Monday, June 09, 2003

Note on Review of Brookhiser

This review from yesterday's NYTimes criticizes Richard Brookhiser's portrayal of one of the more colorful founders, Gouvernor Morris. Carol Berkin questions Brookhiser's disatisfaction with Morris's lack of intensity in pursuing a political life, despite considerable intellectual and political talent. cover

Berkin has a point; politics may not be the end-all. But she doesn't seem to know what might be above it (neither does Brookhiser for that matter, according to her review). She notices that Morris was not unlike Falstaff, but she doesn't view this as evidence that he achieved the proper perspective in life, despite the fact that Falstaff was a kind of Socratic character, no more ridiculously portrayed by Shakespeare than is Socrates by Aristoaphanes and perhaps with an equally healthy perspective on political life.

Berkin may be on to more than she understands. Ditto Brookhiser. Perhaps I am expecting too much of Gouvernor Morris; he may not have been the Socrates of the founders. In fact, if anyone has that title, it seems to be Franklin with his taste for Xenophon. Interestingly, however, Franklin was something of a rake as well. Now, of course, a rake may be just a rake and not necessarily a Franklin or a Socrates. Nevertheless, I'm eager to read Brookhiser's book and learn more about Morris.


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