‘Blood of Tyrants’ author reflects on moral constants

Logan Beirne outside Yale University, where he started working on 'Blood of Tyrants.'

Logan Beirne outside Yale University, where he started working on ‘Blood of Tyrants.’

Milford resident Logan Beirne has been busy the past few months talking to scholars and the media about his first book, Blood of Tyrants: George Washington, the Forging of the Presidency.

He’s been on C-Span twice and Fox News three times, and he’s talked to the Huffington Post and others.

Since the book launched in April, published by Encounter Books in New York, Beirne has done book tours in Paris, Texas and California.

The youngest son of former Board of Alderman Chairman Thomas Beirne and wife Sheila, Beirne is an Olin Scholar at Yale Law School, spending his time pursuing scholarly research.

Prior to this appointment, he was an attorney with the law firm of Sullivan & Cromwell in New York City and was a Fulbright Scholar at Queen’s University.

He received his law degree from Yale Law School, and locally, he is a graduate of Calf Pen Meadow Elementary School, East Shore Middle School and Foran High School.

Beirne said his family sparked his interest in history at a very young age, sending him on the course he’s pursuing now, which is one of academic study and writing.

His family is descended from Revolutionary War patriots, and his family tree includes the “Father of the Constitution,” James Madison.

Beirne jokes that he wonders if his father, who loves Revolutionary War history and created Revolutionary War-era re-enactments along Milford’s shores, knew that his mother was related to James Madison when they first met and fell in love.

Thomas Beirne says he didn’t know right away, but the historical intestests on both sides made for a patriotic and history-themed household.

Growing up in Milford, Beirne accompanied his parents to war and history re-enactments, and he was a member of the Sons of the American Revolution.

So the book, in many ways, was a natural.

Blood of Tyrants started as Beirne’s thesis at Yale Law School,  a task that sent him to archives to read letters written to and from the nation’s founding fathers.

The paper earned the prestigious best paper award at Yale, and therefore garnered sufficient attention. It wasn’t long after receiving the award that Beirne was summoned to the office of Amy Chua, whose parenting memoir Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother sparked discussion and debate a couple of years ago.

Beirne was a little nervous: He thought his paper had landed him in trouble.

“But no, she said she thought it should be a book,” Beirne said.

He was skeptical initially, noting that his expertise lies in the areas of math and finance, not writing. Or so he thought. Reviews and praise for the book suggest that Beirne is a natural storyteller, able to turn some might-be-dry historical information into a good read.

“Blood of Tyrants reveals the surprising details of our founding father’s leadership and his history’s impact on today,” according to a book summary. “Diving into forgotten — and often lurid — facts of the Revolutionary War, Logan Beirne focuses on the nation’s first commander in chief, George Washington, as he shaped the very meaning of the United States Constitution in the heat of battle.”

A book summary notes that Beirne finds evidence in previously unexplored documents, such as General Washington’s letters debating the use of torture, and eyewitness accounts of the military tribunal that executed a British prisoner, and communications that point to a power struggle between Washington and the Continental Congress.

In a Washington Times book review, Michael Taube elaborates on Beirne’s gift at personalizing history.

Taube writes, “In Logan Beirne’s new book, Blood of Tyrants: George Washington and the Forging of the Presidency, the important political lessons of the past are given a fresh new perspective… Mr. Beirne’s genealogical and personal interest in history, politics and the military makes for an enjoyable read.”

While the writing may have seemed at first outside Beirne’s comfort level, the research and fact assimilation wasn’t. The new author said he was fascinated with what he was finding as he researched his book.

“I was impressed with how foresighted they were then,” Beirne said. “They documented everything they did so they could show what went into their decision making.”

And more to the point, Beirne said it is eye opening to explore the moral issues that plagued leaders then and now.

Today’s drone attacks may seem a bit far reaching when looking for comparisons to the 1700s, but Beirne said it’s the same then as it is now — the question isn’t about how we are killing but who we are killing.

And then there’s the National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance program, which Beirne said also has elements that harken back to the days of the nation’s founding fathers.

Back then, government agents opened letters to gather intelligence. That, Beirne said, is similar to the NSA and CIA information gathering. A key difference lies in the transparency of the programs, Beirne said, adding that in George Washington’s era, these operations were done with public knowledge in an open and transparent manner.

“Today, there is very little transparency,” Beirne said.

And according to Beirne, George Washington “would despise Edward Snowden,” the whistleblower who leaked information about the NSA surveillance program. Beirne said Washington would look at Snowden as another Benedict Arnold.

The biggest history lesson Blood of Tyrants teaches, according to the author, is that “the more things change the more they stay the same.”

“Because the moral issues are the same, we can look back in history for lessons,” Beirne said.

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