America's Forgotten Constitutions: Defiant Visions of Power and Community

America's Forgotten Constitutions: Defiant Visions of Power and Community

by Robert L. Tsai

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Overview

The U.S. Constitution opens by proclaiming the sovereignty of all citizens: "We the People." Robert Tsai's gripping history of alternative constitutions invites readers into the circle of those who have rejected this ringing assertion—the defiant groups that refused to accept the Constitution's definition of who "the people" are and how their authority should be exercised.

America's Forgotten Constitutions is the story of America as told by dissenters: squatters, Native Americans, abolitionists, socialists, internationalists, and racial nationalists. Beginning in the nineteenth century, Tsai chronicles eight episodes in which discontented citizens took the extraordinary step of drafting a new constitution. He examines the alternative Americas envisioned by John Brown (who dreamed of a republic purged of slavery), Robert Barnwell Rhett (the Confederate "father of secession"), and Etienne Cabet (a French socialist who founded a utopian society in Illinois). Other dreamers include the University of Chicago academics who created a world constitution for the nuclear age; the Republic of New Afrika, which demanded a separate country carved from the Deep South; and the contemporary Aryan movement, which plans to liberate America from multiculturalism and feminism.

Countering those who treat constitutional law as a single tradition, Tsai argues that the ratification of the Constitution did not quell debate but kindled further conflicts over basic questions of power and community. He explains how the tradition mutated over time, inspiring generations and disrupting the best-laid plans for simplicity and order. Idealists on both the left and right will benefit from reading these cautionary tales.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674059955
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 04/29/2014
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 1,092,951
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Robert L. Tsai is Professor of Law at American University.

Table of Contents

Preface vii

Prologue 1

1 The Republic of Indian Stream, 1832-1835 18

2 The Icarian Nation, 1848-1895 49

3 John Brown's America, 1856-1859 83

4 Confederate Anxieties, 1860-1865 118

5 The Sequoyah Convention, 1905 152

6 A Charter for the World, 1947 185

7 The Republic of New Afrika, 1968 218

8 The Pacific Northwest Homeland, 2006 254

Epilogue 292

Notes 303

Index 341

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