In This Review

The Puritan Origins of American Patriotism
The Puritan Origins of American Patriotism
By George McKenna
Yale University Press, 2007, 448 pp

In Dangerous Nation, Robert Kagan argues that the influence of Puritan New England in subsequent U.S. national development has been greatly exaggerated. McKenna has a very different take, and this thoughtful and well-written book makes a powerful case that Puritan values and ideas continue to shape American identity and politics down to the present day. To make the argument, McKenna sometimes has to stretch -- in his view, the Puritan legacy changed from generation to generation -- but overall, readers leave this book, the product of a lifetime of scholarship, convinced that those seventeenth-century New Englanders continue to haunt us today. The early chapters, in which McKenna exposes the tensions and complexities beneath the surface of Puritan unity, and the discussion of the Civil War years are particularly strong, and the analysis of the Puritan background of the Progressive era brings some much-needed perspective to key figures and ideas of that time.