Book Review - Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates

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Sarah gave me this book for our fifth wedding anniversary, and I was very excited to read it. It looks like just the sort of thing that would capture my attention.

I actually polished this book off in one day! There is a new generation of history books that is really unlike histories of the past. Books like Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates, the Killing series by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard, and others provide a window view into the people that are part of the story. You can read about what worries them, how the world looks to them, and how it all fits into the historical activity going on at the moment. History is brought to life! For any larger scope this narrative style would evolve into a massive book that probably would lack important details, but for a specific historic topic it provides powerful insight and imagery.

The premise of this tale, then, is that a fledgling United States, with a depleted treasury due to the Revolution and several years under the Articles of Confederation, needs to trade abroad in order to build up the economy. The difficulty is that four Muslim nations, absolved by their religion to attack whom they please on the high seas, are capturing merchant vessels, keeping the ships and cargoes, and enslaving the crews.

Large powers such as Britain and France have been paying off these pirate nations for years, ensuring a relatively uninterrupted set of ocean trade routes; but the pirates' demands are so heinous that the United States government cannot reliably pay. The only other solution is war.

Thomas Jefferson had argued for a naval power capable of dealing with threats to merchant shipping, and with the outrages visited upon the United States by the pirates, he was able to persuade Congress to raise funds for warships. 

Eventually, through a combination of bold naval maneuvering and political wrangling, peace is won in the region; but only for a time.

This book dives into the real-life characters who were a part little-known part of American history; it reads like a swashbuckling adventure, made all the more exciting by the fact the events are real. Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger present a readable and engaging slice of history. I highly recommend it to anyone with even a passing interest in US or naval history.

In my reading pile is George Washington's Secret Six, by the same authors. I am now even more excited to dive into that story.

 

Book Review - 'The Marvelous Pigness of Pigs' - Joel Salatin

Joel Salatin, the lunatic farmer of Polyface Farm in Virginia is absolutely the farmer for our times. I've read several of his other works, and find myself agreeing with, I think, everything he says. His concern and love for God's creation is brought out best in the current book, however, 'The Marvelous Pigness of Pigs'. This is Joel's manifesto - his collected viewpoints on why he runs his farm the way he does, and how the Bible supports his viewpoints on agriculture, sustainability, and health.

Who else but Joel could look so happy surrounded by beautifully and wonderfully made pigs?

Joel's arguments for a land-honoring tradition stand on their own, but in this work he bolsters his arguments with specific Scriptures that paint a picture of a God who appreciates those who treasure His creation - not as pagan groups have done over time, worshiping the creation, but as those who recognize that this Earth was God's first creation. God's gift to us of all natural resources is to be cared for like a family heirloom, it's been passed to use by our forbears, and we will someday hand it down to our own children.

Many of the topics he mentions are in his other books, for instance the concept of the large scale commercial chicken houses which are filled with airborne chicken poop and bacteria, the proliferation of food allergies in this 21st century, and the evils of genetically modified organisms (putting pig genes in a tomato is definitely disrespectful of God's natural order of things!)

If we as consumers aren't educated on what's going on in the food production systems, then are we truly being good stewards? Consider Daniel, who refused the king's meat - he would not defile himself with food offered to idols. He took steps to ensure the purity (spiritually speaking) of what he ingested. As New Testament Christians, we are not bound to those same laws, but we are to be cautious of not leading others astray in their own consciences:

But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died. Let not then your good be evil spoken of: for the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.
— (Romans 14:15-17).

That said, too, the body is the Temple of the Holy Spirit.

The God who created the Universe, and who paid the precious price of Jesus' blood for our sins, indwells us who are saved through Jesus. We are free in Christ, but we know - and science has proven - that a diet of beer and Buffalo wings is bad for us. Therefore, we ought not to subsist on such foods - we have an obligation to care for ourselves - insomuch as we can only know what science tells us is healthy and unhealthy.

I truly recommend this book for Christians, who often need to be reminded of some of the basic facts that modern society tends to be come detached from. Equally I recommend it for those environmentalists, for whom it could be a valuable witnessing tool.

Another excellent book by Joel Salatin, "The Marvelous Pigness of Pigs" is a joyous read that had me quoting it all weekend to Sarah and Jemimah. My gratitude to them for putting up with my enthusiasm!

 

 

Book Review - 'The General in the Garden'

My dear Sarah picked this book up for me for my birthday last month, after hearing me talk about Mount Vernon and the gardens there.

I was so excited to get this book! Filled with brilliant photographs, the horticultural history of Washington's mansion and grounds is documented within.

I was very impressed by the staff's dedication to historical accuracy. At one point, they tore up several hundred tulips because, upon blooming, they discovered the variety was not period correct to George Washinton's day!

This book also reveals a side to Washington few have considered. Even while fighting the Revolutionary War and as President, his heart was with his home, and his gardens. Presented within are letters to caretakers, gardeners, and others to dictate the planting and propagation of plants. Washington himself kept an experimental garden to test plants sent to him against the Virginia climate.

The authors include historical documentation on the purchases of plants by Washington from other nurseries in the Colonial era; a fascinating and inspiring look at his gardening interests.

I have been duly inspired in my own gardening aspirations after reading this book; though it must be admitted that Washington had a lot of help in managing his estate. Through my own limited means my goal is to combine landscape gardening with the practical kitchen garden, which is very much aligned with the practicality espoused in the gardens of Mount Vernon.