By Garrett Epps

ISBN-10: 0199974748

ISBN-13: 9780199974740

In 1987, E.L. Doctorow celebrated the Constitution's bicentennial by means of studying it. "It is 5 thousand phrases lengthy yet reads like fifty thousand," he acknowledged. exceptional criminal student Garrett Epps--himself an award-winning novelist--disagrees. it really is approximately 7,500 phrases. And Doctorow "missed a great deal of excessive rhetoric, many literary tropes, or even a hint of, if no longer wit, no less than irony," he writes. americans could venerate the structure, "but all too seldom is it read."

In American Epic, Epps takes us via an entire analyzing of the Constitution--even the "boring" parts--to in achieving an appreciation of its energy and a holistic figuring out of what it says. during this ebook he seeks to not supply a definitive interpretation, yet to hear the language and examine its that means. He attracts on 4 modes of examining: scriptural, criminal, lyric, and epic. The Constitution's first 3 phrases, for instance, sound spiritual--but Epps unearths them to be extra aspirational than prayer-like. "Prayers are addressed to anyone . . . both a mundane king or a divine lord, and nice care is taken to call the addressee. . . . This does the opposite. The speaker is 'the people,' the phrases addressed to the realm at large." He turns the second one modification right into a poem to light up its ambiguity. He notices oddities and omissions. The structure lays out principles for presidential appointment of officials, for instance, yet now not elimination. may still the Senate approve every one firing? Can it withdraw its "advice and consent" and strength a resignation? And he demanding situations himself, as visible in his dazzling dialogue of the security of Marriage Act (DOMA) in mild of Article four, which orders states to provide "full religion and credits" to the acts of different states.

Wry, unique, and unbelievable, American Epic is a scholarly and literary journey de strength.

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We the people” are thus not precisely impersonated but invoked. The act is not one of imposture but of aspiration—let me speak in the voice of the Muse, P reambl e 5 let me give voice to the spirit of the people. ” It has been too successful, in fact—for the Preamble was not only designed to give a kind of epic authorship to the Constitution but to spell out its purpose, to explain why “we the people” had brought it into being. Those purposes are as important as the invocation. Therein lies the distraction.

These were under the nominal protection of the United States and had no relationship to state governments They were not counted at all. ” We all know who they were—persons bound to service not for a “term of years” but for life, and for longer than life, because their status was hereditary. Slaves were to count at the ratio of three-fifths to one. Where did this “federal ratio” come from? It was not in the Articles of Confederation—no need for it; each state there had one and only one vote in Congress.

The new government, it would appear, is not the enemy of liberty but its chief agent and protector. 6 American Epic The purpose then, in its most plausible reading, is to create a strong, active, national government, one whose benefits will flow directly to the people who create it. “Limited government” as an idea receives at best an incidental nod; the states are nowhere to be found. It would seem legitimate to interpret the rest of the Constitution purposively, as a remedial statute is interpreted in terms of the evil it seeks to remedy.

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American Epic: Reading the U.S. Constitution by Garrett Epps


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