AMERICA'S FORGOTTEN CONSTITUTIONS by Robert L. Tsai

AMERICA'S FORGOTTEN CONSTITUTIONS

Defiant Visions of Power and Community

KIRKUS REVIEW

Tsai (Law/American Univ.; Eloquence and Reason: Creating a First Amendment Culture, 2008, etc.) examines eight instances of dissenting constitutions written by groups representing cultural attitudes out of the norm seeking unconventional sovereignty.

These groups seeking self-rule knew that a written constitution was a means of ordering their society and that it would shape how their ideas and values would unfold. Each was based on the United States Constitution of 1787, with changes, as the Confederacy stated, to “a few erroneous sentences.” The first constitution was an attempt at pioneer sovereignty in 1832, when the area of Indian Stream (between modern-day Quebec and New Hampshire) set up its own republic, rejecting not only the borders of New Hampshire and Vermont, but also ties to Canada or the United States. John Brown sought an ethical sovereignty, while the Confederacy of the Southern states pursued cultural supremacy. In the mid-1800s, a group of French sought to found an Icarian society of ethical sovereignty based on a moral code (what we might now call a cult). In 1905, the Native Americans of the Oklahoma Territory wrote the Sequoyah constitution in hopes of having a separate Indian state of tribal sovereignty admitted to the union; their document was used as the template for Oklahoma’s constitution. After World War II, a group from the University of Chicago tried to better the United Nations charter with a plan for global governance, which unfortunately required the dismantling of nation-states. The civil rights movement fostered the Republic of New Afrika in the late 1960s. In 2006, a group of Aryans gathered in the Pacific Northwest to form an all-white community. Each of these groups sought cultural survival and failed as they settled for flawed solutions.

The author succinctly explains each of these constitutions with the thoroughness of a legal mind and writing that avoids legalese.

Pub Date: April 7th, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-674-05995-5
Page count: 310pp
Publisher: Harvard Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 2014




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