May 2, 2018


Roger Sherman and the Puritan Founding of America : review of The Collected Works of Roger Sherman ed. Mark David Hall  (Bradley J. Birzer, 5/01/18, Imaginatiove Conservative)

The papers and works of Roger Sherman should also remind us--especially the more libertarian among us--that the founding was not about the establishment of libertarianism, no matter how badly we want it to have ben. Sherman not only wanted law to prohibit gambling and card-playing, but, as late as 1784, he believed that the state should brand an "A" on the forehead of convicted adulterers. Phew. And, I worry about spanking my misbehaving children!

In 2016, Liberty Fund Books published The Collected Works of Roger Sherman, edited by Mark David Hall. As I wrote proudly on the title page of my own hardback copy: "I have immense respect for MDH--this is beautifully edited and crafted. The whole book is a work of art." From the wise selection of writings to the meticulous footnotes, edits, and indexing, this book really was crafted by a lover of books for other lovers of books. I've been impressed--to say the least--with Dr. Hall's work over the years. If you've seen his extraordinary, two-volume, collected works of James Wilson (also published by Liberty Fund), you somewhat know what to expect. In comparison with this book, though, the two volumes on Wilson are only "essays in the craft" as Tolkien might say. I would not have the patience to edit books in this way, but I thank the Good Lord Above that He gifted others with such talent. No doubt, God graced Dr. Hall with innumerable gifts--but certainly with the gift of editing. Though a devout Protestant, Dr. Hall could've been a monk at Lindisfarne, graciously and painstakingly illuminating the Holy Word.

Part of what makes Dr. Hall such a great editor, though, is his mastery of the era and the subject. In the line of Dumas Malone, Lance Banning, Forrest McDonald, Kevin Gutzman, Rob McDonald, and others, Dr. Hall lives and breathes the American founding and its life and times. His own original scholarship on the era--such as his scholarly biography of Sherman, Roger Sherman and the Creation of the American Republic (Oxford University Press, 2012)--inform his editing to the nth degree.

If you love books as works of art, the American founding, or history, you owe it to yourself to buy a copy of this work and have it sit proudly on your shelf (better yet, in your hands as you pour over it).

Even after reading The Collected Works of Roger Sherman, you won't be convinced that Sherman is a great man or the equal of a John Adams, a Thomas Jefferson, or a James Madison. He was no demi-god of the republic. Yet, he mattered. Indeed, he mattered immensely.

Posted by at May 2, 2018 3:43 AM