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Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence in Defense of Equality 1st Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 61 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0871406903
ISBN-10: 087140690X
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Editorial Reviews

Review

The book is a tour de force of close textual analysis. (Gordon S. Wood - New York Review of Books)

Our Declaration is an artful, often elegiac meditation on the meaning of Jefferson's famous words for our time. Allen brings the analytical skills of a philosopher, the voice of a gifted memorialist, and the spirit of a soulful humanist to the task at hand, and manages to do something quite rare, find new meaning in Jefferson’s understanding of equality. (Joseph J. Ellis, author of Revolutionary Summer: The Birth of American Independence)

Our Declaration sets forth a bold thesis… Allen’s passion for each of the Declaration’s 1,337 words is admirable. (Steven B. Smith - New York Times Book Review)

This wise and rich book is what we need in these troubled times―a robust and persuasive defense of equality and liberty grounded in our national scripture. Danielle Allen is a towering political philosopher of the democratic art of being and a force for good! (Cornel West, author of Democracy Matters: Winning the War on Imperialism)

Danielle Allen celebrates the Declaration of Independence by reading it closely―line by line, comma by comma―and invites her fellow citizens to do the same. The result is a richly rewarding book that demonstrates the pleasures of slow reading, the power of words to shape events, and the importance of equality to democratic life. (Michael Sandel, author of What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets)

Danielle Allen's poignant and personal reflection on the Declaration of Independence is a rare and singular work…[S]he has written a book that throws open a door to a large circle of readers: anyone with a stake in democracy. Her observations about the importance of language in building and sustaining a republic are especially resonant and worthy of the towering rhetoric of the Declaration. Our Declaration holds the promise of both discovery and rediscovery whether you've never read the Declaration or have memorized each of its 1,337 words. (Ann Marie Lipinski, curator, Nieman Foundation for Journalism, Harvard University)

Our Declaration is a primer on all that we have been missing… Not just an invaluable civics lesson but also a poignant personal memoir… Allen is an evangelist for this romantic moment in American history when men of uncommon vision and political deftness stated their case and listed their grievances against the most powerful nation on Earth. (Thane Rosenbaum - The Washington Post)

An astounding new book that should reinvigorate public understanding of the founding document of the United States… Reading Ms. Allen makes reading the Declaration meaningful and enjoyable―a powerful enough lesson it is't own right. (Sarah J. Purcell - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

At once simple, sharp and deftly executed. (Kirkus Reviews)

About the Author

Danielle Allen, a professor of social science at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, is a political philosopher widely known for her work on justice and citizenship in both ancient Athens and modern America. She lives in Princeton with her husband and two children.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Liveright; 1 edition (June 23, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 087140690X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0871406903
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #290,639 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Richard E. Baldwin on July 25, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Over the past 200+ years, the popular reputation of our Declaration of Independence has waxed and waned. Oddly enough, since the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s it has been in almost total eclipse. Although Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech in 1963 drew heavily on the idea of human equality, he spoke most frequently in terms of the Constitution, especially the Bill of Rights. At the same time, the Declaration’s assertion that “all men are created equal” came under withering attack not only by the women’s movement, which choked on the phrase “all men,” but also by racial groups who attacked its presumed lily white intentions.

Because of those attacks, the bicentennial celebrations in 1976 were more fiasco than festival. When Barack Obama was forced to deal with racial issues in the 2008 campaign for the Democratic nomination, he spoke at Philadelphia—where both the Declaration and the Constitution were drafted—but based his speech entirely on the Constitution. Unlike Abraham Lincoln, who dated the nation’s beginning at 1776 with the signing of the Declaration, Obama associated the beginning with the drafting of the Constitution in 1787—“farmers and scholars; statesmen and patriots who had traveled across an ocean to escape tyranny and persecution finally made real their declaration of independence at a Philadelphia convention that lasted through the spring of 1787.”

Danielle Allen makes it very clear in Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence in Defense of Equality that we have impoverished our sense of our nation by ignoring the Declaration.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A timely, important and useful work. I especially enjoyed the author's personal notes as they illuminated otherwise tenuous and vague insights, opinions and ideas, she brought the topic alive and into our own day and age. I recommend this book. My singular disappointment was the chapter that dealt with "Nature's God". The god of the Declaration was in fact not the Christian God, it was the god of Spinoza, Nature. I recommend the following book to those who want to follow up. Nature's God, by Matthew Stewart.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is about the Founding Fathers attempts to philosophically analyze the two fundamental human rights of political equality and freedom in order to justify the United States' breaking away from the tyranny of an oligarchic Libertarian British rule. Danielle Allen does an excellent job of explaining that this analysis by the Founding Fathers lies at the heart of the Declaration of Independence document or "memo" as she calls it. In doing this work she also draws our attention to the fact that the Founding Fathers failed to prevent the resurgence or re-dominance of that same oligarchic Libertarian mind-set currently now manifest in the United States. Danielle Allen has a sequel book in her to explain this lapse back into political inequality and accompanying negation of freedom. Buy this book it is an important achievement in literary forensic science that shines a spotlight on our true human nature which so few individuals understand.
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Format: Paperback
This is a brilliant book. I now appreciate why historian Gordon Woods provided such high praise.

Danielle Allen is demonstrably knowledgeable on the topic at a rarely observed depth. I became aware of this book listening to her discuss this topic on CSPAN; where it was quickly evident she was a master historian.

In this book Dr. Allen also creates a wonderfully cogent and I think, convincing, argument on the founders’ perspective regarding the optimal relationship between liberty and equality, and why we require the embrace and protection of equal rights in order to enjoy optimal liberty. The reader would have to be an idiot to not appreciate the relevance this relationship holds even today, regardless of where the reader lives.

Ms. Allen’s also a wonderful teacher and writer, bringing to vivid life text that’s typically ignored.

If the reader’s not well read on the history of the Declaration of Independence, I recommend first reading American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence. Pauline Maier also writes a masterpiece. Dr. Maier’s book reports on the collective efforts by many colonists that led to the Declaration. Understanding this effort provides the context I think is needed to best appreciate Dr. Allen’s argument in her book given Allen doesn’t dwell on the history of how and what was published, but instead on the meaning of what was published and the implications regarding liberty and equality.

I also found an economy of writing that was surprisingly efficient. Allen’s argument doesn’t become convincing until near the end of the book, with no recalled divergences that were extraneous. At 281 pages of text not including endnotes, this is also a relatively fast read and therefore the time reader spends on this book is highly rewarded.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book should be required reading for every high school graduate in the US and at the very least should be touched on in any US history course. The author demonstrates the genius of the framers in the words chosen for the Declaration and how equality is the basis for liberty. She also points out that ideals, although they are worthy goals, the culture that embraces them must be pushed along bit by bit to achieve them.
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