American Founding Character Analysis 1433 Words | 6 Pages. When the 13 United States of America declared independence from the United Kingdom in 1776, the founders were attempting to break free from the … “The last place they (the founders) preferred to place sovereignty over the document they drafted that summer of 1787,” writes Ellis, “was the Supreme Court, the most unrepresentative branch of the government and the most removed from the well-spring of ultimate authority called ‘the People.’”. They were too academic for my taste; too often, I found myself backing up and re-reading not just a sentence or paragraph, but sometimes a page(s) in an attempt to regain my concentration. “Immaculate Misconceptions” focuses on the Supreme Court, historically juxtaposing Madison’s “Living Constitution” with Robert Bork’s’ “originalist” interpretations of the Constitution, a legal doctrine Justice Antonin Scalia favored. The founders have much to tell us about current problems, none of it simple, according to this incisive study of American political creeds. Ellis ends his scholarly and lively historical analysis and critique with Morris: “Morris’s words ‘We the people’ provide an answering echo on the other side of the American Dialogue, sounding the parallel truth that our rights and responsibilities coexist in a collective whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.”. In his volume, Slavery and the Founders: Race and Liberty in the Age of Jefferson, Paul Finkelman provides a fine antidote for a portion of that ignorance. Joseph Ellis and Doris Kearns Goodwin are both 75-year-old Pulitzer Prize-winning historians whose successful careers have come from writing acclaimed biographies. This decision was an example of Madison’s “Living Constitution” rather than Bork/Scalia “originalism” and is generally considered the landmark Supreme Court decision of the twentieth century because it launched the movement for a racially integrated society. Ellis concludes his examinations of “Immaculate Misconceptions” with a stiff dose of the NOW: “The fate of 320 million Americans will be decided by five judges who, citing nineteenth-century dictionaries to translate words from an eighteenth-century document, misguidedly claim they are the only channeling the wisdom of the fathers.”. Ellis cites the two most striking cases, both involving race. With Washington, U.S. domestic policy also became foreign policy, especially with western expansion. To illustrate the political direction of the conservative court, Ellis focuses on three controversial recent Supreme Court decisions that have given the Supreme Court a place of prominence in America’s political culture: —Bush v. Gore (2001) awarded the presidency to Bush, the only time in history the Supreme Court had exercised that power; —District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) overturned two centuries of legal precedents to expand the reach of the Second Amendment; —Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010) overturned a century of precedents regarding campaign finance by expanding the reach of the First Amendment’s right to free speech to corporate money. Copyright LibraryThing and/or members of LibraryThing, authors, publishers, libraries, cover designers, Amazon, Bol, Bruna, etc. A key to the tragedies is inability of the patriarchs to imagine a bi-racial state, as Ellis clearly explicates. Focusing on what our first presidents said and did provides a much-needed breathing exercise for today’s politically overwhelmed reader, which should cause most to accept Joseph Ellis’ ultimate conclusion that, “as a lovely song once put it, the fundamental things apply, as time goes by.”. Each chapter has a THEN and NOW section. Enter your email address to subscribe to The East Village Magazine and receive notifications of new posts by email. In the NOW of “At Peace with War” Ellis offers several compelling questions about the state of today’s foreign policy, ending with these two: “Is America’s seventy-year reign at the top ending?” and “Are there any voices from the founding still sufficiently resonant to point in a different direction?”, To add insight to these queries, Ellis cites Robert D. Kaplan, a prominent student of American foreign policy. A very deep, contextual, and intelligent diagnosing of where we are at TODAY as well as where we were at YESTERDAY (yesterday being the Revolution War timeframe, primarily 1770s-1790s). The emergence of the financial sector tracks the increase in economic inequality.” Ellis concludes with: “John Adams tried to tell us that outcome was virtually inevitable over two centuries ago.”. Although Jefferson’s words are forever, Morris’s words enjoy a special relevance in our own troubled time, since they remind us that we rise or fall together, as a single people. Much of this book was fascinating but several parts of it seemed to simply restate the work of other authors like the journalist Jane Mayer. Washington was the first American statesman to face the contradiction: How can a republic, which is based on consensus, also be an empire, which is based on coercion? Thus, from Ellis’ vantage point, any attempt to derive a clear, steadfast perspective on the Founders’ intent is folly. Historically, the contradictory question blossoms with Washington, the primary architect of American foreign policy as evidenced in his Farewell Address (1796). Adams knew that even if men are born with equal rights, they don’t have equal power, faculties, and influence. Over the years I have preferred Chernow and Meacham, as just two examples, no less detailed and analytical but both a good deal more readable. This section of the book alone is worth the price of admission. Ellis emphasizes that the “fully flawed patriarchs” are to be remembered, but not canonized by citing three enduring contributions to political thought by the founders and two failures that were tragedies. This approach puts the reader in a position to grasp how understanding today’s controversial issues can be enhanced by learning how they were originally dealt with by the smartest guys in the room when the country first began facing its problems. Ellis put it this way: “Adams did not just read books, he battled them. In the NOW update of “At Peace with War,” the question goes like this: How can a democracy function as an imperial power? In “Our Gilded Age,” Ellis notes, we enter an era of the new embedded American aristocracy of wealth. This decision was not based on the intention and language of the framers, but rather on several sociological studies that concluded that segregation by race was inherently discriminatory. An exquisitely written conversion story which expounds upon personal and collective identity. This, it turned out, perhaps not so coincidentally, just happened to be “the adaptive genius of the Constitution itself.”. I think that he is right. While many of the finer points of American ideals are debated, it is generally agreed that the importance of these five ideals cannot be understated in terms of importance to American society. Nor is it less certain that the two races, equally free, cannot live in the same government. Much as he needed a Jefferson or Taylor to focus his contrarian temperment, books became the fixed objects against which he did his mental isometric exercises.” The difference between Jefferson and Adams, Ellis states, is that “while Jefferson searched for abiding, or even eternal principles, Adams looked for patterns and paradoxes.”. This fall, with at least three times the sand in the bottom of the hourglass compared to what’s on top, they have both decided to make their lifetimes of historical analysis more relevant by expressly connecting the dots between the past and now. With polarization ratcheting up with each passing day, and civil discourse becoming almost extinct, it’s a worthwhile exercise to revisit the treasured history of America’s early days as a republic. References to this work on external resources. Yes, there are many complex problems in recent years associated with there being too many African Americans stuck in poverty, shot by police, and rearing families without fathers (many of whom are in prison).

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