I wasn’t sure I’d like Pulitzer Prize winning author David McCullough's Pioneers when I first began reading it. I'd expected a historical novel and this was a nonfiction historical work. I knew nothing about the work of the courageous and broad-minded people who were instrumental in opening the vast Northwest Territory, ceded to the US by Britain, to veterans of the Revolutionary War and their families for settlement.
I waded through the opening chapters that dealt with the remarkably talented New England minister Manasseh Cutler's travels throughout the east without realizing why he was meeting with the great men of the era and struggling to convince them of this effort.
As I read on, I became entranced by the descriptions of the courageous men and open-minded men who must have given up sleeping to accomplish all they did. Creating charter for government known as the Northwest Ordinance which included three remarkable conditions: freedom of religion, free universal education, and most importantly, the prohibition of slavery.
The stories of the early migration made for some harrowing experiences. They "crossed raging rivers, chopped
down forests, plowed miles of land, suffered incalculable hardships, and braved a lonely frontier to forge a new American ideal” (The Providence Journal). As I read their stories, I felt a surge of joy and inspiration despite the darkness of the times in which we now live.
This is a book for now. One that I think should be in the hands of and on the bookshelves of every politician and citizen of the nation. This is the power of history, well researched and told. what happened then can, and will, happen again. The good and the bad. History is a great wheel that rolls over the same ground of human experience. It can be guided one way or another provided we look to the past even as we hope toward the future.