Thursday, April 09, 2015

Good news for Americal political thought buffs

Sandy Levinson

I was delighted to receive the information below in a mailing from the Liberty Fund.  Barry Shain's book is simply terrific, an almost literally incredible scholarly feat of bringing together almost every conceivable document relating to the American colonists' critique of British rule and the relationship of this critique to the arguments set out in the Declaration of Independence.  His introduction is a fascinating and valuable work in itself, for he argues that prior to the Declaration, the emphasis was almost exclusively on the "constitutional" illegitimacy of Parliamentary rule over the colonies (and not, for example, on the predations of King George, who was viewed as the potential savior from Parliamentary overreaching).  Eric Nelson offers a similar argument in his very important new book, The Royalist Revolution: Monarchy and the American Founding (Harvard/Belknap, 2014).  This is a golden age for reconceptualizations of the American Revolution (and, along the way, the Declaration of Independence, which will be the topic of a conference to be held next week at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia at which Jack and I will be presenting a paper arguing that we tend to ignore the emphasis of the Declaration on popular sovereignty and collective self-determination in favor of its throw-away line about inalienable rights.)  

Shain's book was published last year by the Yale University Press, which charged $125, an almost reasonable price in context.  (It's a beautifully produced book, in addition to being very long.) .  But the glory of the Liberty Fund is its republication of many classics are readily affordable prices (with no stinting on production value).  I realize this reads a lot like a commercial, but so be it.  I really do think it's a terrific collection that should be on the shelves of anyone who professes to be interested in American political thought and that the Liberty Fund deserves kudos for making this readily available to anyone for a quite minimal cost (and a 20% discount is available until mid-May. 

Publication Date: April 2015. 6 x 9. 782 pages.
Paperback. ISBN: 978-0-86597-889-8. $22.00 / 17.95 / C$29.75.   

American State Papers, Petitions, Proclamations, &
Letters of the Delegates to the First National Congresses
Compiled, Edited, and with an Introduction by Barry Alan Shain
The Declaration of Independence, the document that severed thirteen of Britain's North American continental colonies' ties to the empire, was largely the product of twelve years of intermittent conflict with Parliament during which time the colonists dutifully sought relief and a closer relationship with their king. In sum, this collection challenges, first, the American founding story as being one of opposition to monarchy driven by an enthusiastic rather than a most reluctant republicanism, and second , how we do this kind of history, by demonstrating that cherry-picking documentary evidence without methodological controls can, as it has done, produce competing historical narratives incapable of adjudication and resolution.
This collection presented in this edition show the reader the Declaration provided by the hundreds of continental-level congressional state papers--declarations,  petitions, resolutions, and proclamations--and the debates and correspondence of those in attendance at the first national congress.
Barry Alan Shain is professor of political science and chair of the political science department at Colgate University.


Older Posts
Newer Posts