A MACHINE THAT WOULD GO OF ITSELF: The Constitution in American Culture by Michael Kammen

A MACHINE THAT WOULD GO OF ITSELF: The Constitution in American Culture

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As the bicentenary recognition of the Constitution approaches in 1987, we are being treated to a spate of books on that subject. Few will be as welcome as this offering by Pulitzer-Prize-winning historian Kammen. Kammen (American History and Culture/Cornell) won that prize for People of Paradox in 1973; he has always stood out as a cultural historian and it is that approach that he takes here, as he describes the cultural impact that the Constitution has had on the people of America from ratification to the present. Kammen demonstrates that, in actuality, most people know very little about our ""Ark of the Covenant."" Indeed, most Americans confuse the Bill of Rights with the body of the Constitution itself, in the process revealing their concern for human rights over the specifics of government operations. As a result, Americans have always been willing to tamper with governmental structure in order to ensure that their rights not be abridged. Kammen warns against a constitutional convention, which some are calling for, as posing a triple threat to our governmental stability. First, because being unprecedented, no one knows what would happen; second, because the American people would have such little technical knowledge with which to appraise it; and third, because even the mention of such a thing in respectable circles tends to undermine the present Constitution. A fine memento for the grand document's 200th birthday.

Pub Date: Sept. 17th, 1986
Publisher: Knopf