- Hardcover: 824 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (February 2, 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0190261986
- ISBN-13: 978-0190261986
- Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 1.9 x 6.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 6.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 18 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #245,308 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The House of Truth: A Washington Political Salon and the Foundations of American Liberalism 1st Edition
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"For the first time, we have the real story of this incredible little galaxy that included such disparate figures as Felix Frankfurter, Walter Lippmann, and Gutzon Borglum, and reached out to cultivate and invigorate the aged Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes--with profound and lasting influence on the course of American politics. Brad Snyder tells this story with verve and insight. This is a major work in the history of this nation's public life." -- John Milton Cooper, Jr., author of Woodrow Wilson: A Biography
"With his deep understanding of history and the law, Brad Snyder has crafted a notably illuminating and refreshing book. Deeply researched and finely written, The House of Truth brings to life a group of brilliant friends whose passion for justice helped shape what became known as the American Century." -- David Maraniss, author of Once in a Great City: A Detroit Story
"This dazzling book provokes reconsideration of the Progressive era, legal reform and modern American liberalism. I know of no other work that so ably transports its readers into the packed and exciting years of the early twentieth century." -- Laura Kalman, Professor of History, University of California, Santa Barbara
"The author's focus on the significance of the Supreme Court makes the book unusually timely. An accomplished, authoritative history of American liberalism."--Kirkus
"Lengthy, lively, and exhaustively researched... At its best, which is much of the text, The House of Truth does what history can do to evoke the past, explain its issues, re-create its personages and illuminate the present."--The Wall Street Journal
About the Author
Brad Snyder teaches constitutional law, civil procedure, twentieth century American legal history, and sports law at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He has written two critically acclaimed books about baseball, including A Well-Paid Slave: Curt Flood's Fight for Free Agency in Professional Sports, and contributed articles to Slate and the Washington Post. He has also appeared on ESPN, C-SPAN, and in HBO and New York Times documentaries. For many years, he lived two blocks away from the House of Truth in Washington, DC, where he and his family still reside.
Top customer reviews
Idealistic and brilliant young men--mostly from Ivy League schools-- who once lived together in Washington, D.C., and their band of friends who visited with them, shared a progressive vision for the future government of our country. From this start, we come to know how their intertwined careers unfolded, some times in disappointment, but mostly in high-profile success.
While national elective politics was important to them, even more so was the U.S. Supreme Court and its evolving role as to whether the Constitution should be interpreted mainly to protect property rights or to protect individual rights,such as for a fair criminal trial or for state minimum wage protections.
While Justice Holmes is the central figure in this tale, many other influential and interesting people populate these pages. And many interesting events, from how Mount Rushmore came about to the Sacco-Vanzetti case.
Also, if you think U.S. Supreme Court nomination politics just started within the last few decades, think again.
Professor Snyder writes with knowledge and ease about events and personalities that shaped our current society.This is neither dry-as-dust history nor dumbed-down history. Instead, it is history at its finest.
So the author is telling many stories in one. It is also challenging at times to decide what is the focus of the book. Initially, I assumed it was the Supreme Court, its members, and the lawyers who interacted with it. However the author is also principally concerned with the evolution of American progressivism into American liberalism. This theme pops up throughout the book (contrasting, e.g., Frankfurter with Lippman), but I am still not clear on how the author sees the distinction. Perhaps one sustained discussion would have been better.
There are so many fascinating topics covered that the book remains lively and stimulating throughout. For example, the reader learns about the key role played by the New Republic, particularly in terms of reformulating Holmes into a liberal icon due to his dissents; some interesting dimensions of TR and the 1912 campaign; the perhaps excessive faith liberals placed upon experts to improve government; how one carves the side of a mountain into Mount Rushmore; Brandeis and Frankfurters' role in the Zionist campaign to implement the Balfour Declaration; the Red Scare at Harvard that almost cost Frankfurter his HLS position; important aspects of the Sacco-Vanzetti case which the author sees as the key call to action for liberals in the 1920's; and the adjustment by liberals from seeing the Court only as a roadblock into realizing its potential to further their goals.
Surprisingly, the author skillfully manages to keep all these topics and individuals in a comprehensive organizational scheme so the reader does not get lost in all these multiple dimensions. For me, I was most happy with the extensive attention paid to Holmes and Brandeis--I learned a few new things despite having studied these guys for 50 years or so. This is because the amount of research conducted by the author (hence, all those pages of notes) is simply superb. Also, the book is noticeably enhanced by abundant and quite rare photos (such as Holmes' death mask), many of which I had never seen before. On the critical side, two points: (1) way, way too much attention and pages are devoted to S-V; (2) sculptor Borghum is given far more pages (in an already very long book) than I think he deserves given the themes of the book. However one looks at it, this is simply a majestic scholarly achievement worth the many years the author devoted to researching and writing it. As Holmes might say, "well done, young fella!
Part of the problem is that the main text is almost 600 pages long (but another 100+ pages of end notes and bibliography), but feels as if it has been pared back to keep it even this short. The result is that new characters are introduced every few pages at the beginning. Since only a few of them are at all well-known (Felix Frankfurter, Teddy Roosevelt and Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.), it can be difficult to follow and is hard to get sucked in.
The topic also could have used a little backstory. The book is about the birth of liberalism, but at the beginning there is already a strong progressive movement in place. It would have been nice to have had the stage set for the players to walk onto.
On the plus side, the book is seriously well-researched and comprehensive. It's also not a book I've read in any other form before.
In short, while I'm happy to have the knowledge about the political history of the 20th century and the beginnings of the modern American political social consciousness, I can't say this was a super-enjoyable reading experience.
Recommended for people who are highly interested in early 20th century political history with a great deal of detail.