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This obscure item is a lost classic of early American political history, and is especially valuable for researchers interested in the origins of America's traditions of government transparency and open access to information. As Hoffman found, those "traditions" are not so traditional after all. Despite the lauded theoretical ideals of the Founding Fathers, the good or evil of government secrecy was an open question that has never been fully resolved. After an in-depth look at the surprisingly limited influence of transparency theory on the Constitutional Convention, much of this book covers a distressing pattern of government secrecy, and nasty political battles against it, during the Washington and Adams administrations. Via impeccable historical research and reviews of period sources, Hoffman finds that there has never been unassailable transparency in American government, allowing our leaders to fall into periodic fits of obfuscation and persecution ranging from the Sedition Act of 1798 to the Watergate debacle. (The book is from 1981, but the basic challenges are still with us.)
Of course, America is blessed with one of the world's strongest traditions of transparency in government. But here Hoffman shows that watchdogs, journalists, and interested citizens cannot rest on tradition alone, and the access we have now could easily slip away. [~doomsdayer520~]