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Beyond Confederation: Origins of the…

Beyond Confederation: Origins of the Constitution and American National…

by Richard R. Beeman (Editor), Stephen Botein (Editor), Edward C. Carter, II (Editor)

Other authors: Lance Banning (Contributor), Stephen Botein (Contributor), Richard D. Brown (Contributor), Richard E. Ellis (Contributor), Paul Finkelman (Contributor)7 more, Stanley N. Katz (Contributor), Ralph Lerner (Contributor), Drew R. McCoy (Contributor), John M. Murrin (Contributor), Jack N. Rakove (Contributor), Janet A. Riesman (Contributor), Gordon S. Wood (Contributor)

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Stephen Botein, "Religious Dimensions of the Early American State," in Richard R. Beeman, et al., Beyond Confederation (Chapel Hill, 1987), 315-330.

Opens with the 1984 presidential election, in which church-state relations assumed center stage. Little had been written on this topic by historians in the previous decades. This represented a grand evasion of religion as an issue in American life and government. Admitting that the Constitution of 1787 was remarkably secular for the time, Botein notes the religious overtones of the various state constitutions. Indeed the states were vociferous in protecting Christianity, outlawing blasphemy, protecting the Sabbath, proclaiming official days of thanksgiving, and other local protections of Christian religion. The federal constitution, by contrast was not anti-religious rather it was secular. Botein finds it surprising that there was not more criticism of this secularity. He finds the reason for the acceptance of this secularity in the very weakness of the federal government at that point. Such institutions as congressional chaplains were seen more like extensions of military chaplains, rather than as some grand pronouncement of national faith. Indeed, even early federal exhortation to the observance of religiously significant holidays was more of a "recommendation" than a proclamation. As the power of the national government grew, so too did the expectation of the pious that it exert a stronger role in religion. By the 1860s, as the federal government had become even stronger, there was a concerted effort (which failed) to put the Christian God back in the constitution. Botein concludes that the secularity of the federal constitution did not reflect any godlessness in the general political culture, but that given today's circumstances we should be hesitant to change that secularity.
  mdobe | Jul 24, 2011 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Beeman, Richard R.Editorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Botein, StephenEditormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Carter, Edward C., IIEditormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Banning, LanceContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Botein, StephenContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Brown, Richard D.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ellis, Richard E.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Finkelman, PaulContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Katz, Stanley N.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lerner, RalphContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
McCoy, Drew R.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Murrin, John M.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Rakove, Jack N.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Riesman, Janet A.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Wood, Gordon S.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0807841722, Paperback)

Beyond Confederation scrutinizes the ideological background of the U.S. Constitution, the rigors of its writing and ratification, and the problems it both faced and provoked immediately after ratification. The essays in this collection question much of the heritage of eighteenth-century constitutional thought and suggest that many of the commonly debated issues have led us away from the truly germane questions. The authors challenge many of the traditional generalizations and the terms and scope of that debate as well.

The contributors raise fresh questions about the Constitution as it enters its third century. What happened in Philadelphia in 1787, and what happened in the state ratifying conventions? Why did the states—barely—ratify the Constitution? What were Americans of the 1789s attempting to achieve? The exploratory conclusions point strongly to an alternative constitutional tradition, some of it unwritten, much of it rooted in state constitutional law; a tradition that not only has redefined the nature and role of the Constitution but also has placed limitations on its efficacy throughout American history.

The authors are Lance Banning, Richard Beeman, Stephen Botein, Richard D. Brown, Richard E. Ellis, Paul Finkelman, Stanley N. Katz, Ralph Lerner, Drew R. McCoy, John M. Murrin, Jack N. Rakove, Janet A. Riesman, and Gordon S. Wood.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:14 -0400)

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