Brogan identifies two major themes for this history: the role of slavery in determining the moral direction of the US and the drive West to secure its economic progress. In reality, this is a political history of the USA, and much of Brogan's time is spent analysing the psychology of its presidents, and rating them in modish fashion against their response to the circumstances they were in. Thus, Jefferson's idealism looks self-interested, Wilson's looks anachronistic and Carter's naive. The flaws of the personalities (and neither Lincoln nor FDR come off unscathed) are offered as subtle for evidence for the kind of democracy that Brogan likes and thinks he has found in America. Beyond papal infallibility or royal birthright, the issues for a republic come down to the fundamental inadequacy to the task of governing of even the most capable. Thus, Washington's Farewell address becomes a bulwark against political despotism for all time.
This is just as well, given Brogan's account of how corruption, neglect and prejudice have determined the direction of the nation far more effectively than the idealism or morality that most American would prefer to believe have guided its destiny. Some episodes stand out: the excellent account of how the bust of the economic system in 1929 came about (and the policy responses for its consequences) provide useful lessons for the challenges of our own time. The rationale for establishing the Republic in the first place as a tax revolt rather than a political revolution continues to resonate powerfully in American social and economic life, as a disdain for contributions to the nation's finances whilst still expecting elected representatives to deal with problems this often creates. In all, this is a well organised narrative and unflinching account of the last superpower, especially interesting given the precipice on which it now seems poised.