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When Abraham Lincoln helped create the Republican Party on the eve of the Civil War, his goal was to promote economic opportunity for all Americans, not just the slaveholding Southern planters who steered national politics. Yet while visionary Republicans like Teddy Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower shared Lincoln’s egalitarian dream, their attempts to use government to guar When Abraham Lincoln helped create the Republican Party on the eve of the Civil War, his goal was to promote economic opportunity for all Americans, not just the slaveholding Southern planters who steered national politics. Yet while visionary Republicans like Teddy Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower shared Lincoln’s egalitarian dream, their attempts to use government to guard against the concentration of wealth have repeatedly been undone by the country’s moneyed interests and members of their own party. Ronald Reagan’s embrace of big business—and the ensuing financial crisis—is the latest example of this calamitous cycle, but it is by no means the first. In To Make Men Free, celebrated historian Heather Cox Richardson traces the shifting ideology of the Grand Old Party from the antebellum era to the Great Recession, showing how Republicans’ ideological vacillations have had terrible repercussions for minorities, the middle class, and America at large. Expansive and authoritative, To Make Men Free explains how a relatively young party became America’s greatest political hope—and, time and time again, its greatest disappointment.


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When Abraham Lincoln helped create the Republican Party on the eve of the Civil War, his goal was to promote economic opportunity for all Americans, not just the slaveholding Southern planters who steered national politics. Yet while visionary Republicans like Teddy Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower shared Lincoln’s egalitarian dream, their attempts to use government to guar When Abraham Lincoln helped create the Republican Party on the eve of the Civil War, his goal was to promote economic opportunity for all Americans, not just the slaveholding Southern planters who steered national politics. Yet while visionary Republicans like Teddy Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower shared Lincoln’s egalitarian dream, their attempts to use government to guard against the concentration of wealth have repeatedly been undone by the country’s moneyed interests and members of their own party. Ronald Reagan’s embrace of big business—and the ensuing financial crisis—is the latest example of this calamitous cycle, but it is by no means the first. In To Make Men Free, celebrated historian Heather Cox Richardson traces the shifting ideology of the Grand Old Party from the antebellum era to the Great Recession, showing how Republicans’ ideological vacillations have had terrible repercussions for minorities, the middle class, and America at large. Expansive and authoritative, To Make Men Free explains how a relatively young party became America’s greatest political hope—and, time and time again, its greatest disappointment.

30 review for To Make Men Free: A History of the Republican Party

  1. 5 out of 5

    Conor Ahern

    I read this book in physical form while my audiobook was The New Tsar: The Rise and Reign of Vladimir Putin, so I really felt like I was consuming both the past and the future of the Republican party! Joking (?) aside, this book was really informative. It traces the disconnect between the imperative of equality mandated by the Declaration of Independence and the unequivocal defense of property and class fissures enshrined in the Constitution, and how the parties have tried out various forms of c I read this book in physical form while my audiobook was The New Tsar: The Rise and Reign of Vladimir Putin, so I really felt like I was consuming both the past and the future of the Republican party! Joking (?) aside, this book was really informative. It traces the disconnect between the imperative of equality mandated by the Declaration of Independence and the unequivocal defense of property and class fissures enshrined in the Constitution, and how the parties have tried out various forms of compromise between these two mostly incompatible visions of America. The Republican Party, the Party of Lincoln, was founded (according to Richardson) in support of values of meritocracy, equality, and anti-plutocracy--essentially a party against the symbolism and actual power of the benighted Plantation South. Unfortunately, shortly after prevailing in the Civil War when those ideals were put to the test and prevailed, the GOP lost its way and became bedfellows with big business. Things carried on pell-mell until Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson sparred over which party was heir to the aegis of progressive politics. The concept belonged to no one, but when the revanchist Taft wing had their bid sundered by Teddy Roosevelt and his progressivism, and when their Democratic opponent had progressive tendencies, the GOP began solidifying its image as the party against progress, though I'm sure that even then they had better branding. Although some progressive notes were sounded in the interim, the first half of the 20th Century was claimed by Democrats; ultimately, the hidebound "Taft Wing" of the party wrested control, leading to the Movement Conservatism that has afflicted us and the world over the past few decades. The true hero of this book seems to be Eisenhower. Eisenhower represented perhaps the last great hope for sanity from a party opposing what experience and peer states have proven to be the superior system, and the rest has been a shambles of manipulation and cynicism. He accepted the New Deal as not only popular but good, and seemed a true statesman, capable of putting country over self and especially over party, a skill of which the modern incarnation of the GOP is wholly bereft. In addition to his baleful warnings about the Military Industrial Complex, Eisenhower realized, we are told, that . . . economically dispossessed people were natural targets for political and religious extremists. They could easily be manipulated by a strong leader to back a cause--any cause--that promised to resurrect a world in which they had enjoyed prosperity and cultural significance. Such extremism had been dangerous enough in the hands of the Nazis, but 1945 gave quite specific shape to Eisenhower's fears. The atomic bomb . . . changed the meaning of human conflict. Richardson's coverage of Sen. McCarthy also rings bells for those who lament our modern political dysphoria: Party that they could advance an agenda by use of fiction, as long as that fiction spoke to Americans' fears and could be kept from pen scrutiny. McCarthy's demagoguery gave Taft's die-hard followers a new style. He yelled; he made crazy accusations; he leaked fragments of truth that misrepresented reality; he hectored and badgered. He got in the faces of people who mattered. His antics got attention. Although a senator--about as inside a job as one can get--he posed as an outsider taking on what he insisted was a corrupt system. Claiming his opponents were bent on destroying America, he promised to defend it. And more presaging of Trump: Conservatives' anti-intellectualism became a strength. That their rhetoric did not address reality mattered less than that it seemed to offer a comforting route to bring back the prosperity and security voters associated with an idyllic American past. There were some periods where I would have been proud to have called myself a Republican, but the influence of business interests seems to have been too strong on the whole. Principled past leaders aside, the current incarnation of the GOP is exactly where the past fifty years has intended for it to be. The grand experiment begun by Lincoln has failed spectacularly. May it die a quick and decisive death.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Stuart Woolf

