Monday, July 20, 2009

The Wordy Shipmates

If you are looking for an intriguing, engaging view of some of the oddball founders of our country, read Sarah Vowell's The Wordy Shipmates or better yet listen to her read the book. Sarah is an NPR contributor who can be sarcastic and witty in a way that wakes up history.

The wordy shipmates were the people who left England for religious freedom in 1630 and established the Massachusetts Bay Colony. She read their many letters, pamphlets and sermons and can explain the debate to create a new society. John Winthrop, John Eliot, Ann Hutchinson and Roger Williams all had strong convictions. Hutchinson just wouldn't stop talking and it got her banished. Williams was unbending in his views and it got him exiled and made him a difficult husband and neighbor. His courage of conviction got us religious freedom for all faiths and the separate state of Rhode Island. Winthrop was busy banning opponents but behind the scenes he worked to help the poor and make exile more comfortable for the dissenters.

After reading this book you won't see Puritans in quite the same way. Sarah concludes that the downside of democracy is a "suspicion of people who know what they are talking about."

posted by mb