Thursday, June 28, 2012

Book Review: The Founders' Key by Larry P. Arnn

In The Founders’ Key, Larry P. Arnn reinforces the connections and continuity between the two quintessential American documents, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.  The book is a response to progressives who Arnn claims hold up the Declaration as justification for circumventing the Constitution either through purposeful misinterpretation of the documents or naïveté of their origins.

The Founders’ Key is not only a great book for strengthening one’s knowledge of the connection between the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, it is also a great source for increasing an understanding of the individual documents and the Founding Fathers’ objectives.  As an aspiring history teacher, I appreciated the numerous sources Arnn weaves together to create his argument.  These included the personal correspondence of the Founding Fathers, the contemporary state constitutions, and the documents themselves.  One of the assets of this book is the inclusion of documents important to the book, including the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and several of the Federalist Papers.  When questions arose about these documents while I read, it was useful to have the full texts at hand for quick reference.

Another strength of his argument is the various angles Arnn takes to connect the two documents.  He uses philosophy and history to argue that the Founding Fathers wrote both the documents based on unchanging truths or “laws of nature”.  He deconstructs and directly compares pieces of the two main documents in question.  Additionally, Arnn makes connections between the two documents by comparing them to other contemporary writings, both public and private, of the documents’ authors.  Finally, and most importantly, there is a solid explanation of why the link between the Declaration and the Constitution matter.

Although overall I found the book to be interesting and well-written, there were a few areas in which I found the book lacking.  As someone who is not acquainted with some of the basics of philosophy, the philosophical arguments that Arnn employs were difficult to follow and involved frequent rereading to clarify.  I also found many points repeated a bit too often throughout the book.  Perhaps the most notable weakness is the book’s underlying tone which seems to scoff at those who attempt to separate the two documents.  It seems to have been written only for those who already agree with Arnn’s argument.  Because of this, The Founders’ Key is unable to change the perception of those who read it unless they are able to get through the author’s disparaging tone.

I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. 

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