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

By Garrett Epps

In 1987, E.L. Doctorow celebrated the Constitution's bicentennial by way of studying it. "It is 5 thousand phrases lengthy yet reads like fifty thousand," he stated. unique felony pupil Garrett Epps--himself an award-winning novelist--disagrees. it 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, at the least irony," he writes. american citizens 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 attaining an appreciation of its energy and a holistic knowing of what it says. during this e-book he seeks to not offer a definitive interpretation, yet to hear the language and give some thought to its that means. He attracts on 4 modes of examining: 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 principles for presidential appointment of officials, for instance, yet no longer removing. 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 obvious in his stunning dialogue of the safeguard of Marriage Act (DOMA) in gentle of Article four, which orders states to provide "full religion and credits" to the acts of alternative states.

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

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

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Many Americans remember nothing of the Constitution’s Preamble but those words. They burst into the mind; they tell us we are reading no ordinary document, indeed not even an ordinary law. 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.

The departing Congress and president, even if repudiated by the voters, met in what came to be known as the “lame duck” Congress. These departing officials might make important decisions in December which, in the normal course, the new Congress and president would not have a chance to address until a year later. This problem could have been averted had the Framers specified the timetable more closely. ” It didn’t do so, probably because of a combination of institutional inertia, the growing reverence for constitutional text—and the fact that it was much safer for politicians to schedule legislative sessions months before elections, giving voters time to forgive and forget before they had to vote.

Thus the city of trade, which seems to be one nation rather than a complex of quasi-independent republics. The map of Congress’s city of war is more detailed and complex. ” It is customary to call it the “war power,” but it is not the power to “make war,” which would take in the power to initiate, direct, and conclude armed conflict. Declarations of war are now obsolete, thanks to the United Nations Charter—but in their time they were a formal legal declaration that a “state of war” existed between two powers, triggering certain rights and obligations on both sides.

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