    1.5 stars. Not completely repulsive, but still a major disappointment. I found this book at a Barnes & Noble and gave it to a liberal friend as a joke birthday present. He read it and subsequently re-gifted it to me, recommending it as an "easy read". I don't disagree with his assessment, but I do think the book fails to deliver on an interesting subject: I am guessing Richardson was commissioned by Basic Books to churn out a cash cow for the publisher. A list of things I did not like: (A) Richard 1.5 stars. Not completely repulsive, but still a major disappointment. I found this book at a Barnes & Noble and gave it to a liberal friend as a joke birthday present. He read it and subsequently re-gifted it to me, recommending it as an "easy read". I don't disagree with his assessment, but I do think the book fails to deliver on an interesting subject: I am guessing Richardson was commissioned by Basic Books to churn out a cash cow for the publisher. A list of things I did not like: (A) Richardson's thesis, that the Republican Party is traditionally comprised of an egalitarian wing supportive of a strong central government / infrastructure investment and an "oligarchic" wing that aims to limit these intrusions, does make use of some fairly loaded language, and there is never any question as to where the author's sympathies lie. This strikes me as curious because a substantial portion of the readers who will pick up this book will inevitably be modern Republicans. (B) I felt the author's take on the Republican Party was a little simplistic - and, at times, historically inaccurate. According to Richardson, the central tenet of the original Republican Party, the party of Lincoln, was to lessen income inequality by defeating the Slave Power, but I'm not convinced the income inequality debates of today are successors to the political conflicts of the antebellum era. Richardson is also prone to insinuate that there is no intellectual basis for small-government conservatism, a weakness that limits the book's credibility. (C) My least favorite part of the book, sorry to say, is simply that Richardson is not a very talented writer. She is prone to repeat certain themes and motifs again and again: income inequality, the differences between the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, the hierarchical worldview of some obscure congressman from South Carolina. There is also an alarming lack of proper nouns, e.g. "Southerners believed..." or "Eastern bankers wanted...", so the book is something of a light-weight, a series of generalizations unsubstantiated by research. Not to belabor the point, but if Richardson's blurb was removed from the inside cover, I would have guessed this book was written by an undergraduate, presumably one in rebellion of her family's conservative politics. I would have learned as much just the same.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Randall Wallace

