“The Gettysburg Address: A Graphic Adaptation” makes for compelling reading, whatever your prior knowledge of American history. It is a a wildly inspiring presentation in all its power to convey detailed facts, insights, and nuanced concepts. Is the 4th of July a good day to read this book? Of course! You could, for instance, read it on your Kindle with plenty of time to spare before the fireworks display. Are you one of those persons who just enjoys the fireworks and doesn’t know, or believe they care, about why today is a good day for fireworks? Well, even you would likely enjoy this book. Rachel Maddow calls it, “the coolest thing since Schoolhouse Rock.” And who doesn’t love Schoolhouse Rock? We love to learn and sometimes we want it to come at us from a more accessible venue. This would be the book to do just that.
Sure, the 4th of July and the Battle of Gettysburg appear to be strange bedfellows. However, in a ghoulish twist of fate,it was on a 4th of July, 150 years ago today, that the carnage from the bloodiest battle of the American Civil War rested on the battlefield at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. It had been a three-day fight and the results so ghastly that it sent shockwaves through both camps and led the President of the United States to create and deliver a masterwork of argument in defense of a unified nation. It was a way of communicating to his fellow Americans, then and in the future, on what was at stake. What this book does is run with that desire to communicate. It does a most remarkable thing. It breaks down Lincoln’s famous speech, a relatively brief and easy to follow piece of work, and examines in depth what was really being said. In doing so, we explore the inner workings of that great ongoing experiment in democracy known as the United States of America.
And there’s more to that 4th of July connection. In this book we explore the origins of the Civl War in a variety of ways not the least of which is the tension between the two founding documents, The Declaration of Independence and The Constitution of the United States. In law, if there’s any chance to take an inch, a mile will be taken every time. That’s what happened with what we commonly celebrate as the founding document on the 4th of July. The Declaration of Independence, of 1776, is a rallying cry for freedom and, left open enough to interpretation, a murky blueprint for states to do as they please, even secede from the nation. Once such a notion takes root, well, not even ratification of The Constitution, in 1788, can put a stop to it.
If you want answers to all your questions about how America found itself at war with itself and where we’ve come since then, you’ll want to get this book. It is by writer Jonathan Hennessey and artist Aaron McConnell, the team that created 2008’s “The United States Constitution: A Graphic Adaptation.” Apparently, these guys really love explaining American history and they’re very good at it too. Both of them relish completing a thought in an intelligent extended manner while also keeping pace with a dramatic narrative. In a steady conversational tone, we come to appreciate the deep-seated conflict between a desire for limited government, as supported by Thomas Jefferson, and a robust government, as supported by Alexander Hamilton. We see how Americans allowed slavery to take hold in the first place and then, once it did, found it nearly impossible to abandon it.
We come to better appreciate the task at hand for the founding fathers and the inevitability of passing on one generation’s burden onto the next. Would the founding fathers have put an end to slavery if they had all the time in the world, if they could have seen into the future? Would Lincoln have acted any faster in his own actions? In his case, he certainly appears to have acted as quickly as anyone for his time could have. What is clear is that, once he was gone, America took a number of steps back for each step forward. That would not have been lost on Lincoln one bit. If anyone came close to having a crystal ball to foresee the future, it was Lincoln. All you have to do is read The Gettysburg Address.
“The Gettysburg Address: A Graphic Adaptation” is published by Harper Collins. It is a 222-page trade paperback, priced at $15.99 U.S. and you can find it in print or digital here.