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The Creation of the American Republic, 1776-1787

The Creation of the American Republic, 1776-1787

Written by Gordon S. Wood

Narrated by Joel Richards


The Creation of the American Republic, 1776-1787

Written by Gordon S. Wood

Narrated by Joel Richards

ratings:
4.5/5 (6 ratings)
Length:
24 hours
Publisher:
Released:
May 1, 2018
ISBN:
9781977375421
Format:
Audiobook

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Also available as bookBook

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Also available as bookBook

Description

This classic work explains the evolution of American political thought from the Declaration of Independence to the ratification of the Constitution. In so doing, it greatly illuminates the origins of the present American political system.

Publisher:
Released:
May 1, 2018
ISBN:
9781977375421
Format:
Audiobook

Also available as...

Also available as bookBook

About the author

Gordon S. Wood is Alva O. Way University Professor and Professor of History at Brown University.


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  • (4/5)

    1 person found this helpful

    A magisterial overlook at the history and concepts behind the formation of the United States. Apparently this is assigned to grad students, but I had this crammed in undergrad.

    The historical and ideological roots of early American thought were numerous - the classical Republics of antiquity, mercantile republics such as the Venetians and Dutch, and of course, the English mixed semi-constitutional monarchy. The colonies, even after taxation, were still incredibly prosperous. The main factor in revolution was that of external hegemony, arbitrary tyranny, and corruption leading to rule from outside instead of self-determination.

    One of Wood's main concepts is the history of republicanism, the ideology of republics. The majority of American liberal democratic foundations are derived from such. Civic virtue (enforcement against corruption), public welfare, safety- a 'Christian Sparta', a sort of community-oriented civic virtue against political wrong-doing. This was to be entrenched with the writing of the Constitution and the development of new political institutions where others (Montesquieu) had only theorized before.

    This, of course, led to Madison's ideal of the compound republic, popular sovereignty, the rule of law, separation of powers, discussions on the roles of conventions and referendums, etc.

    Of course, these ideal visions had a harsh collision with reality. The Articles of Confederation were a catastrophe, leading to too much of a division of power. There also developed a sort of 'democratic despotism', where an educated wealthy elite was able to ascend to high office more quickly and this dominate political discussion.

    Some of these problems were alleviated with the implementation of the Constitution - bicameral legislature, judicial review, a balance between federal power and individual liberty, etc., but there was still much room to err. The question of representation between states led to the later struggles over popular sovereignty and the rights of the minority which led to the Civil War and beyond. The struggles of plutocracy in government are still with us.

    Based on the sheer number of sources Wood draws from, it would be a mischaracterization to say that the early days produced a grand unified political theory, to be preserved. Instead, it is a piecemeal collection, but a beginning in itself, an attempt to separate and balance against the competing interests of society. No society of this size can be characterized as homogeneous. But that is all right. So long as all relieve fair representation. Even 230 years later, we're not quite there yet, and the current catastrophic misadventure in Congress shows how dangerous Madison's and Jefferson's conception of 'factionalism' can be. It is far far far from perfect. But it's a good start. As for the ultimate future of the American experiment, it is too early to tell.

    1 person found this helpful