Liberty's Chain

Liberty’s Chain by David Gellman

Brendan’s Alternate Tagline for Liberty’s Chain:

A lot of mixed messages in this one.

Quick synopsis:

The story of Founding Father, John Jay, his descendants and their relation to slavery.

Fun Fact Non-History People Will Like:

John Jay still had slaves while serving as a prominent abolitionist.

Fun Fact for History Nerds:

In the six decades before the American Revolution, 151 slave ships came through New York.

My Take on Liberty’s Chain:

David Gellman’s Liberty’s Chain is a fascinating look at the relationship between the Jay family and slavery through multiple generations. Starting with the Founding Father, John Jay, and then his son and grandson, Gellman looks at how their views on slavery began to change and evolve during the time of the American Revolution to the Civil War.

What makes this book really interesting is that the Jay family did not start out as fully formed abolitionists. John Jay actually had slaves and kept them even while leading an abolitionist society. His descendants would become more and more critical of slavery even while grappling with their own family history. Their attitudes and evolution are worth the in-depth study Gellman gives them.

Gellman’s book does not spare the details and he uses concrete anecdotes to make his points. It is a scholarly work which convinces you through evidence as opposed to conjecture. The story is not always linear (as Gellman himself explains in his introduction) and this book may be too in-depth for a casual reader. However, for anyone interested in this time period and topic, it is a must read.

Verdict on Liberty’s Chain:

A scholarly look at a prominent American family. A must read for nerds of this time period. Buy it here!

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