    The Republican Party, was originally the party of Lincoln, so how did it become the party of white supremacy? The Democratic Party in Lincoln’s time was the party of white supremacy - so how and when did both parties switch their hat color and do the full 180? And why do Americans never discuss this obvious 180 degree turns of both parties? Let’s see what this book teaches us to explain this: Republican Lincoln believed the government had to do the stuff that was “too big for individuals”. Meanw The Republican Party, was originally the party of Lincoln, so how did it become the party of white supremacy? The Democratic Party in Lincoln’s time was the party of white supremacy - so how and when did both parties switch their hat color and do the full 180? And why do Americans never discuss this obvious 180 degree turns of both parties? Let’s see what this book teaches us to explain this: Republican Lincoln believed the government had to do the stuff that was “too big for individuals”. Meanwhile, the Democrats “abhorred the idea of a stronger federal government” and hated the idea of the government paying a nickel for economic development, like the railroads. But the Southern Democrats were out of commission during the Civil War, so Republicans could and did develop, and they also started the Department of Agriculture and public universities. Gettysburg wiped out “one third of Lee’s fighting force” while Vicksburg bisects the Confederacy. The Civil War was costing the Treasury two million dollars a day. The 13th Amendment increased the power of the Government. But the war made SOME Republicans very rich and that split the party between haves and nots. In 1864, Democratic McClellan loses the election on a “stop the Civil War now and sellout to the South” platform. The Republicans wanted a strong national government and objected to state’s rights, seeing it as code for continuing slavery. After Lincoln is killed, his VP, racist Andrew Johnson, assumes Presidency, the result of which will “warp American politics for decades to come”. Johnson pretended an active government meant racist because it was taking away from whites and giving to everyone else. Northern Democrats thought Lincoln sent whites to be slaughtered in his war for the benefit of the black man. In 1872, the Republican Party was split into human beings versus the James Henry Hammond Fan Club which believed that overt racists pretending to be cowboys was the future of getting elected. The theory was ex-slaves and urban workers (i.e. blacks) were lazy, while cowboys were anything but because they were white and stayed seated while their horses and barbed wire did most of the work. By President Grant’s second term, the Sumner/Grant fight within the party ended the Republican “dedication to equality of opportunity, their party’s fundamental principle”. Communism had hit the Republican radar in the 1870’s with concerns the effects of the Paris Commune on the freed slaves and white workers in the US. By 1872, Republicans saw Lincoln’s active government as socialism, and recent labor organizing as “an un-American plot to redistribute wealth”. The white cowboy motif had made it easy for liberal New York City Republicans not only brand blacks as lazy, but also go after immigrants, workers and labor as the part of the problem. Lincoln’s policy of equality of opportunity lasted only 12 years in the Republican Party. After that the motto of the Republican Party becomes “Business Uber Alles”, and any restriction on business means “redistribution of wealth.” Democrats before the war defended slavery as the right of business and now Republicans one generation later were defending wage slavery as the right of business. In 1884, younger Republicans mobilized to counter the power of Big Business, yet they were strangely also imperialist as well. One of Republican Teddy Roosevelt’s lies was saying, “We will have this war for the freedom of Cuba in spite of the timidity of commercial interests.” And that adorable Teddy bear sure gave Cuba its freedom, didn’t he? The code phrase for invading other countries, and taking stuff that doesn’t belong to you at the time was “spreading morality overseas”. They say Teddy “charged” up San Juan Hill, but there wasn’t much charging of course because Teddy’s horses were drowned during the landing due to his poor planning. So, let’s picture instead a bunch of out of breath white guys with weapons climbing while looking for Joe Rosenthal. So, TR was an imperialist, but wanted to regulate big business (while also standing against socialism). Just as Lincoln had sided with the people against slavery, so TR would side with the people now against Big Business. Meanwhile, by 1898, in the fabulous world of Christianity, Heather says Ministers were actually preaching the “virtues” of lynching. Jesus would have been so proud. Democrat Wilson becomes President and immediately “segregates the federal offices that had been desegregated since Reconstruction”. Woodrow then throws the first movie night inside the White House showing the Birth of a Nation. Who doesn’t get all teary-eyed imagining a President and his friends enjoying the first blatantly racist film in a building built by slaves? In response to Wilson having all the fun, Republican Herbert Hoover commits “one racial slur after another.” Republicans lose their progressive flame and turn against immigrants. “I know we once proudly said this was a nation of immigrants but that was before those damn labor protests of the 1870’s!” The Great Migration’s first effect is that it made racism a national thing instead of a southern thing. For racists, the Great Migration had become the Great Migraine. Did you know the Republicans shaped and brought us the GI Bill which “mirrored the ideology of Lincoln” – it put 51% of veterans back in school? When FDR died, the dismantling of the New Deal immediately began, led by the Taft Republicans and the Southern Democrats. This leads to the Taft/Hartley Bill which kills the Wagner Act and Labor. The worry was that Labor would use its money to influence politics. Allowing all people to have a voice in a democracy? How jejune! The Dixiecrats led by racist Strom Thurmond (who fathered a biracial child in his 20’s) splinter off from the Democrats in ‘48. Next you get the Eisenhower/Taft rift which echoes for 20 years. Taft’s right wing posse thought that they were the only good Americans. Everyone else had to be purged from government, and all DC parties with good canapes. The TV generation had just begun – political messages had to suddenly be simplified to “prompt emotional, rather than intellectual responses”. Eisenhower is the last voice of sanity for Republicans: the government must perform indispensable social services - It must cover people suffering, needs for housing, promote education. No wonder the Taft crew had to take him out; you can’t follow an act like that and be liked unless you do some twisted sleight of hand by exploiting emotion and language. On cue, in comes the McCarthy witch hunt, and the Taft crew gets a boner when they see, “Wow, you can say any fiction and it will get traction if you shamelessly speak to America’s fears”. Taft Republicans adopted the McCarthy style. Taft Republicans saw their future clearly: “wild accusations designed to defend free-market capitalism, heterosexuality, and Christianity” from those godless leftists. Accusations …and Golf. Then in comes William F. Buckley to revamp the Republican party by reducing government and telling universities what to do. Buckley strategically emphasizes religion, the free market, and a strong military, and conflates the New Deal with “Soviet-style communism”. But first, he patents a way of lock jaw talking that sounded like Paul Lynde on Quaaludes. Eisenhower had thought if he didn’t do something about racism, the Soviet Union could keep rightfully pointing at the US South. The John Birch Society neatly tied together anti-communism and racism – they even sued Paul McCartney saying their song Ivory and Ivory had been lifted for his Ebony and Ivory. The inside joke was the JBS had got it’s “no dissent tolerated” platform straight from the communists. That was about as funny as the JBS got. Then comes all those TV westerns. You know, those shows where only “strong white men worked hard and made it on their own”? “In 1959, there were twenty-six westerns on TV.” Barry Goldwater quits college after one year because he didn’t “like it.” Goldwater then taps into the Cowboy myth – on their own, needed no assistance (once the land was stolen from natives), needed no government handout (after free grazing and water rights). It didn’t matter if the American people clearly wanted an active government, you had to protect against the tyranny of the masses. The Republican Party saw it would have to now go back in time before the Civil War – before the end of slavery. Goldwater cut the Deep South away from the Democrats. Then Reagan becomes the spokesman for Movement Conservatism. The new thrill was anti-intellectualism, and refusing to budge on anything in order to make Democrats move only rightward. Reagan then raises taxes eleven times and appoints more judges than any other president in history. After Reagan, Republicans begin stressing the New Deal is Socialism, and we got to replace it with an even bigger government through handouts to Business, Religion and the Military. They run the Willie Horton ad that kills Dukakis, conjuring the image of democrats as socialists working FOR “dangerous black Americans”. Then in 1996, Fox News begins based on a simple narrative (devoid of all nuance) to be read by good looking people in front of colorful backgrounds. Movement Conservatism was based on ideology, not reality – and as a Republican you were either all in or all out and so the purging of RINOs begins. Big government came back under Bush Jr. but it was now under the control of Movement Conservatives - a triumph for Buckley’s vision. Having gone full circle, the Republican Party was now proudly everything it had been formed to destroy. And the book ends. What a great book. Heather shows how when you get a President from either party going out on a limb, taking a risk, daring to think of all the people, you get a huge backlash. Lincoln leads to the End of Reconstruction, Jim Crow, and Trayvon Martin. And FDR’s New Deal to save Capitalism leads to the Powell Report, William F. Buckley, the Crisis of Democracy (Trilateral Commission book) and Clinton’s killing of welfare. And Eisenhower’s Republican successors were forced to recant his policies. Heather notes that when Republicans let Big Business get the upper hand you got financial shocks like: 1893, 1929, and 2008. But when Republicans Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and Eisenhower actively moved the furthest to make a more level economic playing field, their actions all led to a Republican backlash. Great book.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    Richardson details the history of the Republican Party from Lincoln to Bush, showing how it became the party that serves the interests of the wealthy and the big corporations. Lincoln, the first Republican president, believed that government must promote economic opportunity for all citizens, not just the rich. We remember Lincoln for keeping the nation united and for his emancipation of the slaves, but we should not forget the 1862 Homestead Act, which gave poor people a chance to get land if Richardson details the history of the Republican Party from Lincoln to Bush, showing how it became the party that serves the interests of the wealthy and the big corporations. Lincoln, the first Republican president, believed that government must promote economic opportunity for all citizens, not just the rich. We remember Lincoln for keeping the nation united and for his emancipation of the slaves, but we should not forget the 1862 Homestead Act, which gave poor people a chance to get land if they would work it. Lincoln saw this as an important way to help poor people to rise in society. Lincoln also signed the Land-Grant College Act into law in 1862 in the belief that farmers' gaining increased knowledge would lead to more efficient production.Finally, the Union Pacific Railroad Act was a piece of legislation designed to help develop the nation. The U.P.R.R.Co. was actually set up as a state corporation, which would have Republicans today screaming-"socialism!" The irony, of course, is that Republicans are now in the position of the slaveholding Southern Democrats of the pre-Civil War period who wanted to maintain an economic oligarchy and opposed any federal government activism to promote economic development, especially for the poor and working-class. How this happened is the main point of the story. By the 1880s, business had become so powerful that it had gained a strong control over government by capturing the Republican Party. Interestingly, when the Democrats won in 1892 (with Grover Cleveland), the outgoing administration of Benjamin Harrison did its best to destroy the economy and ruin Cleveland. Europeans were discouraged from investing and the stock market was paralyzed, a crash occurring just before Cleveland took office in 1893. A severe depression happened which led to great unrest, such as the Pullman strike in Chicago. Republicans were able to blame Cleveland for the economic meltdown and increasing "anarchy." It would be no surprise that McKinley would sweep into office in 1896, as the candidate of Big Business. In a great irony, Theodore Roosevelt would become Vice-President under McKinley after McKinley's reelection in 1900,and following the president's assassination, "Teddy" became the president who would return to the vision of Lincoln, by supporting the citizens against "the trusts" (the big monopolies), with his trust-busting campaign-and, moreover, with his protection of natural resources to stop the plundering of those resources by the wealthy 1% It was not to last. The Republicans would go back to being the party of the econonomic oligarchy following Teddy's presidency. The excesses of the wealthy in the 20s would lead to the Crash of 1929 and the Democrats of another Roosevelt needing to step in to restore the economy. Richardson continues the story to the present. As Bush allowed an unregulated "free market" to run amok again- and cause another meltdown, it seemed that people had not learned anything from history. As Republicans continue to undermine the efforts to follow Lincoln's vision by Democrat Barack Obama, we can see that the struggle on behalf of working people against economic oligarchy goes on..

