Saturday, February 19, 2005

Good Book: "In God We Trust": The Religious Beliefs and Ideas of the American Founding Fathers, by Norman Cousins

If you would like to get closer to the source on the debate about the founding principles of the United States, a 1958 book by Norman Cousins called “In God We Trust”: The Religious Beliefs and Ideas of the American Founding Fathers (quotation marks in original), does a nice job of compiling pertinent material from relevant letters, diary entries and official papers. Cousins provides some background and commentary, but he mostly lets Washington, Franklin, Jefferson, Madison, Hamilton, John Adams, Samuel Adams, John Jay and Thomas Paine speak for themselves. Chapters are arranged by person, not by subject. The Thomas Jefferson chapter includes extensive passages from his The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, which he shared with friends under the condition that they keep his religious studies and views strictly confidential.

This title was featured as a Book of the Month Club Book-Dividend and also as a free bonus book for new members. The BOMC hardback, which is the copy I’m working with, is 464 pages, including index. The publisher was Harper & Brothers, New York.

As of this posting there are 90 copies on bn.com, 74 copies on Alibris, 32 on biblio.com, and 11 on Amazon. Amazon has surprisingly high prices compared to the other sites: which sometimes happens, of course, when there’s a quirky low volume at one site or another. I expect they’ll get even with the market soon.

There are also fewer than ten copies all told of a Norman Cousins book called The Republic of Reason: The Personal Philosophies of the Founding Fathers, Harper/Harpercollins 1988, San Francisco. This book is new to me. Oh. One of the booksellers at bn.com says it was originally published as “In God We Trust”.

Pardon me while I try to decide whether to blink in disbelief or chuckle at the probably-unintended humor of the situation.

From God to no God in the title in thirty years flat? Talk about not judging a book by its cover…

Uh, I think I’ll stop while I’m ahead on this.

Has anyone actually had both titles in hand at the same time? Is the latter one a reissue or has it been gutted and redone?

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