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A Revolution in Favor of Government: Origins of the U.S. Constitution and the Making of the American State [NOOK Book]

Overview

What were the intentions of the Founders? Was the American constitution designed to protect individual rights? To limit the powers of government? To curb the excesses of democracy? Or to create a robust democratic nation-state? These questions echo through today's most heated legal and political debates.
In this powerful new interpretation of America's origins, Max Edling argues that the Federalists were primarily concerned with building a government that could act vigorously in...
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A Revolution in Favor of Government: Origins of the U.S. Constitution and the Making of the American State

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Overview

What were the intentions of the Founders? Was the American constitution designed to protect individual rights? To limit the powers of government? To curb the excesses of democracy? Or to create a robust democratic nation-state? These questions echo through today's most heated legal and political debates.
In this powerful new interpretation of America's origins, Max Edling argues that the Federalists were primarily concerned with building a government that could act vigorously in defense of American interests. The Constitution transferred the powers of war making and resource extraction from the states to the national government thereby creating a nation-state invested with all the important powers of Europe's eighteenth-century "fiscal-military states." A strong centralized government, however, challenged the American people's deeply ingrained distrust of unduly concentrated authority. To secure the Constitution's adoption the Federalists had to accommodate the formation of a powerful national government to the strong current of anti-statism in the American political tradition. They did so by designing a government that would be powerful in times of crisis, but which would make only limited demands on the citizenry and have a sharply restricted presence in society. The Constitution promised the American people the benefit of government without its costs.
Taking advantage of a newly published letterpress edition of the constitutional debates, A Revolution in Favor of Government recovers a neglected strand of the Federalist argument, making a persuasive case for rethinking the formation of the federal American state.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"An important work on the origins of the U.S. Constitution. —New Perspectives on the Eighteenth Century

"A book of undoubted power and value..."—The Journal of American History

"At the very least, Max M. Edling has written the most important book on the adoption of the United States Constitution to appear since Forrest McDonald refuted Charles Beard in We the People: The Economic Origins of the Constitution (1958)."—Journal of the Early American Republic

"This modest-sized book makes a large argument, and one that's certain to reopen historical debate over the federal Constitution and the ratification debates of 1787-88.... A Revolution in Favor of Government is based on a fresh reading of extensive sources, succinctly summarizes relevant information that's often unfamiliar, and puts American history in a comparative context. Although Edling presents his argument with scrupulous clarity, the book is not light reading. Readers are, however, rewarded for their efforts with a more profound understanding of the peculiar American system of government that emerged from the struggles and debates of the 1780s and an explanation why it is we keep returning of the writings of the time."—Business History Review

"...the scholarship is deeply impressive and the argument is an important contribution. It will certainly repay the efforts of every scholar in the field."—American Historical Review

"Edling's book is a powerfully argued revisionist interpretation of the origins of the Constitution. More than anything else, it helps us better understand the constitutional sources of the gigantic fiscal-military state that the United States has become."—Gordon S. Wood, Alva O. Way University Professor and Professor of History, Brown University

"Max M. Edling's exciting new book is a breath of fresh air in an agenda-driven and highly politicized historical literature that has lost touch with historical reality. The state-building paradigm enables Edling to bring history back in, both through comparative analysis of developments elsewhere and by reconstructing the broader geopolitical context within which the American federalstate operated. A Revolution in Favor of Government is an impressive achievement."—Peter Onuf, Thomas Jefferson Foundation Professor of History, University of Virginia

"Certain to be controversial, this major and timely work alters the terms of discussion about the Framers' intentions in writing the Constitution and about the kind of government they sought to establish. Everyone interested in the subject will have to contend with Edling's arguments, which challenge over 30 years of widely accepted scholarship."—James M. Banner, Jr., Washington, DC

"Not only a pleasure to read but extremely informative and persuasively argued. I will never think about the US Constitution in the old way again." —Daniel W. Howe, Rhodes Professor of American History, Emeritus, Oxford University

"A short review cannot do justice to this well-crafted, readable, and important work. It is enough to say that it raises issues that must be addressed by political scientists and historians. Highly recommended."—CHOICE

"This is a remarkable book. Readers of it will never view the U.S. Constitution or the founding period in the same way again. It confronts the reader with a remarkably new and different perspective that the primary goal of the framers of the Constitution and its Federalist defenders was to create a strong fiscal-military state that could raise the revenue needed to survive military competition against other nations. The book is clearly written, well-organized, and serves the intended audience well. Garnering documentary support from a wide variety of Federalist and Anti-federalist thinkers, Edling thoroughly documents and supports every step in his argument."—Law & Politics Book Review

"I learned much from reading A Revolution in Favor of Government. It is definitely a book well worth reading for all who are interested in the Constitution and the American founding, as well as anyone interested in state building more generally."—Robert McGuire, EH.NET Book Review

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199882007
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 8/20/2003
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 1,274,178
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author

Max M. Edling is Research Fellow and University Lecturer, Uppsala University, Sweden.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Beyond Madisonian Federalism 3
Pt. 1 Interpreting the Debate over Ratification
1 Legitimacy and Meaning: The Significance of Public Debate to the Adoption of the Constitution 15
2 The Elusive Meaning of the Debate over Ratification 31
3 European States, American Contexts 47
4 The Ideological Response to State Expansion 59
Pt. 2 Military Powers
5 An Impotent Congress 73
6 Independence, Commerce, and Military Strength 89
7 A Government of Force 101
8 Government by Consent 115
9 The Federalists and the Uses of Military Powers 129
Pt. 3 Fiscal Powers
10 Congressional Insolvency 149
11 Unlimited Taxation, Public Credit, and the Strength of Government 163
12 The Costs of Government 175
13 A Government for Free 191
14 The Federalists and the Uses of Fiscal Powers 206
Conclusion: The Constitution, the Federalists, and the American State 219
Notes 231
Index 315
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