April 3, 2011
BOOK OF THE WEEK: WEEK FOURTEEN, 2011
Maier, Pauline, Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution, 1787-1788 (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2010) ("In the course of studying ratification, I also came to realize that few adult Americans have read the Constitution, at least since they were in high school, if then. I'll confess a person dream that the book will make them better acquainted with the document (understanding, of course, that some provisions have since been changed.) I propose voluntary quiz after finishing the book." Id. at xv. "The Bill of Rights we have is, however, different in many ways from the one the Constitution's critics wanted. It says nothing about 'no taxation without representation' and 'no standing armies in time of peace.' And it now takes historical imagination to understand how people could have understood the preservation of the rights of the states as a way of protecting individual rights. The state legislatures have served that role--for example, by passing personal liberty laws before the Civil War to secure the fundamental judicial rights of person accused of being runaway slaves under the federal fugitive slave laws of 1793 and 1850. Nonetheless, 'states rights' today seem more firmly associated with the defense of slavery, disenfranchisement of black voters, and resistance to integration." Id. at 467. "Congress and the courts have given many rights, including freedom of speech and of the press, a more expanded meaning and have extended civil liberties to far more people . . . than most Americans of the Revolutionary era anticipated. American rights and American freedoms were not a gift of the country's 'founding fathers.' They are and have always been a work in progress." Id. at 467. Also, see generally Richard Brookhiser's review, "Nation-Building," NYT Book Review, Sunday, 10/31/2010.).