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Revolutionary inspiration

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Michael Barone's talent for bringing history to life was well-hidden. Even he didn't know he had it until Jon Stewart made it public on Comedy Central's "The Daily Show."

Before going on stage, Mr. Barone was ready to trade barbs with Mr. Stewart over their differing political views, but Mr. Stewart had his own agenda: discussing Mr. Barone's new book.

Mr. Stewart apparently knows his history as well as he knows current events and was prepared to discuss in detail the book, "Our First Revolution: The Remarkable British Uprising That Inspired America's Founding Fathers."

"People that are able to bring history to life in this manner, I very much appreciate," Mr. Stewart said during the interview, which aired June 6. He also called the book dramatic and theatrical.

Mr. Barone recounts how the Founding Fathers got their inspiration for the American Revolution from Britain's Glorious Revolution of 1688. It has been the most successful of Mr. Barone's four non-almanac books. Since its release on May 8, the book has reached Amazon's top 80 and is listed at No. 34 on the New York Times' best-seller list — a feat he says is ironic because it is his first book about events outside the 20th or 21st centuries.

Mr. Barone is also the author of the biennial Almanac of American Politics, a reference book published by the National Journal Group. He is a conservative political analyst, commentator and writer/columnist for U.S. News & World Report.

Riding the initial waves of success for "Our First Revolution," Mr. Barone will be appearing at the Politics and Prose Bookstore in Northwest tonight at 7, when he will discuss the book and answer questions from the audience.

"Recently we've been seeing a lot of books about the Founding Fathers, even though history departments are starting to de-emphasize them," he said. "But readers are still reading about them."

So when Mr. Barone set out to write his fourth book, he did not have to look far for inspiration.

"I began to realize that the Founding Fathers were not running on a blank slate," he said. "The idea of those rights as Englishmen had their roots in the past."

The Glorious Revolution of 1688, Mr. Barone says, was a giant step toward the representative government, guaranteed liberties, global capitalism and anti-tyrannical foreign policy we have today.

Leading up to England's 1688 revolution, King James II, a Catholic, had been exempting himself from the law by putting Catholics in various government and military posts, which was an unacceptable practice in 17th-century England. He also had not convened Parliament for years and had abolished several of the representative governments in the American Colonies. Absolute monarchy was a trend embraced by royalty across Europe at that time.

Meanwhile, William of Orange, King James' nephew, had been distributing more than 50,000 pamphlets that listed his reasons for coming to England and calling for a free Parliament. John Churchill, one of Winston Churchill's ancestors, abandoned the British military forces and joined William.

When William and his army began to invade England from the Netherlands, James fled to France, which was ruled by his cousin Louis XIV, and threw the great seal of England into the Thames River.

With James gone, William could have declared himself king, but instead he reconvened Parliament, which later established William and Mary as king and queen of England under the condition they agreed to a Declaration of Rights, which became the basis of the American Bill of Rights almost 100 years later.

"The Founding Fathers actually used some of the same rights listed in the Declaration of Rights in their own Bill of Rights," Mr. Barone said. "These include the right to bear arms, the right against searches and seizures, the right against self-incrimination, among others."

During their interview, Mr. Stewart compared Britain's revolution to "King Lear."

"The events all seem very Shakespearean," he said. "It's almost as if he could sue for copyright infringement."

"Well, Mary was James' daughter," Mr. Barone said. "And what's funny is they actually banned the performance of 'King Lear' for some time after this Glorious Revolution because it was not considered quite the play to present."

Although students still study Shakespeare's plays, Mr. Barone said, the Glorious Revolution has faded from the history books.

"Once upon a time this was something that every schoolboy learned about," he said. "Now it's a nonevent for many educated, well-read American readers and that's why I wrote this book for American readers who don't know much about these events."

Politics and Prose Bookstore is located at 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW, or online at www.politics-prose.com.

"Michael is a longtime friend of the store," said event coordinator Mike Giarratano. "When the owners opened up 22 years ago, he was very much involved with the owners, so any time he's available, we like to have him in."