  5. 4 out of 5

    Joris Wils

    This books follows the "far left" to "far right" swings of the Republican Party since its inception in the late 1850s until Obama's election which is fascinating. It shows that at the core the problem is a conflict between the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. The Declaration of Independence implies equal opportunity for all. The Constitution protects property rights. The conflict occurs when property owners become so powerful that they control government and seriously infringe o This books follows the "far left" to "far right" swings of the Republican Party since its inception in the late 1850s until Obama's election which is fascinating. It shows that at the core the problem is a conflict between the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. The Declaration of Independence implies equal opportunity for all. The Constitution protects property rights. The conflict occurs when property owners become so powerful that they control government and seriously infringe on others' equal opportunity. The party in its history has swung left and right, between these two principles. In Lincoln's time, the party was created to block the spread of the large southern plantation owners into the west. These owners drove small farmers out of business and thus endangering the equality and the "pursuit of happiness" written into the Declaration of Independence. During Lincoln's time the party was considered highly progressive acts: created a national currency, sponsored a railway to the west, created the department of agriculture and banned slavery. The latter was a progressive act, because it destroyed the slave owner's wealth. After the war, the party became beholden to Northeastern factory owners and by 1900 was the party of Big Business. It blocked labor unions and other attacks on Business property and finance. It was republican Theodore Roosevelt that Big Business threatened the democracy of the nation after which he broke the trusts. After Roosevelt the party moved to right again and elected Hoover at the outset of the depression president. Hoover applied "austerity" i.e. cut taxes and spending policy to combat the depression with disastrous results for the country and the party. FDR took over and the democrats took power until Eisenhower. Eisenhower was a moderate who believed that inequality globally and nationally was the source of strife. He supported the GI Bill and much government investment abroad and all over the country (mostly military), which gave rise to the most prosperous time in modern US history. He, however, was despised by the republican right, of which Buckley was an early figure because he was giving money to the poor and other social investments. Since Eisenhower the party has steadily moved right at first due to the social turmoil of the 60s, which frightened many Americans. It got its first major conservative elected president with Reagan. George W, not George HW was his philosophical successor. Reagan claimed to be applying supply side (i.e. Hoover) economics to the economy, but he drove up the deficit instead. In other words, he applied New Deal economics, but claimed the opposite. George W. ultimately did the same. In short, the book is very critical of the Republicans -in fact a bit too much IMHO for what I assume to be a neutral historical record-. Its greatest leaders were progressives, Its greatest failure, Hoover, was a regressive. It however does not acknowledge its legacy and seems to not have learned from its past.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Philip Girvan

