Constitutional Law

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

By Garrett Epps

In 1987, E.L. Doctorow celebrated the Constitution's bicentennial by means of analyzing it. "It is 5 thousand phrases lengthy yet reads like fifty thousand," he acknowledged. individual felony student 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 no longer wit, not less than irony," he writes. american citizens may well venerate the structure, "but all too seldom is it read."

In American Epic, Epps takes us via an entire interpreting of the Constitution--even the "boring" parts--to in achieving an appreciation of its strength and a holistic realizing of what it says. during this ebook he seeks to not offer a definitive interpretation, yet to hear the language and examine its that 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 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 no longer removing. should still the Senate approve every one firing? Can it withdraw its "advice and consent" and strength a resignation? And he demanding situations himself, as visible in his amazing dialogue of the security of Marriage Act (DOMA) in gentle of Article four, which orders states to provide "full religion and credits" to the acts of different states.

Wry, unique, and brilliant, American Epic is a scholarly and literary journey de force.

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In time of peace” except for a citizen militia. Standing armies were anathema to eighteenth-century republicans, seen as agents of the Crown against the people. Under the Constitution, however, Congress could raise, maintain, and govern an army in peacetime, so long as its appropriation of funds to do so did not extend for more than two years at a time. ” This sweeping grant of power meant that federalized militia could be used to subdue not only invaders and lawbreakers but also recalcitrant state governments—even in time of peace.

But no matter how many of their people the states chose to disfranchise, their representation in the House remained the same. Here the Constitution offers a picture of “the people” that snubs equality. Members of the House are to be awarded to states by “respective numbers,” that is, population, not by number of voters or of citizens. Even today, noncitizens, including “illegal” aliens, are counted in the division of House seats among the states. In numbers, if not in votes, the House represents not states, not citizens, not voters, but natural persons.

In the absence of this clause, Congress might have had more power in this area than it does with the clause. Monopolies are certainly regulations of commerce, and nothing anywhere else in the Constitution forbids the new government to grant monopolies and copyrights, of indefinite term if it chose.  . ” 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.

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