Tennessee, overcome seemingly insurmountable odds to defeat Santa Anna at San Jacinto, thereby securing Texas’s independence from Mexico? How did Abraham Lincoln’s spirituality evolve as his life and political career progressed, culminating in his presidency during which the nation fought a bloody civil war and abolished slavery? Medved skillfully answers such questions, leaving the reader with a clear understanding of divine providence and how the founders and their successors perceived its role in our nation’s history.
Many books on American history emphasize the actions of presidents and generals, and while The American Miracle contains no shortage of these, the book also effectively conveys the roles of diplomats, congressmen, and numerous other players in these grand events. This characteristic will make the book appeal to readers of not only military history but also political science, diplomacy, and national security. This also makes the book an important addition to the ongoing discussions about the role of these figures in the day-to-day operations of our military and our government.
As a new presidential administration develops its agenda and the United States reexamines its role in world affairs, The American Miracle is particularly relevant to the current security concerns of the Nation. Indeed, the book could not have been published at a more fortuitous time: there is tremendous sudden interest in all things related to America’s founding as well as our nation’s current role in the world. Readers all along the political spectrum can appreciate Medved’s book, as it appeals to those who are rooted in the notion of American exceptionalism, as well as those who believe America needs a “divine intervention.” Well sourced and engagingly written, it provides an excellent overview of the history of the Nation from the Pilgrims to the Civil War and serves as an effective entry point for readers to further study of many of the significant events in America’s founding.
Book Review written by: Lt. Col. Ross Pollack, U.S. Army, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas