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For Liberty and Equality: The Life and Times of the Declaration of Independence 1st Edition

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ISBN-13: 978-0195379693
ISBN-10: 0195379691
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Editorial Reviews


"Alexander Tsesis deserves applause for his depth of research, clear organization, and his detailed writing. He skillfully draws your interest towards diverse stories of oppression and causes emotional response that is not common for a history book. For Liberty and Equality: The Life and Times of the Declaration of Independence is a compelling narrative of a formative document and a country that has come a long way in terms of human equality." --Unbound: Annual Review of Legislative History and Rare Books

"[An] exceptional history of the Declaration in American political rhetoric... Alexander Tsesis meticulously details how the Declaration of Independence has stimulated and justified reform movements throughout American history." --Tulsa Law Review

"Utilizing speeches and newspaper articles, Tsesis traces the importance of the Declaration of Independence as the purveyor of 'transcendent' American norms...Recommended." --CHOICE

"Tsesis provides a significant commentary on the revolutionary legacy and Jefferson's eternally memorable text." --Jack Rakove, The New Republic

"No document is as cherished, or misused, by Americans as the Declaration of Independence. For Liberty and Equality is a remarkably perceptive history of the Declaration, elegantly written and carefully argued, by one of our brightest and most original legal scholars. There is no better book on this subject in print today." --David Oshinsky, Jack S. Blanton Chair in History, University of Texas; Distinguished Scholar in Residence, New York University; and Winner, Pulitzer Prize for History, 2006

"Alexander Tsesis has written a remarkable love letter on the Declaration of Independence. That is, like Abraham Lincoln, he views the Declaration's proclamation of equal rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as the essence of America and, like Lincoln, he exhibits real anguish at the betrayal of this promise by toleration of systematic inequalities (the most notable, of course, being slavery). Although a marvelous overview of American history from 1776 onward--and the use made by political reformers of the Declaration's basic norms--it is also a call to his readers today to take seriously the demands that the Declaration places on anyone who would seek to make the United States a truly 'more perfect Union.'" --Sanford Levinson, author of Framed: America's 51 Constitutions and the Crisis of Governance

About the Author

Alexander Tsesis is Associate Professor of Law at Loyola University-Chicago. He is the author of We Shall Overcome: A History of Civil Rights and the Law; The Thirteenth Amendment and American Freedom; and Destructive Messages: How Hate Speech Paves the Way for Harmful Social Movements.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 408 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (June 5, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195379691
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195379693
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 1.4 x 6.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,676,050 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Alexander Tsesis has written on a variety of subjects, including the legal history of civil rights, the abolition of slavery, equal protection, due process, women's rights, children's rights, hate crimes, hate speech, and constitutional theory. His publications include five books: For Liberty and Equality: The Life and Times of the Declaration of Independence (Oxford University Press 2012), We Shall Overcome: A History of Civil Rights and the Law (Yale University Press 2008), Destructive Messages: How Hate Speech Paves the Way for Harmful Social Movements (New York University Press 2002), The Thirteenth Amendment and American Freedom (New York University Press 2004), and The Promises of Liberty: Thirteenth Amendment Abolitionism and Contemporary Relevance (Columbia University Press 2010).

Tsesis is a Professor of Law at the Loyola University, Chicago, School of Law. He teaches Constitutional Law, Civil Procedure, and seminars devoted to civil rights issues and constitutional interpretation.

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Rob Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on December 19, 2012
Format: Hardcover
One of the most influential documents in our nation's history has never had the force of law. As one book about the Declaration of Independence was titled, the Declaration is "American scripture," summarizing aspirations and inspiring actions but not legally enacting or enforcing them. Yet the famous document has been socially, historically, and legally influential, and its influence is charted in _For Liberty and Equality: The Life and Times of the Declaration of Independence_ (Oxford University Press) by law professor Alexander Tsesis. The book, in examining the influence of the Declaration, gives a history of the United States through the lens of its ringing endorsement of human equality and the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We have often failed to live up to its ideals, but Tsesis shows that in many ways the Declaration has been more influential than our nuts-and-bolts Constitution.

The Declaration starts famously stating its purpose for being, and then lists those basic rights which may have been given by a Creator but which must be secured by governments, and then in its longest section it enumerates the colonies' complaints against Britain. Naturally most of the pages of Tsesis's book have to do with race relations, from slavery through the civil war and to the civil rights era. When in 1808 the federal government prohibited the importation of slaves, Jefferson backed the legislation, arguing that the Declaration's assertion of human rights were applicable to "all members of the human family." Opponents of the new law, however, cited the complaints section, which included George III's "... cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world." The federal government was doing the same thing, said the slave dealers, in preventing their fair commerce.
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For Liberty and Equality: The Life and Times of the Declaration of Independence
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