Monday, May 17, 2010
Book Review- Lost Rights: The Misadventures of A Stolen American Relic
Lost Rights: The Misadventures of a Stolen American Relic
By David Howard
Is national history actually numerous pieces of local or regional history that are cohesively strung together to form the whole? Or perhaps, local history is really national history on a small scale? This is what I contemplated when I first became familiar with the story related in Lost Rights, even more so now that I have had the chance to read an advance copy of the book.
Near the end of the Civil War, General Sherman’s army tromped through North Carolina as they forcibly brought the Confederate States back under the authority of the United States. Numerous Union soldiers felt the time to head home was drawing near and, as conquering victors, were looking for souvenirs of the South, as well as a remembrance of their years of toil during the war.
As one Ohio regiment was occupying Raleigh, North Carolina, a soldier from Tippecanoe City (Tipp City) rustled up a humdinger of a treasure in nothing less than the state’s original copy of the United States Bill of Rights. The very same Bill of Rights which was composed and sent out to the thirteen states with the hope that it would convince a couple holdouts to enter the Union. Thus began the long and intriguing story of the document’s concealed journey around the country before heading back home after 138 years.
Part mystery, part antiquarian pursuit, part study in human nature, and, of course, history, Lost Rights is a rollicking good read. Mr. Howard takes all the loose threads of this multifaceted story and ties them together in a fascinating and cohesive tale. But this is no fairy tale of Howard's talented imagination, this is history . . . and fun history it is!
David Howard, whose various works I have read online, is a talented author, no matter what he is writing about. A few years ago I actually found myself reading a piece written by Howard about a Guatemalan development and preservation of a Mayan city . . . and I enjoyed it. In this same manner, Howard draws you into the story, the history, the antiques trade and the lives of the people of Lost Rights. I felt as if I traveled the 138 year journey with the document.
Does it matter that this story be told? On several levels, yes! First, it is an interesting and fun tale, and we all need to enjoy those from time-to-time as a means of catharsis.
Also, it is exciting to read the novel of a talented fiction writer, but to those who enjoy non-fiction, it is a treat to read someone like David Howard as he creatively relates history in an engaging and enjoyable fashion.
In addition, this story is a reminder that it is the individuals, the counties, the states and regions which make the United States and its history. For it is the stories of Paul Revere and Patrick Henry, Thomas Edison and Rosa Parks, and ideas and movements growing which make the nation. Many of these were 'local' stories before they became national stories. For me, it is the history of Troy - KitchenAid mixers, UPC symbols, Waco gliders, and individuals like Augustus Stouder - impacting the country and the world that is fascinating and fun.
Finally, a story such as this, can dive deeper and refresh our memory of important events. For me, it was the reminder that possibly, except for North Carolina and Rhode Island's stubbornness in refusing to sign The Constitution unless a "bill of rights" was included, we might not have many of our fragile liberties guaranteed in the Bill of Rights.
About the only negative comment I can make is it would've been nice to see a few photographs of the principal characters and the document, perhaps safely back home in North Carolina. But, in this day and age of tight budgets and slow income, I can understand why Mr. Howard and the publisher decided not to include images.
Stories, such as Lost Rights, are the reason I love local and regional history. Not to distract or draw attention away from 'the big stories,' but rather to accentuate our national stories and bring out more color detail behind those well-known dramas. It is like Paul Harvey used to remind his radio audience, " and that is the rest of the story."
The book will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on July 2, 2010.
Connect with David Howard here