In a growing atmosphere of political intolerance, Michael Gorton has penned a timely reminder of the sacrifices some Americans made to secure our precious First Amendment freedoms of speech and religion.
Forefathers & Founding Fathers, a historical novel sketching the settlement of New England, is the early 17th century story of Pilgrims who sought freedom of thought, speech and religion in the New World but ironically created brutal tyrannies that included banishment and death for dissenters.
Opposing the oppression is protagonist Samuel Gorton, a controversial reformer whose advocacy of religious and political liberties, fair treatment of the Indians and separation of church and state set the stage for a deadly conflict with the rigid Puritans who controlled the governmental and religious institutions of early Massachusetts. (While they share a last name, it’s never explained whether Gorton and the author are related.)
Gorton’s struggle, according to the author, helped mold the first civil democracy in America and foreshadowed the fights to abolish slavery and create equal rights for women. His followers came to be known as Gortonists, Rhode Island’s first European settlers.
This well-researched yarn, however, suffers from what some readers might regard as a slow start, one that dwells excessively on Gorton’s days in England before his immigration. And in an apparent effort to replicate the formal language of the time, the dialogue sometimes seems strained and stiff. (Talking to his wife, for example, Samuel says: ”Alas, I understand my wife. Can I assume the second meaning is a variation on the word ‘spoils’ as we move our fortune to the New World?” “Yes, husband, you most certainly can.”) More revealing and realistic exchanges could have enhanced the humanity of the characters.
Reader patience, though, is ultimately rewarded with an enlightening, entertaining and detailed tale of intrigue, injustice and courage. Forefathers & Founding Fathers is suitable for young adults and anyone interested in learning more about our nation’s DNA.
Also available as an ebook.