A monumental project carried off to a high degree of excellence. Though it may be too lengthy for all but the most patient...

THE FRAMERS' COUP

THE MAKING OF THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION

A magisterial history of the creation of the United States Constitution.

By 1787, the American union was on its last legs, bankrupt, unable to tax or to wield military or economic power, and effectively unable to reform itself. That year's Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia was ostensibly intended to propose amendments to the governing Articles of Confederation. Instead, working in secret under the guidance of James Madison, the delegates quickly set out to overthrow the Articles and create a new, truly national government from scratch. The odds against the various interests represented agreeing on anything of substance were very long, and the odds against ratification of the result by 13 jealous states were longer still. In crisp, precise style, and without undue reverence for the framers or their handiwork, Klarman (Law/Harvard Univ.; From the Closet to the Altar: Courts, Backlash, and the Struggle for Same-Sex Marriage, 2012, etc.) explores in great depth, with ample illustrative quotations, the varying proposals and the heated arguments for and against them. Particularly striking are what a blank slate the framers started from and the proposals that were rejected, including term limits for congressmen and election of the president by state legislatures. The author explains how sectional and other rivalries drove the sometimes-unexpected compromises that made an acceptable draft possible. His descriptions of the political circumstances underlying the convention are thorough and helpful in understanding the delegates' contemporary concerns. Klarman also provides a lively account of the raw political maneuvering necessary to achieve ratification by a minimum of nine states from an electorate largely hostile to the enterprise, which created a much more powerful central government than expected, subordinated the role of the states, and insulated much of it from direct popular control.

A monumental project carried off to a high degree of excellence. Though it may be too lengthy for all but the most patient general reader, constitutional scholars will find this thorough and authoritative work indispensable reading.

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-19-994203-9

Page Count: 840

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: Aug. 3, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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