Book Review: “If You Can Keep It: The Forgotten Promise of American Liberty” by Eric Metaxas

Book Review: “If You Can Keep It: The Forgotten Promise of American Liberty” by Eric Metaxas


If You Can Keep It: The Forgotten Promise of American Liberty

by Eric Metaxas

A story takes us back to the streets of Philadelphia during the Constitutional Convention in the Summer of 1787.  A certain Mrs. Powell approaches Benjamin Franklin as he exits Constitution Hall, asking him, “Well, doctor, what have be got?  A republic or a monarchy?”  The author records:  “Franklin, who was rarely short of words or wit, shot back: ‘A republic, madam – if you can keep it.'” (pp. 8-9)

Over 200 years later, the challenge echoes more soundly than ever before.  Can we as American citizens maintain the republic we have been handed by our fathers and mothers?

Eric Metaxas claims that so many 21st century Americans fail to even recognize the responsibility, the dire accountability, that we have to maintain this republic.  So many of us seem unaware of our role in the republic, and of what liberty actually means to us and to our children.

There are misconceptions of American liberty; Conservative ones, Liberal ones, and others.  Perhaps the most valuable discourse in this book is Metaxas’ exploration of these misunderstandings and their impact on our system of government.  This is explored more deeply in a separate blog post:  “Misunderstanding American Freedom.”

I enjoyed reading and highly recommend If You Can Keep It on many levels.  As an amateur historian, I am riveted by the setting and anecdotes of this book.  As a former military officer and American citizen, I am concerned about the collective impact of events within our country in recent decades, and amazed by the selfish and destructive behavior (whether intentional or not) of large portions of the population and our 2016 presidential candidates.  Metaxas’ presentation of these nuanced, divisive topics is masterful.

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