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

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

By Garrett Epps

In 1987, E.L. Doctorow celebrated the Constitution's bicentennial by way of analyzing it. "It is 5 thousand phrases lengthy yet reads like fifty thousand," he stated. extraordinary felony 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, a minimum of irony," he writes. american citizens may possibly venerate the structure, "but all too seldom is it read."

In American Epic, Epps takes us via a whole analyzing of the Constitution--even the "boring" parts--to in attaining an appreciation of its strength and a holistic realizing of what it says. during this booklet he seeks to not supply a definitive interpretation, yet to hear the language and contemplate its that means. He attracts on 4 modes of interpreting: scriptural, felony, lyric, and epic. The Constitution's first 3 phrases, for instance, sound spiritual--but Epps reveals them to be extra aspirational than prayer-like. "Prayers are addressed to anyone . . . both a secular 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 ideas for presidential appointment of officials, for instance, yet no longer removing. 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 obvious in his outstanding dialogue of the safeguard of Marriage Act (DOMA) in gentle of Article four, which orders states to offer "full religion and credits" to the acts of different states.

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

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Extra resources for American Epic: Reading the U.S. Constitution

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Declarations of war are now obsolete, thanks to the United Nations Charter—but in their time they were a formal legal declaration that a “state of war” existed between two powers, triggering certain rights and obligations on both sides. Congress had that legal authority; but it is not precisely the same as having the exclusive authority to decide on, plan, and carry out military operations. The Constitution nowhere bestows or withholds the power to “make war,” which has given rise to long and bitter infighting between the president and Congress.

But when they spelled out their purpose, “trade” and “prosperity” were not mentioned. The document’s stated aims are wholly public, not private. “We the people” hope for justice, security, and liberty, not for wealth. Another idea is strikingly absent. “All men are created equal,” the Declaration of Independence had said. The Preamble makes no such claim. The new nation is to have security, order, law, liberty—but these things can exist without equality. ” “We the people” show no disposition to disturb this state of affairs.

Though the Constitution required a majority of members as a quorum to do official business, it allowed each House to set “a smaller Number” to close meetings, or to convene and then demand (by force if necessary, as was often the case in the early history of parliaments) that members attend. Each house would be the final judge of election results for its seats; but once a member was seated, he (or she) could only be expelled by a two-thirds vote. Each house could also set its own rules and discipline its own members in unspecified ways short of expulsion.

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