Download American Epic: Reading the U.S. Constitution by Garrett Epps PDF

By Garrett Epps

In 1987, E.L. Doctorow celebrated the Constitution's bicentennial via interpreting it. "It is 5 thousand phrases lengthy yet reads like fifty thousand," he acknowledged. wonderful criminal pupil Garrett Epps--himself an award-winning novelist--disagrees. it truly is approximately 7,500 phrases. And Doctorow "missed a great deal of excessive rhetoric, many literary tropes, or even a hint of, if now not wit, at the very least irony," he writes. americans might venerate the structure, "but all too seldom is it read."

In American Epic, Epps takes us via an entire analyzing of the Constitution--even the "boring" parts--to in attaining an appreciation of its energy and a holistic knowing of what it says. during this publication he seeks to not supply a definitive interpretation, yet to hear the language and examine its which means. He attracts on 4 modes of interpreting: scriptural, criminal, lyric, and epic. The Constitution's first 3 phrases, for instance, sound spiritual--but Epps reveals them to be extra aspirational than prayer-like. "Prayers are addressed to an individual . . . both a secular king or a divine lord, and nice care is taken to call the addressee. . . . This does the opposite. The speaker is 'the people,' the phrases addressed to the realm at large." He turns the second one modification right into a poem to light up its ambiguity. He notices oddities and omissions. The structure lays out principles for presidential appointment of officials, for instance, yet no longer elimination. should still the Senate approve each one firing? Can it withdraw its "advice and consent" and strength a resignation? And he demanding situations himself, as obvious in his incredible dialogue of the security of Marriage Act (DOMA) in mild of Article four, which orders states to provide "full religion and credits" to the acts of different states.

Wry, unique, and astonishing, American Epic is a scholarly and literary journey de strength.

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Extra resources for American Epic: Reading the U.S. Constitution

Example text

The people seek to “establish” justice, and in order to do so they do now—not in the future but at the moment they speak—“establish” the Constitution. To “establish” a government means to set it up; but it means something more, and in 1787 meant it even more strongly. “Establishment” referred to churches—more than half of the thirteen states had established churches, official links between God and the state supported by tax funds. Not very long before, established churches had enforced conformity with fire and the rope.

Members of Congress vote (even if the session was held in secret, the votes would be made public) on their own salaries and are held to account for them. ) Next, they cannot be arrested for any but the most serious crimes while attending sessions or going to and fro. This immunity protects Congress from both the president and the courts. It was the upshot of centuries of battle between the English Crown and Parliament. At the outset of the English Civil War, for example, Charles I entered Parliament with the intention of arresting five dissenting Members who were thought to be planning a bill of impeachment against A r ti cl e I 17 the queen.

We are being addressed by ourselves, looking into our own faces; we are being welcomed to a party where we are not only honored guests but also hosts. Who remembers what is said at a party? Often we don’t even remember the occasion—was it a birthday, a wedding? What we remember are smiling faces, warmth, and the feeling of belonging. There are two problems with these words. First, the Constitution may not be in fact our party; and, second, in this context, both the occasion and the speeches matter as much as the glow of fellowship.

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