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America Declares Independence 1st Edition

3.1 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0471264828
ISBN-10: 0471264822
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

These are dire times for the Declaration of Independence, Dershowitz believes. The religious right has hijacked the document for its own wily purposes, holding that phrases such as "Nature's God," "Creator" and "Divine Providence" are proof that the Founding Fathers intended America to be an explicitly Christian nation. Not so, cries the noted Harvard Law School professor and prolific author (Supreme Injustice, etc.). To prove his case, Dershowitz focuses mainly on Thomas Jefferson, showing that the Declaration's principal author thought most of the Bible was superstitious drivel: he did not believe in miracles, the devil or anything in the Gospels except that certain words were spoken by Jesus. Rather, Jefferson believed in a deistic God, who set the world in motion and then went on vacation. Jefferson didn't think religion should have anything to do with politics. Thus, Dershowitz says, when Jefferson used the phrases "Nature's God" and "Divine Providence," his contemporaries-most of whom were also deists -understood and approved of his intent. This argument is fine (if familiar) up to a point. But then Dershowitz proves himself nearly as guilty as his foes of "hijacking" the Declaration for his own political goals, attacking enemies like Pat Robertson, Alan Keyes and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Dershowitz also toys with some impossibly speculative ideas, such as that Jefferson would have believed in evolution. There have been many fine books written about Jefferson and the Declaration of Independence; readers can find some of them listed in the endnotes to this threadbare addition to Wiley's Turning Points series. Still, the author being a ubiquitous media presence, the book will garner attention and sales.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review

* These are dire times for the Declaration of Independence, Dershowitz believes. The religious right has hijacked the document for its own wily purposes, holding that phrases such as ""Nature's God,"" ""Creator"" and ""Divine Providence"" are proof that the Founding Fathers intended America to be an explicitly Christian nation. Not so, cries the noted Harvard Law School professor and prolific author (Supreme Injustice, etc.). To prove his case, Dershowitz focuses mainly on Thomas Jefferson, showing that the Declaration's principal author though most of the Bible was superstitious drivel: he did not believe in miracles, the devil or anything in the Gospels except that certain words were spoken by Jesus. Rather, Jefferson believed in a deistic God, who set the world in motion and then went on vacation. Jefferson didn't think religion should have anything to do with politics. Thus, Dershowitz says, when Jefferson used the phrases ""nature's God"" and ""Divine Providence,"" his contemporaries - most of whom were also deists - understood and approved of his intent. This argument is fine (if familiar) up to a point. But then Dershowitz proves himself nearly as guilty as his foes of ""hijacking"" the Declaration for his own political goals, attaching enemies like Pat Robertson, Alan Keyes and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Dershowitz also toys with some impossibly speculative ideas, such as that Jefferson would have believed in evolution. There have been many fine books written about Jefferson and the Declaration of Independence; readers can find some of them listed in the endnotes to this threadbare addition to Wiley's Turning Points series. Still, the author being a ubiquitous media presence, the book will garner attention and sales. Agent, Helen Rees. (Apr.) (Publishers Weekly, March 3, 2003)

""...this book stands as a testament to the diversity of opinion that can exisst under one flag"". (Bookpage, July 2003)

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Product Details

  • Series: Turning Points in History (Book 9)
  • Hardcover: 172 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (March 14, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0471264822
  • ISBN-13: 978-0471264828
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.8 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,073,971 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I second the motion in the review of Aug. 19, 2003, "A good idea -- but hardley original", that Alan Dershowitz could have put his incredible talents to even further use by laying out the philosophy of history behind America's founding, and examining and explaining how America did not just happen, but is the result of a long evolution of blood, sweat, tears, and suffering for freedom. But, that is not to take away from the fact that "America Declares Independence" is very well written, very interesting, and very much a 5 star book. It comes to you highly recommended by this reader. And, if you value my recommendation, I would also recommend that, after you read Mr. Dershowitz's book, read Norman Thomas Remick's book, "West Point: Character Leadership Education, A Book Developed From The Readings And Writings Of Thomas Jefferson", a book that does explain how America did not just happen, but was the result of a long evolution of blood, sweat, tears, and suffering for freedom.
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Format: Hardcover
One the most difficult things to figure out when examining the life of Thomas Jefferson is why he could write such powerful documents, full of respect for human life and human dignity, and still own, at one period of his life, 267 slaves. The author of this book attempts to explain and conjecture his reasons for this, and other things of more relevance to the present time. The author's main emphasis is to negate an idea held in his view by the "Religious Right", namely that the United States is a "Christian country" and was intended to be so by the framers of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. He does so successfully, and gives ample historical references for his arguments. However, individuals like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson cannot be said to represent the entire "Religious Right", even if they claim to, and even if this claim is imputed to them by the author. And further, even though the author has refuted their arguments about the Christian nature of the founding documents, this still does not refute the claim that the United States "should" be a Christian nation. The "Religious Right"could perhaps acknowledge the arguments of the author as true and then consequently advocate the founding documents be rejected and a Christian nation be formed. This has not been suggested yet by the "Religious Right" (that I have heard), but could be in the near future. Religion and toleration are usually immiscible, and if backed into a corner, religion has throughout history proven itself extremely dangerous and has exhibited brutality going beyond all rational bounds.
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Format: Hardcover
In his monograph America Declares Independence, Alan Dershowitz wrests our country's founding document from the clutches of right-wing fundagelicals who want to turn the Declaration of Independence into a call for a born-again America. Thomas Jefferson, a deist, was the primary author of the Declaration, and his God was the God of Newton and the Enlightenment. The most conservative members of the Continental Congress, such as the Calvinists, wouldn't have recognized the God of the modern fundamentalists. And, Heaven forbid, there were Unitarians and Quakers who voted on the Declaration, too! Dershowitz also holds forth on the meaning [if any] of natural law and tries to untangle the confusing persona of a man who could write the Declaration AND own slaves. If you are interested in finding out how the secular nation founded by the Founding Fathers could become the most religiously diverse nation on the planet [and include fundamentalists who have the right to believe in and speak of a so-called Christian nation of the Founding Fathers], America Declares Independence would be a good place to start.
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Format: Hardcover
This could have been a great book, as one certainly expects from Alan Dershowitz; unfortunately, it reflects the American belief that democracy was invented here rather than realizing this country is part of a long evolution of freedom.
Dershowitz, a renowned Harvard law school professor and frequent commentator on individual rights, wastes most of his effort refuting, rejecting and attacking the Religious Right rather than understanding such people are the bell weather of American freedom. He doesn't seem to understand the impact of the Religious Right (or the Radical Left) is in inverse proportion to the level of freedom in this or any other country -- as the absolute rule of the Taliban religious extremists certainly proved in Afghanistan.
However, zealots exist in very society. Perhaps they counterbalance each other; if they become part of the Establishment, they crimp the freedom of everyone. Dershowitz uses the massive artillery of his intellect to attack the limited acumen of Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and Alan Keyes -- as if Justice Louis Brandeis would have been profitably employed attacking Father Coughlin.
Dershowitz doesn't seem to understand that freedom and individual rights have constantly evolved in Anglo society for more than a thousand years. Democracy wasn't invented when Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, cribbing many ideas from the English Bill of Rights written in the Glorious Revolution of 1688. Freedom and democracy is a constant and uneven struggle, not an accident or gift .
The Declaration of Independence was a quantum leap forward in defining some basic ideas of freedom, but it was not the end of the process.
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