Revered today for articulating America's founding principles, the first ten amendments--the Bill of Rights--was in fact a political stratagem executed by James Madison to preserve the Constitution, the Federal government, and the latter's authority over the states. Read more...
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Revered today for articulating America's founding principles, the first ten amendments--the Bill of Rights--was in fact a political stratagem executed by James Madison to preserve the Constitution, the Federal government, and the latter's authority over the states. In the skilled hands of award-winning historian Carol Berkin, the story of the Founders' fight over the Bill of Rights comes alive in a gripping drama of partisan politics, acrimonious debate, and manipulated procedure. From this familiar story of a Congress at loggerheads, an important truth emerges.
In 1789, the young nation faced a great ideological divide around a question still unanswered today: should broad power and authority reside in the federal government or should it reside in state governments? The Bill of Rights, from protecting religious freedom and the people's right to bear arms to reserving unenumerated rights to the states, was a political ploy first, and matter of principle second. How and why Madison came to devise this plan, the divisive debates it fostered in the Congress, and its ultimate success in defeating antifederalist counterplans to severely restrict the powers of the federal government is more engrossing than any of the myths that shroud our national beginnings.
The debate over the founding fathers' original intent still continues through myriad Supreme Court decisions. By pulling back the curtain on the political, short-sighted, and self-interested intentions of the founding fathers in passing the Bill of Rights, Berkin reveals the inherent weakness in these arguments and what it means for our country today.
- ISBN-13: 9781476743790
- ISBN-10: 1476743797
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster
- Publish Date: May 2015
- Page Count: 272
- Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.2 x 0.9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 0.9 pounds
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2015-03-30
- Reviewer: Staff
Berkin (Wondrous Beauty), a professor of history at Baruch College and the CUNY Graduate Center, provides a narrative history of two critical constitutional moments in American history: the introduction and adoption by the first federal Congress of the Bill of Rights and the Bill’s rapid ratification by the states. She tells the story briskly, working from comprehensive sources, and she omits nothing of importance. The problem is that Berkin leaves it at that, assuming that a story reveals its significance simply by being told. Readers won’t gather from her account that there are any concerns or controversies over decisions made in that initial Congress—principally by James Madison, then leader of the House of Representatives, but also by his colleagues. Did those men err in some of their choices? Americans have endlessly debated parts of the Bill, especially the Second Amendment of late, while venerating others, such as the First; Berkin briefly alludes to such matters but makes no connection between them and the Bill’s framers. This is narrative, celebratory history at its purest. What it lacks is a point of view in addition to the story. (May)