From Publishers Weekly
Garry Wills and others have described the Gettysburg Address as a redefinition of American democracy. Fletcher (With Justice for Some) argues that this unprecedented document, along with the three Reconstruction amendments (i.e., the 13th, 14th and 15th ) to the Constitution, form the core of a "second Constitution," based on "organic nationhood, equality of all persons, and popular democracy... principles radically opposed" to those of the first Constitution, which promulgated "peoplehood as a voluntary association, individual freedom, and republican litism." Despite a superficial crudity in this abstract opposition, Fletcher the Cardozo Professor of Jurisprudence at Columbia develops a powerful case for this second Constitution, born from the need for redemption under law for the nation's crime of slavery and blood spilled in civil war. Drawing parallels to France's Napoleonic Code civil in the aftermath of the Terror and to Germany's Basic Law following WWII and the Holocaust, Fletcher argues most persuasively that this second constitution is rooted in the idea of a religiously based higher law grounded in historical necessity. His argument that the second Constitution was driven underground, only to gradually reemerge, makes sense in terms of Supreme Court rulings and constitutional amendments cited, but slights substantial historical conflicts. Yet this hardly matters for his purpose in developing a novel perspective to expand our constitutional horizons and identify fundamental wrong turns such as the post-13th Amendment focus on supervising and correcting state governments, rather than directly ensuring equal protection and democratic rights, or the failure to use "all men are created equal" as a guiding maxim of constitutional interpretation. With subtlety and coherence, Fletcher presents a lively critique of constitutional law. Agent, Angela Miller.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
By carefully analyzing the words and deeds of Abraham Lincoln, Fletcher (law, Columbia Univ.) successfully portrays the birth of a new constitutional order that emerged from the blood and bullets of the Civil War. This new spirit of cohesion reflected Lincoln's zest for bringing together the interrelated elements of a political entity toward the goal of a common good and a higher order. The values of nationhood, equality, and democracy complement and support one another, and the Gettysburg Address brings these concepts together in a way that crystallizes the proposed new scheme of things. Juxtaposing themes also common to the Emancipation Proclamation, as well as two Inaugural Addresses, and an element of spirituality intrinsic to the Declaration of Independence, the author chronicles the ups and downs of Lincoln's attempt to establish a cornerstone for progress for the post-Civil War era. Fletcher probes the extent to which the universal principles so revered by Lincoln and so inherent in the 13th and 14th Amendments would emerge in the coming years and would indeed influence the outcome of struggles between the banal interests of state legislatures and the notion of a legal order of a higher magnitude, akin to the English common law, in shaping the nature of citizenship, the rights of minorities and women, and, most recently, the rights of voters to select a president. Fairly easy for general audiences to read, this book is recommended for public and academic libraries. Philip Y. Blue, New York State Supreme Court Criminal Branch Law Lib., New York
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.