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In Defense of Liberty


Freedman, Russell.  2003.   In defense of liberty:  The story of America's Bill of Rights.  New York:  Holiday House.  ISBN:  0823415856.

By beginning with a brief story that outlines what could happen to a citizen if there were no Bill of Rights, Freedman subtly makes his case for why knowing about the Bill of Rights should be important to every American.  After a brief history of how the Bill of Rights came to be written, the following chapters detail each of the first Ten Amendments.  Brief summaries of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments are also included.  The conclusion contains a picture of the original handwritten Bill of Rights along with notes, an index of Supreme Court cases, a selected bibliography, and an index.

"Careful scholarship" (Litherland 2004) noted by a reviewer is evident in the many details of the text.  For each Amendment, Freedman gives history that explains why the forefathers included the Right, and then cites real world examples of how it is applied in our society.  Historical court cases along with modern challenges or invocations of each Right not only allow the reader to see how the Amendment has applied in the past but also its applications today.  For example, in explaining the Sixth and Seventh Amendments, which give the right to a fair trial (pp.115-128), Freedman is able to show the evolution of this Amendment across time through real-world examples.  From challenges to the Amendment that changed trial juries from being comprised of white males to people of both genders and all races to defendants who spoke up and demanded that they be given a court appointed lawyer, Freedman translates the high-brow language of America's founders into readable stories that put civil rights in context.  Black and white reproductions of historical artwork and contemporary pictures further illustrate how the Bill of Rights has been applied in our society.

When the topic is something as hotly debated as the Bill of Rights, questions arise about the author's objectivity. Although he is able to give real world examples that show the different facets of each Amendment, Freedman himself admits that his own biases bleed into his writing.  In an interview for Book Links magazine, Freedman said, "I do have values and opinions and they may inevitably have an effect on my approach to a book and my attitude toward the subject, but I make a conscious effort to include both sides.  I don't think it's possible to be completely objective.  I think this comes out in how certain things are emphasized.  For example, in the chapter about gun control, I tried to give both sides, but I don't think it's neutral.  Why would I spend all that time writing this book if I didn't have an opinion about the value of the Bill of Rights?" (Giorgis and Johnson 2004)

Giorgis, Cyndi, and Nancy J. Johnson.  2004.  Talking with Russell Freedman.  Book Links  13(4):  43-45.  In EBSCOHost (database online).  Available from  Accessed 2 June 04.

Litherland, Tena Natale.  2004.  In defense of liberty:  The story of America's Bill of Rights (book review).  Library Media Connection  22(6):  79.  In EBSCOHost (database online).  Available from  Accessed 14 June 04.

All Materials for this Site created by:
Holly S.
Graduate Student at Texas Woman's University