    A good, brief account of the 160 year history of the US Republican Party and its struggle to reconcile constitutional property rights with the principle of equality promoted in the Declaration of Independence. The best part of the book, for me, are the chapters dealing with the first and greatest Republican president Abraham Lincoln who rightly recognized that slavery was a moral abomination and indefensible in light of the country's founding documents. Lincoln also recognized the dangers of econ A good, brief account of the 160 year history of the US Republican Party and its struggle to reconcile constitutional property rights with the principle of equality promoted in the Declaration of Independence. The best part of the book, for me, are the chapters dealing with the first and greatest Republican president Abraham Lincoln who rightly recognized that slavery was a moral abomination and indefensible in light of the country's founding documents. Lincoln also recognized the dangers of economic stratification and saw government as having a role to play towards promoting upward mobility. Indeed, early Republicans are completely unrecognizable from modern Republicans. One can't imagine any present-day Republican signing into law bills such as The Homestead Act or The Land-Grant College Act as President Lincoln did in 1862. The following chapters detail the pendulum shift of the GOP toward entrenching property rights and deprioritizing principles of equality. In order to secure New York's electoral votes, the party felt it necessary to court Wall Street; the Income Tax Acts of 1861 and 1862 are repealed in 1872; high tariffs are maintained to encourage and protect domestic industry. This shift toward big business continues until Teddy Roosevelt assumes the presidency, and then shifts back once Republicans regain the Presidency after Woodrow Wilson. The struggle between Eisenhower and the isolationist Taft Republicans is well told as is the rise of Movement Conservatism, Nixon's flirtations with it, as well as Reagan and Bush 43's full-on French Kiss with it. The book, written in 2014, does not foresee the rise of Trump. In fact, it anticipates the pendulum moving the opposite direction toward moderation and an emphasis on greater equality. It would be interesting to read what Richardson makes of Trump and the insurgency that propelled him to the White House.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Ed Buckner

    I'm a fan of popular history by historians who really know their stuff and can write clearly and engagingly for amateur historian readers. This--To Make Men Free--is a fine example of that. Richardson garners facts and presents them so deftly that at first you don't realize how much detail and how great a sweep of history she has given you. I heartily recommend this for anyone interested in how the Republican Party arose, how and why it seems to have largely swapped places with the Democratic Pa I'm a fan of popular history by historians who really know their stuff and can write clearly and engagingly for amateur historian readers. This--To Make Men Free--is a fine example of that. Richardson garners facts and presents them so deftly that at first you don't realize how much detail and how great a sweep of history she has given you. I heartily recommend this for anyone interested in how the Republican Party arose, how and why it seems to have largely swapped places with the Democratic Party. I'm now reading a library copy of her latest--How the South Won... It, too, is quite good, and I plan to buy a copy soon.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Liz

    In the 1850s, young men created the Republican Party to stand against and create an alternative to a government they believed promoted the interests of only wealthy elites. Over its 160-year history, Republicans have swung from this founding vision of their party to one that has espoused and promulgated the interests of elites and big businesses, why? This is the question that Heather Cox Richardson has set out to answer. Richardson's masterful narrative charts the Republican Party and its ideolo In the 1850s, young men created the Republican Party to stand against and create an alternative to a government they believed promoted the interests of only wealthy elites. Over its 160-year history, Republicans have swung from this founding vision of their party to one that has espoused and promulgated the interests of elites and big businesses, why? This is the question that Heather Cox Richardson has set out to answer. Richardson's masterful narrative charts the Republican Party and its ideology from its inception through the presidency of George W. Bush, when the power of the Movement Conservative faction peaked. Richardson demonstrates how the issue of civil rights, economic theory, and the politics of socialism and communism have affected the ideology of the Republican Party. Richardson attempts to stay neutral as she discusses these ideological shifts and their causes, but anyone who has strong political views may become agitated while reading this book. However, every American should fight through this discomfort and read To Make Men Free. Richardson does an excellent job of showing how the past has impacted and yielded our present day society and political landscape.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Anne

    A fascinating review of the US Republican Party. Now I have a clearer understanding of Movement Conservatism and how it has affected the US citizenry.

  10. 4 out of 5

    David

    The Republican Party was an amazing thing as started out by Lincoln, representing equality and the common person against the wealthy elite. It quickly succumbed to corruption, but did some amazing things and gave us some amazing leaders. I was optimistic that this book would help me change my views on Republicans and teach me that they aren't so bad. And it did, and they weren't...up until Buckley transformed the party and Nixon took power and Movement Conservatism moved in. And then I realized The Republican Party was an amazing thing as started out by Lincoln, representing equality and the common person against the wealthy elite. It quickly succumbed to corruption, but did some amazing things and gave us some amazing leaders. I was optimistic that this book would help me change my views on Republicans and teach me that they aren't so bad. And it did, and they weren't...up until Buckley transformed the party and Nixon took power and Movement Conservatism moved in. And then I realized Republicans have nothing to do with Lincoln, and their good points were anomalies. Republicans will never elect a Lincoln or Roosevelt or Eisenhower again. They have become the party of the elite and use the tactic of "if you repeat a lie loud enough and often enough people will believe it." They claim to be the party of morality but in reality they are the party of hypocrisy. The author is more optimistic than I am about a new era starting - I don't see it, and I don't have enough faith that people will stop voting against their best interests - but I hope it is true.

  11. 4 out of 5

    John

    Fascinating stuff...Richardson really gets into the ins and outs of party negotiations, which I feel like I never read about. People remember which party wins elections, but they don't remember who the other options were for the nomination and the ways that individual candidates nudge parties a little to the right or a little to the left. This book does sort of make one wish that there was a matching book for the Democrats (it looks like there sort of is, but written by a journalist rather than Fascinating stuff...Richardson really gets into the ins and outs of party negotiations, which I feel like I never read about. People remember which party wins elections, but they don't remember who the other options were for the nomination and the ways that individual candidates nudge parties a little to the right or a little to the left. This book does sort of make one wish that there was a matching book for the Democrats (it looks like there sort of is, but written by a journalist rather than a historian). I would like to read about the political shifting within that party too. I found myself more interested in the first and last thirds of this book, and less interested in the middle third, but that might be because I knew a little more about that era already. A particularly good book for understanding the different movements within the GOP of the last thirty years or so, the movements that have led us to this extremely...interesting moment.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Whitney

