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Benjamin Franklin once characterized democracy as "two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch." While tyranny of the majority has been one aspect of the American Experiment, this has been counterbalanced by a spirit of compromise. Both extremes and various gradations in between are evident in the 52 chapters of this "rhetorical collection." Presenting excerpts of speeches delivered in the House of Representatives and the Senate, this volume seeks to give readers "a window into how Congress, seemingly constituting a cross-section of society, has wrestled with some of the most thorny questions facing American democracy." Such monumental issues as war, slavery, impeachment of the President, amendments to the Constitution, and other bones of contention illuminate the legislative process. Arranged chronologically, each segment opens with a two-page introductory essay that affords a historical snapshot of the country at that moment and the opposing forces that led to the legislation in question. A set of representative arguments, one for, one against, comes next. The verbatim transcripts, taken from the Congressional Record and other official sources, give a wonderful immediacy to what some might consider dull as dishwater. Special features include "The Final Vote" box with breakdown of yea or nay by chamber and political party for most debates and an extensive bibliography. Stathis, who is currently a senior staff member at the Congressional Research Service, has spent nearly 40 years as a congressional historian and is thus well acquainted with the subject matter. Likewise, CQ Press has specialized in publishing federal government reference books since 1945. Nothing similarappears to have been published recently, although the full text of speeches going back to 1873 has been available in the Congressional Record (Government Printing Office) and the Congressional Globe and Annals of Congress before that.
—Michael F. Bemis