- Series: Published by the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture and the University of North Carolina Press
- Paperback: 376 pages
- Publisher: Omohundro Institute and University of North Carolina Press; New edition edition (March 31, 1987)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0807841722
- ISBN-13: 978-0807841723
- Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.9 x 8.9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #271,834 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Beyond Confederation: Origins of the Constitution and American National Identity (Published by the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture and the University of North Carolina Press) New edition Edition
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"This excellent collection offers well-written, updated, scholarly interpretations of the constitutional era.
"Journal of American History""
"A fascinating collection of essays, abundantly illustrating the vigor of current scholarship on the making of the Constitution.
This excellent collection offers well-written, updated, scholarly interpretations of the constitutional era.
"Journal of American History"
A fascinating collection of essays, abundantly illustrating the vigor of current scholarship on the making of the Constitution.
A fascinating collection of essays, abundantly illustrating the vigor of current scholarship on the making of the Constitution.--Forrest McDonald
This excellent collection offers well-written, updated, scholarly interpretations of the constitutional era by some of the leading authorities in the field.--Journal of American History
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Gordon Wood, in "Interests and Disinterestedness," dissects the pretensions of the Federalists in their attempt to incorporate their "virtue" and "disinterest" into the Constitution, while taking steps to restrain the direct political voice of "middling" folk. As the author notes, anti-Federalists saw through their rhetoric, correctly understood the aristocratic implications, and disputed their claims of disinterestedness. In fact, the unruly democracy of the ensuing decades seems to vindicate the strength of the anti-Federalists, despite their lack of success in stopping the ratification.
Lance Banning, in "The Practical Sphere of a Republic," emphasizes the learning that took place at the Convention. Madison's nationalism became transformed - a middle ground was achieved. His "practical sphere of a republic" became a "federal system of republics... where the will of the majority would be refined and purified by passing it successively through different filters. Authority would be distributed among two sets of government branches, state and general."
Paul Finkelman, in "Slavery and the Constitutional Convention," clearly demonstrates the impact that slavery had in almost every significant issue debated in the Convention. In the end, Southerners gained protections and accommodations for slavery, while conceding little. The three-fifths clause gave the Southern states added power in Congress and well as in the electoral college. Their cash crops for export would not be taxed. And the remainder of the nation was required to deliver up fugitives and come to the aid against any slave insurrections. Objections to these provisions were minimal. The northern states only gained the right to pass commercial legislation by a simple majority. Of course, all of this only delayed a final, ferocious reckoning.
"The Structure of Politics at the Accession of George Washington," by Jack Rakove, has nothing to do with Washington but is an interesting examination of whether the Constitution was actually structured such that it would serve as a "filtration of talent" for those gaining political office - a desire of the elites at the Convention - and, if so, was that end accomplished. The author first notes that the Constitution imposes no property requirements for holding office or for voting, and, furthermore, leaves to the states the manner of electing Congressmen, be it by district or statewide. The first Congress was largely made up of prominent citizens, but what became evident rather quickly was the impermanency of membership, which undermined the notion of elite, professional legislators. The author says that "there never was a time when the political system operated solely as a filter of talent or when expedient calculations did not enter forthrightly into decisions to enter or leave Congress." Also, the ratification process unleashed popular politics, the effects of which have been with us ever since.
Richard Ellis, in "The Persistence of Anti-federalism after 1789, " indicates that anti-federalism did not disappear after the ratification process, but became a strain in the Jefferson-led Republican Party that formed an opposition to Jefferson's and Madison's nationalism. They were united in their opposition to the Federalism of Hamilton and Adams. The anti-Federalist wing remained committed to the so-called "Principles of 1798" and sought a rollback of centralized power when Jefferson was elected. That did not happen and they became known as the Old Republicans. According to the author, the "1820s saw a major revival of democratic, agrarian, and states' right thought. The election of Andrew Jackson was essentially the culmination of that movement and deposed the New Republicans and their interest in expanding the influence of the central government.
In the culminating essay, "A Roof without Walls," by John Murrin, the American identification with Britain along with the improbabilities of separating is discussed. Regional discord was such that the author suggests that "American national identity was, in short, an unexpected, impromptu, artificial, and therefore extremely fragile creation of the Revolution." But the Constitution was a transforming event. "The Constitution became a substitute for any deeper kind of national identity." In actuality, the Constitution served to buy time for Americans to become a nation. In the author's words, "Americans erected their constitutional roof before they put up the national walls."
The book is a nice supplement for those pursuing a deeper understanding of our constitutional founding and its unanticipated turns.