    Excellent. I had assumed I would be reading this after a terrible Republican defeat this November, but sadly I read it just before Donald Trump took office. I'm pretty despondent about the election results and it helped to see this election in the context of the history of the Republican party. I'm especially intrigued and persuaded by Cox Richardson's argument that the central conflict we face as a nation is the tension between our belief in equality and our belief in the sacredness of private Excellent. I had assumed I would be reading this after a terrible Republican defeat this November, but sadly I read it just before Donald Trump took office. I'm pretty despondent about the election results and it helped to see this election in the context of the history of the Republican party. I'm especially intrigued and persuaded by Cox Richardson's argument that the central conflict we face as a nation is the tension between our belief in equality and our belief in the sacredness of private property. I enjoyed reading about the corruption in the late 1800s because it gives me hope that we can live through this period as well (but it will still take vigilance and work!). I was impressed with Eisenhower and what I learned about his beliefs and policies. The thread of systemic racism throughout our political history was not surprising but it reminded me how hard we will have to work to undo a system that has been in the making for a long time.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Bill

    A good read, Richardson wears her biases on her sleeve, and the book doesn't suffer for it. There's a simplistic feel, though, as she tends to paint post-WWII politics with a broad brush. Overall, the book had a freshman/sophomore history class feel to it. The endnotes aren't particularly helpful: most of the times I turned to the back to check a source, I found a list of contemporary newspaper articles (eg: Chapter 7, note 13), or worse, a citation to Richardson's own work (Chapter 5, note 27). A good read, Richardson wears her biases on her sleeve, and the book doesn't suffer for it. There's a simplistic feel, though, as she tends to paint post-WWII politics with a broad brush. Overall, the book had a freshman/sophomore history class feel to it. The endnotes aren't particularly helpful: most of the times I turned to the back to check a source, I found a list of contemporary newspaper articles (eg: Chapter 7, note 13), or worse, a citation to Richardson's own work (Chapter 5, note 27). I'm sure that the notes are ultimately substantiated, but as a casual reader checking on random things I find interesting, they weren't edifying. In the end, I argued with this book and it left me wanting to look more deeply into its topic, so I thought it was worth it.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Cynthia

    The best review for anything Heather Cox Richardson writes is to just suggest that you subscribe to her daily 'Letters from an American', or follow heron Facebook, particularly on Tuesdays (at 4pm Eastern)and Thursdays (at 1pm Eastern). You can review any of her prior recordings and she has a YouTube channel as well. She is a professor of History in Boston but she is speaking (and writing fro her own POV) She is able to put all of today's mat important news in a historical context and you will A The best review for anything Heather Cox Richardson writes is to just suggest that you subscribe to her daily 'Letters from an American', or follow heron Facebook, particularly on Tuesdays (at 4pm Eastern)and Thursdays (at 1pm Eastern). You can review any of her prior recordings and she has a YouTube channel as well. She is a professor of History in Boston but she is speaking (and writing fro her own POV) She is able to put all of today's mat important news in a historical context and you will ABSOLUTELY read her forever after toured her once!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Mack Moorman

    As a history of the Republican Party it was a fascinating read. Unfortunately it was also highly polemical. While I am sympathetic with her viewpoint, I prefer my histories with more analysis and less demonization.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Erik Champenois

    A 340-page overview history of the Republican Party from its founding in 1854 to approximately the 2008 election, with the earlier period covered in slightly more depth. Heather Cox Richardson argues that the history of the Republican Party can be encapsulated as the negotiation of the tension between America's belief in equality of opportunity and protection of property. As a result, the GOP has had its progressive periods, especially under Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, and Esenhower, presidents A 340-page overview history of the Republican Party from its founding in 1854 to approximately the 2008 election, with the earlier period covered in slightly more depth. Heather Cox Richardson argues that the history of the Republican Party can be encapsulated as the negotiation of the tension between America's belief in equality of opportunity and protection of property. As a result, the GOP has had its progressive periods, especially under Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, and Esenhower, presidents who implemented policies that resulted in greater equality and broad-based economic growth. On the other hand, the GOP has also had its regressive periods, especially in the 1870s and 1920s and in the post-Nixon and Reagan GOP, periods that made use of paranoid anti-government and racist rhetoric to produce policies favoring the interests of the rich and big business, resulting in greater inequality and in economic distress (the Great Depression and the 2008 crash as the biggest examples). This kind of interpretative history has its strength and limitations - its strength being in the explanatory power of the thesis and showing the differences and similarities of broader trends across different periods of time. The limitation being when the story simplifies more complex events, or leaves out more in depth analysis of deeper political and economic complexities. It is also a focused, one-sided history. Focused in its analysis of political and economic ideological trends and policies rather than being a holistic history of the GOP (foreign policy, for example, is only covered occasionally, usually as it intersects with the main argument of the book). And one-sided in that the story does not detail the concurrent ideological and policy changes within the Democrat Party, except as the history of the Democrats intersect with the GOP. Part of me wanted a book with twice the length and twice the detail, including more coverage of changes within the Democratic Party. Finally, the interpretative history is based on a particular view, though admittedly one that I broadly share and agree with, and also one that I think she argues well for. 3.5 stars for providing a helpful birds-eye view of the history of the GOP, which taught me a number of things along the way and gave a more contextualized view of our current Trumpist GOP era. The book is at once critical and celebratory as it surveys the accomplishments of moderate and progressive Republicans alongside the ideological excesses and policies of more conservative Republicans. Eisenhower especially stood out to me as the last great moderate Republican President and someone I'd like to read up on in the future.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Karliniowa

