- Paperback: 304 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (January 16, 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0195156285
- ISBN-13: 978-0195156287
- Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 0.7 x 6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,796,880 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Our Secret Constitution: How Lincoln Redefined American Democracy 1st Edition
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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.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
In George Fletcher's newest book, he tells the history of our constitution and demonstrates the importance of the U.S. Civil War, and particularly Lincoln's war rhetoric, in transforming both the constitution and the country. Its most compelling effect, Fletcher argues, was to transform the fundamental role of government from primarily securing freedom of the citizen to also promoting fairness and equality among citizens. The echoes of this transformation in the constitutional structures of the United States can be heard to this day in our arguments over religious tolerance, free speech, abortion, even the recent elections.
There is much to contend with in this book, which in the spirit of full disclosure, this reviewer read in draft form. Some will find Fletcher's definition of "constitution" to be too broad. Some will find his notion of equality as a cardinal American virtue to be unworkable or improper, regardless of its historical pedigree. Some will disagree with Fletcher's historiography. None will be able fairly to reject his arguments without conceding their significance.
Building, and in many cases greatly extending, the work of historians such as Eric Foner and constitutional scholars such as Bruce Ackerman, Fletcher, a Columbia Law Professor, has written a compelling and controversial argument.
"...we resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain..."
Prof. Fletcher's book will enable its readers to become far better informed on this critical subject.
Fletcher is correct in that Lincoln created a "second constitution." But fails when he claims the second is far superior to the "first constitution." In truth the first protected "liberty at the expense of government," while Lincoln's constitution trashed liberty at the expense of We the People, and made slaves of all citizens. If you can't "leave," you ain't free!! Today Americans are prisoners of Lincoln's constitution and the huge bureaucratic centralized government that followed. To insure Lincoln's Constitution became the rule of law, Lincoln took up arms and murdered over 300,000 southerners.
In the end Fletcher trashes the Southern Point of View and the Founding Father's Constitution. An amazing feat to accomplish both in one book. Fletcher's adoration and praise for Eric Foner in the Introduction makes this book suspect and downright useless for historical purposes.
Claiming to view the war from a southern point of view Fletcher misleads many and guides most to the Lincoln Cult's point of view. Only the true Southerner will be able to see fact from fiction in this book. My opinion is Fletcher has written another Yankee revisionist version of the War for South Independence.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
(excerpted from The Independent Review, Summer 2003)
George Fletcher's efforts can be viewed most profitably as an unmasking of U.S. constitutional development. Read more
Fletcher makes some interesting arguments about how America is conflicted by its drive towards equality and freedom, since the two ideals cannot coexist perfectly at the same time. Read morePublished on December 11, 2002
The blurbs on the back give this book away. Law teachers and lawyers think it is excellent. No historians are included in any of this praise. Read morePublished on April 8, 2002 by Phillip Shaw Paludan