Eagle’s Cry: A Novel

Written by David Nevin
Review by Alice Logsdon

In the year 1799, the citizens of the United States of America have emerged from the shadow of British tyranny. Yet there is strong disagreement as to how the country will be governed. George Washington lies on his deathbed, worried about the fate of the young republic he and others fought so hard to create, now locked in an internal battle between two widely differing, newly forged political parties.

The Federalist party, led by New Yorker Alexander Hamilton, seeks to foster a hierarchy of power. He foresees a nation guided by a few men, with economic policies created to reward the wealthy and keep common men subservient. The Democrats, led by Virginians Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, see the common man as the key to the future of the nation. They argue for strong states where all men have an equal voice, regardless of social status or wealth, so that none should suffer under the oppression of an elite class. The Federalists believe that the Democrats are aligned too closely with France, and stir up fears that the horrors of the Terror await the US. Democrats, in turn, fear the Federalists leanings toward hereditary nobility and the prospect of a return to British rule.

After Jefferson is elected President, the Democratic leadership barely has a chance to breathe before a new threat arrives on its doorstep. Napoleon Bonaparte is negotiating with Spain to recover the Louisiana Territory for France. This sparks new fears, ones that especially arouse the western states, whose economy depends on free and unchallenged use of the Mississippi River to export their produce.

Nevin humanizes many historical icons while vividly recreating the fledgling moments from the annals of US history. As Jefferson and Madison negotiate and plot alliances, seeking a non-military end to the threat of French imperialism, Nevin successfully conveys the sense of tension and doubt leading up to the climactic moment when they learn of their victory.

This detailed narrative is the second and chronological beginning of Nevin’s American Story series, which includes bestsellers 1812 and Dream West. Though some of the side stories could be trimmed, I found it to be quite compelling reading. Recommended to anyone interested in politics, history or good storytelling.