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WHAT KIND OF NATION

THOMAS JEFFERSON, JOHN MARSHALL, AND THE EPIC STRUGGLE TO CREATE A UNITED STATES

Simon’s excellent venture in legal and political history illuminates both the roots of an ongoing controversy and the...

From NYU law professor Simon: a lucid account of the clash between two strong-willed men and two sharply divergent political tendencies.

Jefferson, writes Simon (The Center Holds: The Power Struggle Inside the Rehnquist Court, 1995; Law/NYU), had a profound distrust for centralized authority, be it king or Congress, and a nagging suspicion that “the Constitution was an invitation to monarchy.” To counter the growing power of the Federalists, he organized the Democratic-Republican Party and set about vigorously protesting such legislation as the Jay Treaty of 1794 and the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798. (Though he believed the second law gave too much power to the federal government, Simon notes, Jefferson “did not object to selective prosecutions of his political critics under state seditious libel laws.”) Jefferson reserved special contempt for his chief Federalist bugaboo, fellow Virginian John Marshall, whom he derided for “acting under the mask of Republicanism” and exhibiting “lax lounging manners.” As legislator and later as Supreme Court justice, Marshall would repay the compliment by contesting Jefferson at every turn, suspecting that he sought to weaken the power of the federal government and especially the executive in order to increase his personal power. Marshall’s opposition came perhaps nowhere more forcibly than in his formulation of the federal judiciary’s decision in the 1803 case of Marbury v. Madison, which ruled that the court alone was responsible for determining what was or was not constitutional and could strike down congressional legislation and executive orders on constitutional grounds. Simon notes that the debate between the two political philosophies, arraying states’ rights on one hand and federal power on the other, has been a constant in American political history, though, as he writes, the uses to which Jefferson’s states’-rights arguments have been put “would probably have appalled the nation’s third president.”

Simon’s excellent venture in legal and political history illuminates both the roots of an ongoing controversy and the characters of two great historic figures.

Pub Date: March 7, 2002

ISBN: 0-684-84870-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2001

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KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON

THE OSAGE MURDERS AND THE BIRTH OF THE FBI

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

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Greed, depravity, and serial murder in 1920s Oklahoma.

During that time, enrolled members of the Osage Indian nation were among the wealthiest people per capita in the world. The rich oil fields beneath their reservation brought millions of dollars into the tribe annually, distributed to tribal members holding "headrights" that could not be bought or sold but only inherited. This vast wealth attracted the attention of unscrupulous whites who found ways to divert it to themselves by marrying Osage women or by having Osage declared legally incompetent so the whites could fleece them through the administration of their estates. For some, however, these deceptive tactics were not enough, and a plague of violent death—by shooting, poison, orchestrated automobile accident, and bombing—began to decimate the Osage in what they came to call the "Reign of Terror." Corrupt and incompetent law enforcement and judicial systems ensured that the perpetrators were never found or punished until the young J. Edgar Hoover saw cracking these cases as a means of burnishing the reputation of the newly professionalized FBI. Bestselling New Yorker staff writer Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, 2010, etc.) follows Special Agent Tom White and his assistants as they track the killers of one extended Osage family through a closed local culture of greed, bigotry, and lies in pursuit of protection for the survivors and justice for the dead. But he doesn't stop there; relying almost entirely on primary and unpublished sources, the author goes on to expose a web of conspiracy and corruption that extended far wider than even the FBI ever suspected. This page-turner surges forward with the pacing of a true-crime thriller, elevated by Grann's crisp and evocative prose and enhanced by dozens of period photographs.

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-385-53424-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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