    In this 2014 book, Heather Cox Richardson deftly traces the beginnings of the Republican Party endorsing an activist federal government to grow economic opportunity and expand a new ‘middle class’ of immigrant Americans to spread across the newly opening continent. She describes the inherent conflict of a nation divided between a wage labor economy in which economic mobility was possible and a slave labor economy that entrenched a wealthy oligarchy striving for aristocracy, and how this conflict In this 2014 book, Heather Cox Richardson deftly traces the beginnings of the Republican Party endorsing an activist federal government to grow economic opportunity and expand a new ‘middle class’ of immigrant Americans to spread across the newly opening continent. She describes the inherent conflict of a nation divided between a wage labor economy in which economic mobility was possible and a slave labor economy that entrenched a wealthy oligarchy striving for aristocracy, and how this conflict escalated, seemingly inevitably, into a civil war. Richardson’s focus is on the political evolution of our political system. The Civil War is only the context for big legislative actions that changed America ever after. Lincoln’s assassination and Johnson’s accidental presidency brought an ineffective, punitive Reconstruction. Stories about the rise of Negros in the South fed xenophobic responses in the rest of the country (and worse from the Southern power structure only temporarily set aside for their Confederate rebellion). The nation was further alarmed against “socialism” by uprisings in the Spring of 1871 when in the wake of the Franco-Prussian War, workers revolted in Paris and set up ‘the Paris Commune’ who threatened to kill the city’s priests and appropriate all wealth to ‘the people.’ In NYC, Karl Marx had started The International Workingmen’s Association. America’s obsession with anti-socialism was tied from the beginning with nativism and racism. HCR goes on to describe the rise of Movement Conservatism and brings things up to date through the first Obama-Biden term. She deftly describes in her Conclusion chapter, how the Republican Party descended through Movement Conservatism into an empty vessel, all image and no substance regarding what she identifies as “the unresolved tension between equality and property in America.” (See esp. page 341 re. the conflict between the promise of equality in the Declaration and the protection of property embedded in the Constitution. To HCR’s view, Eisenhower was the last true Republican, and the current batch are the descendants of pre-civil war advocate of slavery, James Henry Hammond. I should re-read this book at least annually.

  18. 4 out of 5

    George Crowder

    While this book is much less known than Ms. Richardson's HOW THE SOUTH WON THE CIVIL WAR, I think it may be even more useful for appreciating the changing character and cynical political calculations of not only the party that has been known as the Republicans, but the Democrats as well. Of course, today's Democratic party has little in common with the blatantly racist faction of 150 years past. Nor, unfortunately, do the Republicans have much in common with the party of Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt While this book is much less known than Ms. Richardson's HOW THE SOUTH WON THE CIVIL WAR, I think it may be even more useful for appreciating the changing character and cynical political calculations of not only the party that has been known as the Republicans, but the Democrats as well. Of course, today's Democratic party has little in common with the blatantly racist faction of 150 years past. Nor, unfortunately, do the Republicans have much in common with the party of Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, and Eisenhower. In the end, it's been a conflict over whether to live up to the aspirational goals of the Declaration of Independence, or to merely enforce the property rights of wealthy individuals. Ms. Richardson demonstrates what great Republicans have been capable of when led by men of character--as well as how low they can stoop under the leadership of less admirable types. It would be worth updating this book to cover the last couple of Republican administrations, but it's probably not necessary--we get the picture.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Graham

    Cox Richardson focuses more on the post-1960 history of the Republican Party than earlier. I would like more coverage of the roots of the party in the Whig and American parties and within the anti-slavery movement. In terms of seeking to understand what is going on inside the part of today, the book is very useful. The dominance of Movement Conservatism and in particular the doubling-down of its members and their control of the party is well highlighted. This makes me view Bush41 in a better lig Cox Richardson focuses more on the post-1960 history of the Republican Party than earlier. I would like more coverage of the roots of the party in the Whig and American parties and within the anti-slavery movement. In terms of seeking to understand what is going on inside the part of today, the book is very useful. The dominance of Movement Conservatism and in particular the doubling-down of its members and their control of the party is well highlighted. This makes me view Bush41 in a better light than previously and Bush43 in a worse light. I would recommend it to those interested in modern politics. Unfortunately, I fear that those who would most benefit from reading it will reject it as incompatible with their own reality.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Daniel O'Dunne

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This is a well written book, and everyone would profit from reading it. It is in turns inspiring and exasperating as historical events and epochs are presented. The inspiration comes from how Cox Henderson presents the manner in which great Republicans such as Lincoln and Eisenhower viewed their roles and set about obtaining goals as the nation's chief executive. The less satisfactory sections are when disasters are recounted with all blame being dropped at the door of the GOP. One example is he This is a well written book, and everyone would profit from reading it. It is in turns inspiring and exasperating as historical events and epochs are presented. The inspiration comes from how Cox Henderson presents the manner in which great Republicans such as Lincoln and Eisenhower viewed their roles and set about obtaining goals as the nation's chief executive. The less satisfactory sections are when disasters are recounted with all blame being dropped at the door of the GOP. One example is her recounting of the financial crisis of 2008 and her lack of a single mention of efforts by key Democrats to block Bush Jr.'s attempts to slow down urresponsible lending n the sub-prime markets or the policies of Presidents Carter and Clinton which, in part at least, led to that crisis.

