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States' Rights and the Union: Imperium in Imperio, 1776-1876 (American Political Thought (University Press of Kansas)) Paperback – November 1, 2002


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Product Details

  • Series: American Political Thought (University Press of Kansas)
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: University Press Of Kansas; Reprint edition (November 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0700612270
  • ISBN-13: 978-0700612277
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.5 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #93,604 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In living memory, "states' rights" is most notoriously associated with Southern resistance to desegregation and civil rights; in historical memory it's most notoriously associated with Southern secession and the Civil War. University of Alabama historian McDonald (Novus Ordo Seclorum: The Intellectual Origin of the Constitution and the American Presidency) offers a brief, pithy general survey of the issue's much richer, occasionally honorable history. States' rights was deeply intertwined with most major issues of America's first hundred years, from the very formation of government, to battles over the Bank of the United States, internal improvements (such as roads), the Louisiana Purchase, military policy tariffs and Reconstruction. This study is valuable simply for following a thread through such a diversity of subjects, and illuminating its main theme in such telling detail. It's also admirably honest in noting how frequently the doctrine was adopted or dropped, depending on the purposes served. Unfortunately, the book fails to adequately analyze other doctrines that competed with, intersected with or reinforced states' rights, and the fails to explore seriously the profound inconsistencies in how the doctrine came to be applied. Furthermore, while McDonald notes the rapid transformation of centuries-old contract law to accommodate the emergence of marketplace economics in the early 1800s, he ignores the notion of similar historical necessities transforming the decades-old doctrine of states' rights. The History Book Club, which will offer this largely informative and enjoyable book as a selection, could reach most of this book's limited audience among serious readers of American history. (Oct.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

"A bold, independent thinker, McDonald provides an indispensable history, replete with wise assessments." -- Eugene D. Genovese in Atlantic Monthly

"A book on states’ rights should include power struggles, authority issues, and great debates, and this book does not disappoint." -- Southern Historian

"A masterful book by one of America’s premier historians." -- North Carolina Historical Review

"A trenchant exploration of the issues and events defining the tension between national authority and the doctrine of states’ rights." -- Choice

"One could ask for no better introduction into this important and often complicated history." -- Times Literary Supplement

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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By R. Setliff on July 31, 2004
~States' Rights and the Union: Imperium in Imperio, 1776-1876~ is perhaps one of the best new contributions to the study of American constitutional history in recent years. Most history books portray the nature of sovereignty within the American body politic as being well-settled after 1787. In their mind, it was settled that the U.S. was to have a strong central government. This is reductionism at its best and history at its worst. The essence of a true federal regime has always been a diffusion of powers and a dual sovereignty, not a centralized unitary polity like France or the United Kingdom. The framers of the Constitution deliberatedly contemplated a general government with expressly enumerated powers. The contest over States Rights and the Union was almost inevitable, as the American polity was framed with an ingrained contradiction of dual sovereignty that was anathema to European conceptions of sovereignty. McDonald's book is fittingly subtitled Imperium in Imperio, which literally delineates supreme sovereignty within supreme sovereignty. Likewise, the Calvinist notion of man's innate depravity was more readily acceptable to framers who were weary and mistrustful of concentrated power. It was the springboard for fortifying Anglo-American traditions of bicameral legislatures, common law protections for the individual and adding more checks and balances. The framers rejected whimsical views about man's good nature espoused by Rousseau. "Free government is founded in jealousy," avowed Thomas Jefferson, "and not in confidence. It is jealousy and not confidence which prescribes limited constitutions, to bind down those whom we are obliged to trust with power...Read more ›
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Verified Purchase
This textbook arrived in a good amount of time! Was in great condition. It was a good resource for my American Republic college course.
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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Jason Carter on February 4, 2009
Talk "states' rights" in today's political climate, and you're likely to be labeled a crank or a racist... or both, because so much ignorance passes for history in our government school system.

You *will* be taught in your history classes about "checks and balances" in the US Constitution, but you will be taught that those checks and balances consist largely of the division of power between the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the federal government. Only a moment's reflection, though, will reveal that those branches are still all part of the same government. McDonald demonstrates conclusively that the founding fathers viewed another check and balance as critical to the limitation on growth in federal power -- states' rights. The states, as distinct sovereignties, *delegated* certain powers to the federal government and retained all other powers to themselves (c.f., 10th Amendment).

This book ends its study in 1876, the end of Reconstruction, when the Second Founding became complete -- a founding destitute of any vestige of states' rights, in which federal power would be free to grow unchecked.

Outstanding summary of key issues in American constitutionalism.
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2 of 31 people found the following review helpful By M. Geary on March 12, 2010
Personally, I didn't care for this book one bit. Yes, it is very very researched and detailed. That I will not argue. But it is not easily comprehenable and it makes me think of people who use big words and odd turns of phrase to sound smarter. I found many of the details to be inconsequential to the subject matter and some sections required outside research and re-reading to even understand.

As an aspiring college history professor, I will definately not recommend this book to my students or use any of it in my lectures/reading.
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