The THEN of Race is “Thomas Jefferson;” the NOW is “Abiding Backlash.”. “The last place they (the founders) preferred to place sovereignty over the document they drafted that summer of 1787,” writes Ellis, “was the Supreme Court, the most unrepresentative branch of the government and the most removed from the well-spring of ultimate authority called ‘the People.’”. The above links are in Adobe Acrobat format and will open in a new window. Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books. By about 2045, he notes, the white population will become a statistical minority. Who better to answer that question than James Madison, the man recognized as “the Father of the Constitution”? He regarded such shifts not so much as contradictions as political adaptations of principle to changing conditions. Worth reading, and Ellis certainly points out other books if one wishes to go deeper into any of the founders or the issues. Through these juxtapositions--and in his hallmark dramatic and compelling narrative voice--Ellis illuminates the obstacles and pitfalls paralyzing contemporary discussions of these fundamentally important issues"--. Should the Supreme Law of the Land be viewed solely through the lens of the Founders’ intent as it existed at the end of the 18th century, or was it their intent that the Constitution would be a “living document” that needs to be read in the context of changing times? By using LibraryThing you acknowledge that you have read and understand our, "The award-winning author of Founding Brothers and The Quartet now gives us a deeply insightful examination of the relevance of the views of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and John Adams to some of the most divisive issues in America today. Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book. And there will be upheaval, Ellis asserts. The story of history is a ceaseless conversation between past and present, and in American Dialogue Joseph J. Ellis focuses the conversation on the often-asked question "What would the Founding Fathers think?" Copyright © 1976 - 2020 Village Information Center Inc., All rights reserved. A key to the tragedies is inability of the patriarchs to imagine a bi-racial state, as Ellis clearly explicates. Ellis emphasizes that the “fully flawed patriarchs” are to be remembered, but not canonized by citing three enduring contributions to political thought by the founders and two failures that were tragedies. American Dialogue is an enlightening example. The founders have much to tell us about current problems, none of it simple, according to this incisive study of American political creeds. In the NOW of “At Peace with War” Ellis offers several compelling questions about the state of today’s foreign policy, ending with these two: “Is America’s seventy-year reign at the top ending?” and “Are there any voices from the founding still sufficiently resonant to point in a different direction?”, To add insight to these queries, Ellis cites Robert D. Kaplan, a prominent student of American foreign policy. A very deep, contextual, and intelligent diagnosing of where we are at TODAY as well as where we were at YESTERDAY (yesterday being the Revolution War timeframe, primarily 1770s-1790s). He owned several-dozen slaves; he fathered many children with a slave; and, as the president who consummated the Louisiana Purchase, he missed a huge opportunity to stop slavery’s expansion into the newly acquired territory. Ellis’ new book covers subjects he’s well qualified to tackle. Sorry, your blog cannot share posts by email. The decision, states Ellis, “is generally regarded by historians and legal scholars as among the worst Supreme Court decisions in American history.” Taney’s decision offers a legal resolution to the insoluble problem of slavery.” The decision made the Civil War virtually inevitable. While Madison is often touted as the “Father of the Constitution,” Gouverneur Morris, a Pennsylvania delegate, composed and wrote it over a four-day period. In assessing the here and now, history offers an indispensable perspective. I am happy to report that Ellis’s “American Dialogue” (AD) was generally a big improvement from my perspective. in Non-Fiction More. It was a great speech. He then offers a brief history of treaties and their abuses as examples of our domestic/foreign policy and the ensuing genocide. Start with John Adams, who would not be surprised by it given his advanced understanding of human nature. “We inhabit a backlash moment in American history of uncertain duration,” Ellis writes. Sharing the Framers' wisdom with today's politics-weary readers. To illustrate the political direction of the conservative court, Ellis focuses on three controversial recent Supreme Court decisions that have given the Supreme Court a place of prominence in America’s political culture: —Bush v. Gore (2001) awarded the presidency to Bush, the only time in history the Supreme Court had exercised that power; —District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) overturned two centuries of legal precedents to expand the reach of the Second Amendment; —Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010) overturned a century of precedents regarding campaign finance by expanding the reach of the First Amendment’s right to free speech to corporate money. Invoking Lincoln and both Roosevelts to back Adams, all of whom decidedly did not believe the government was the Evil Empire, but was in fact responsible to the citizens, Ellis adds: “Something is not only missing but terribly wrong when these voices are absent from our national conversation. The Constitution created a stable federal system of government in which the individual states and a strong national government share political power. Ellis examines the massive economic inequality of the NOW from the perspective of the Adams legacy which “strips our inquiry of burdensome market-based illusions and thereby helps us frame our analysis more historically and realistically. In his preface to American Dialogue, he says his “goal is to provide a round-trip ticket to the late eighteenth century, then back to our location in the second decade of the twenty-first.”. “Abiding Backlash” opens with the words of James Baldwin: “In the context of the Negro problem neither whites nor blacks, for excellent reasons of their own, have the faintest desire to look back; but I think the past is all that makes the present coherent, and further that the past will remain horrible for exactly so long as we refuse to access it honestly….Appearances to the contrary, no one in America escapes its effects and everyone in America bears some responsibility for it.”, Ellis then points out that the multiracial future that Jefferson always feared is already visible on the horizon. ABROAD, the book’s final chapter, centers on American foreign policy. “Whether the Native Americans fit in the republican vision of westward expansion was clear from the beginning,” Ellis states, “—they did not.”. Virtually every American loves the Constitution, but more often than not their love for it is inversely proportional to their knowledge of it--and all too many love it dearly. While the author describes President Trump as a “charismatic charlatan with a knack for exploiting fears,” Trump’s attempt to pull America back from the world nonetheless aligns with Ellis’ observation that: “All empires, like all mortals, must come and go, and the chief reason for their demise is that the world is an inherently unmanageable place that eventually devours the strength of any and all superpowers that history selects for what is, in effect, an impossible mission.”. This approach puts the reader in a position to grasp how understanding today’s controversial issues can be enhanced by learning how they were originally dealt with by the smartest guys in the room when the country first began facing its problems. American Dialogue has arrived on the scene at an optimum time. Pipes Replaced: 9,769 This, it turned out, perhaps not so coincidentally, just happened to be “the adaptive genius of the Constitution itself.”. With polarization ratcheting up with each passing day, and civil discourse becoming almost extinct, it’s a worthwhile exercise to revisit the treasured history of America’s early days as a republic. In “Our Gilded Age,” Ellis notes, we enter an era of the new embedded American aristocracy of wealth. Copyright LibraryThing and/or members of LibraryThing, authors, publishers, libraries, cover designers, Amazon, Bol, Bruna, etc. With that in mind, the book starts with the country’s thorniest issue — race. Focusing on what our first presidents said and did provides a much-needed breathing exercise for today’s politically overwhelmed reader, which should cause most to accept Joseph Ellis’ ultimate conclusion that, “as a lovely song once put it, the fundamental things apply, as time goes by.”.