Pro Patria

The recent passing of Mel Bradford has cast a chastening light upon this latest of his collections. Who had wished to be reminded of the author's indispensability in this or indeed any other way? Yet reminded we are and must be. This book means much in itself as it stands, and means more as the product of a powerful mind and a courageous man.

As he himself insists in his introduction, these 25 pieces are united by much more than the identity of their author. The essays on Southern literature are informed by the same historical and cultural consciousness that encapsulates the lives of 14 "Fathers": men of the founding of the Republic, whose service and convictions have been overshadowed, perhaps, by those of the colossi we know better than we know Rawlins Lowndes of South Carolina or James Duane of New York. Such short lives impress themselves upon the memory, delighting us as revelations of character, and instructing us in our national history in all its variety and specificity. The Antifederalism of Patrick Henry, the glory and shame of "Light-Horse Harry" Lee, the sketches of Samuel Adams and James Iredell—these and others are incisive attempts to restore American history and the political patrimony to those who have inherited it, but too often do not know it.

Informed by such awareness, Bradford was uniquely the man to write a study of the ratification debates, and a study too of their related...

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