  21. 4 out of 5

    miteypen

    How I wish the author would write an epilogue to this book that takes into account the direction the Republican Party took under Trump. I wonder how she sees his Presidency as a continuation of this history of the GOP. I learned so much from this book that I never knew—or forgot I knew. What struck me the most was how far the GOP has strayed from the ideals it was founded on. I’ve always wondered how Lincoln could have been a Republican! The author is a political historian who comments almost dail How I wish the author would write an epilogue to this book that takes into account the direction the Republican Party took under Trump. I wonder how she sees his Presidency as a continuation of this history of the GOP. I learned so much from this book that I never knew—or forgot I knew. What struck me the most was how far the GOP has strayed from the ideals it was founded on. I’ve always wondered how Lincoln could have been a Republican! The author is a political historian who comments almost daily on politics. I think it’s interesting that she chose to cover a long period of American political history through the lens of Republicanism. This is not a flattering account yet she seems to stick close to the facts; this is not a hatchet job but rather a reasoned analysis.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Bebe Casey

    I discovered Heather Cox Richardson, as many others have, right after Donald Trump was inaugurated. The first thing I do every day is read her daily email. Her views of Washington, put in perspective with history, have taught me so much. This book ends when Obama was elected. It starts with the first Republican President elected, Abraham Lincoln. I can't wait for her to write a sequel, though in a sense I guess I've read it already by reading her daily emails. Anyway, I truly enjoyed this and it I discovered Heather Cox Richardson, as many others have, right after Donald Trump was inaugurated. The first thing I do every day is read her daily email. Her views of Washington, put in perspective with history, have taught me so much. This book ends when Obama was elected. It starts with the first Republican President elected, Abraham Lincoln. I can't wait for her to write a sequel, though in a sense I guess I've read it already by reading her daily emails. Anyway, I truly enjoyed this and it put so much into perspective for me as to why this country is in it's current status. And why I need to continue to take my vote very seriously.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Richard Pierce

    Is the US governed by the principles of the Declaration of Independence whereby all men are created equal or is it governed by the Constitution which allows the wealthy elite and corporations to control the government? As the author traces the 160 year history of the Republican party, she presents the changing political platforms as they moved from the antebellum era, thru the progressive era to the era of Reagan and Bush. Whether you like this book will reflect more on your own political philos Is the US governed by the principles of the Declaration of Independence whereby all men are created equal or is it governed by the Constitution which allows the wealthy elite and corporations to control the government? As the author traces the 160 year history of the Republican party, she presents the changing political platforms as they moved from the antebellum era, thru the progressive era to the era of Reagan and Bush. Whether you like this book will reflect more on your own political philosophy than the book itself.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Philip J Cardella

    A must read book about the history of modem America seen through a lens of the History of the Republican Party This dense but readable text is an incredible history of the Republican Party and the cycles of its history. Started as a party standing opposed to the rich and powerful and responsible for one of the biggest expansions of the Federal government in US history the GOP adopted policy platforms that still dominate the modern GOP to this day before even the end of Reconstruction. This is an A must read book about the history of modem America seen through a lens of the History of the Republican Party This dense but readable text is an incredible history of the Republican Party and the cycles of its history. Started as a party standing opposed to the rich and powerful and responsible for one of the biggest expansions of the Federal government in US history the GOP adopted policy platforms that still dominate the modern GOP to this day before even the end of Reconstruction. This is an eye opening volume even for a person reasonably familiar with US history.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jarred Goodall

    A colleague of mine made me aware of Dr. Richardson's work, and she now jumps to the top of my most-respected author list. After reading this work, I cannot wait to read more of her books. She brings together a fascinating story, and ties it all together under a single bow. Her argument about the true evolution of the "Party Lincoln" provides tangible evidence, and reaches a sad, but true, conclusion. A colleague of mine made me aware of Dr. Richardson's work, and she now jumps to the top of my most-respected author list. After reading this work, I cannot wait to read more of her books. She brings together a fascinating story, and ties it all together under a single bow. Her argument about the true evolution of the "Party Lincoln" provides tangible evidence, and reaches a sad, but true, conclusion.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    This is an excellent read, and while I quibble with a few minor stylistic decisions, as well as some language choices that I think Richardson could've handled better with regard to racial sensitivity, the argument is sound and the history well-researched. A really important read for those looking to understand how the Republican party has gone so entirely off the rails. Turns out they've been barely clinging to the rails for a really long time. This is an excellent read, and while I quibble with a few minor stylistic decisions, as well as some language choices that I think Richardson could've handled better with regard to racial sensitivity, the argument is sound and the history well-researched. A really important read for those looking to understand how the Republican party has gone so entirely off the rails. Turns out they've been barely clinging to the rails for a really long time.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Erik

    From the party that opposed slavery while the Democrats embraced it to the party of Trump, the Republicans have swayed back and forth across the political spectrum. Richardson explains this in a fascinating read. If you think the party has always been about people like Reagan, Trump, or W, think again. Regardless of your political views, well worth the read! It's always good to question assumptions. From the party that opposed slavery while the Democrats embraced it to the party of Trump, the Republicans have swayed back and forth across the political spectrum. Richardson explains this in a fascinating read. If you think the party has always been about people like Reagan, Trump, or W, think again. Regardless of your political views, well worth the read! It's always good to question assumptions.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Martin Lassman

    Outstanding book! Full of facts about times I lived through - and prior - that I did not fully understand at the time. It is a historical perspective of the country from Lincoln until 2004 showing how the Republican Party has shifted back and forth between protecting oligarchs or protecting the populace. A fascinating and illuminating read!

  29. 5 out of 5

    J. Kenneth Lowrie

    Interesting History. This is an interesting history of the evolution of politics in the United States and is well worth reading. The author shows her biases too plainly however. She has a plain dislike for the right wing of the Republican Party and her narrative lets that leach through.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Gary

    Who knew that the Republicans were originally the party of the common man and democracy and the Democrats were the oligarchs? This is a very readable account of party politics since the 1850's. While pre-Trump, there are enough appalling characters around to make for exciting reading: Andrew Johnson, JP Morgan, William F Buckley, George W Bush and many more. Who knew that the Republicans were originally the party of the common man and democracy and the Democrats were the oligarchs? This is a very readable account of party politics since the 1850's. While pre-Trump, there are enough appalling characters around to make for exciting reading: Andrew Johnson, JP Morgan, William F Buckley, George W Bush and many more.

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