100 Best Books for Children ~ Nordhoff

Politics for Young Americans by Charles Nortdhoff is number 95 on the Hundred Best Books for Children found in The Book-Lover by Baldwin.

Charles Nordhoff immigrated to the United States with his parents in 1835. After spending three years in the Navy he continued his sea adventures on whalers, merchant vessels, and fishing vessels. He wrote of his adventures in several books. But he spent the greater time of his career as a journalist.

His book, Politics for Young Americans, was first published in 1875 and became a school textbook.

In this book, Nordhoff takes the view that the foundation of all government is a society, and that a society founded on Christian principles will alone be able to be governed “of the people, by the people, and for the people”:

I believe that free government is a political application of the Christian theory of life; that at the base of the republican system lies the Golden Rule; and that to be a good citizen of the United States one ought to be imbued with the spirit of Christianity, and to believe in and act upon the teachings of Jesus. He condemned self-seeking, covetousness, hypocrisy, class distinctions, envy, malice, undue and ignoble ambition; and he inculcated self-restraint, repression of the lower and meaner passions, love to the neighbor, contentment, gentleness, regard for the rights and happiness of others, and respect for the law.

It seems to me that the vices he condemned are those also which are dangerous to the perpetuity of republican government; and that the principles he inculcated may be properly used as tests of the merits of a political system or a public policy. In this spirit I have written, believing that thus “government of the people, by the people, and for the people,” can be most clearly justified and explained.

The book is addressed to his own son (then age sixteen) with the view of preparing him for the “right and duty” to vote.

The principles covered include:

  • Society as a whole.
  • The value of limiting laws.
  • Why governments are necessary.
  • What their function and limitations should be.
  • The value of a free government.
  • Decentralization.
  • The executive branch.
  • Political parties.
  • Who gets to vote. (Note: This was before women had the right to vote and Nordhoff does offer his own view on the subject.)
  • Elected office.
  • The Constitution.
  • Education.
  • Taxes.
  • Money.
  • Labor.
  • Banking.
  • Business.
  • Industry.
  • Unions.
  • Duties of citizens.
  • Trials.
  • And so much more.

This is a book that is nearly 150 years old at the time of this writing. Much has certainly changed, and Nordhoff’s political views are clearly obvious. But whether or not you agree with the principles he puts forth, they will offer many opportunities for discussion!

In these times, most of us could easily choose to walk away from a book on politics. But Nordhoff admonishes us that:

…to the citizen of a free state, politics concern themselves in the largest sense with the liberty and the prosperity of the people, which are sure to be affected by bad laws and bad laws are often adopted with the best motives, and urged and supported by men who are as truly patriotic and benevolent as they are ignorant.

Free eBook
  • There are forty-three relatively short chapters. These can be covered one each week for a school year of lessons.
  • Discussion and oral narrations are probably the best way to approach the book.
  • Bring the book up to date by addressing the various amendments that have been added to the Constitution since the book was originally published.
  • This book is for older students. Younger students may enjoy our Free Civics Studies: The Century Book for Young Americans series.

Additional Resources
Free Civics Studies

Free Civics Studies: The Century Book for Young Americans
You’ll find dozens of helpful resources in our civics series.

Author Notebooking Pages {Free Download}
Use this free set to create an author notebook for our 100 Best Books for Children series.

The Hundred Best Books for Children ~ Introduction
The Hundred Best Books for Children

Create a website or blog at WordPress.com