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

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. unique criminal student Garrett Epps--himself an award-winning novelist--disagrees. it really is approximately 7,500 phrases. And Doctorow "missed a great deal of excessive rhetoric, many literary tropes, or even a hint of, if no longer wit, a minimum of irony," he writes. americans may perhaps venerate the structure, "but all too seldom is it read."

In American Epic, Epps takes us via an entire examining of the Constitution--even the "boring" parts--to in achieving an appreciation of its energy and a holistic figuring out of what it says. during this e-book he seeks to not supply a definitive interpretation, yet to hear the language and consider its which means. He attracts on 4 modes of studying: scriptural, felony, lyric, and epic. The Constitution's first 3 phrases, for instance, sound spiritual--but Epps unearths them to be extra aspirational than prayer-like. "Prayers are addressed to a person . . . both a mundane 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 ideas for presidential appointment of officials, for instance, yet now not elimination. may still the Senate approve each one firing? Can it withdraw its "advice and consent" and strength a resignation? And he demanding situations himself, as visible in his remarkable dialogue of the protection of Marriage Act (DOMA) in mild of Article four, which orders states to offer "full religion and credits" to the acts of alternative states.

Wry, unique, and wonderful, American Epic is a scholarly and literary travel de strength.

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

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Representation was important. It fixed the level of a state’s influence, not merely in the House but, as we shall see, in the selection of the president. The Framers were scrupulous about ensuring that the states’ levels of representation would be awarded based on their actual population. The British Parliament was apportioned with grotesque inequality. ” Some of them would elect one Member even though there were fewer than a dozen qualified voters; giant cities would have only one Member, or even worse be lumped in with rural counties in a single district.

Legislative secrecy was considered a requirement of good government, at least for some things. ) The two houses have come to hold most of their sessions in public, broadcast on television for all to see; but the Constitution does not require them ever to do so. They had to maintain a journal of their actions and votes, though they could omit “such Parts [of their proceedings] as may in their Judgment require Secrecy” and they must, if one-fifth of the members present asked, publish their individual votes in the journal.

Little wonder, then, that the legislative branch may have seemed to the Framers the most important to define. Article I sets up the structure and powers of the Congress, and in so doing offers not only a picture of America’s assembly but of the nation it is assembled from. 8 A r ti cl e I 9 Here is the structure: Sections One through Six set up the ways in which Congress is to be elected and empowers each House to set up its own internal structure. Section Seven describes how a legislative measure is to become law.

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