Our Secret Constitution: How Lincoln Redefined American Democracy

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Oxford University Press, Jan 16, 2003 - Political Science - 304 pages
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Americans hate and distrust their government. At the same time, Americans love and trust their government. These contradictory attitudes are resolved by Fletcher's novel interpretation of constitutional history. He argues that we have two constitutions--still living side by side--one that caters to freedom and fear, the other that satisfied our needs for security and social justice. The first constitution came into force in 1789. It stresses freedom, voluntary association, and republican elitism. The second constitution begins with the Gettysburg Address and emphasizes equality, organic nationhood, and popular democracy. These radical differences between our two constitutions explain our ambivalence and self-contradictory attitudes toward government. With September 11 the second constitution--which Fletcher calls the Secret Constitution--has become ascendant. When America is under threat, the nation cultivates its solidarity. It overcomes its fear and looks to government for protection and the pursuit of social justice. Lincoln's messages of a strong government and a nation that must "long endure" have never been more relevant to American politics. "Fletcher's argument has intriguing implications beyond the sweeping subject of this profoundly thought-provoking book."--The Denver Post
 

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - hmskip - LibraryThing

The premise of this book is that Lincoln, in a couple of sentences in the Gettysburg address, introduced concepts which were later encoded in the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments. However, he further ... Read full review

OUR SECRET CONSTITUTION: How Lincoln Redefined American Democracy

User Review  - Kirkus

A novel consideration of American history offers a fresh view of a foundational document.Fletcher (Law/Columbia Univ.) argues that the Constitution cleaves into two ill-fitting parts, rather like the ... Read full review

Selected pages

Contents

REDEMPTION UNDER LAW
15
RADICAL GETTYSBURG
35
NATIONHOOD
57
LOYALTY AND BETRAYAL
75
EQUALITY
91
THE REVOLUTION THAT NEVER WAS
113
EQUALITY WITHOUT VISION
141
A MAXIM OF JUSTICE ITS BIRTH AND REBIRTH
165
THE SECRET CONSTITUTION RESURGENT
189
GOVERNMENT AS PARTNER AGAINST THE PAST
211
NEITHER BLUE OR GRAY
225
ELECTION BLUES 2OOO
231
N O T E S
261
INDEX
285
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References to this book

Citizen Lincoln
Ward McAfee
Limited preview - 2004
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About the author (2003)

George P. Fletcher is the Cardozo Professor of Jurisprudence at Columbia University School of Law. His books include Loyalty: An Essay on the Morality of Relationships. He lives in New York City.

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