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Read/Download The Jefferson Rule: How the Founding

Read online or Download The Jefferson Rule: How the Founding Fathers Became Infallible and Our Politics Inflexible (Full PDF ebook with essay, research paper)
by David Sehat

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Simon & Schuster
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6.50(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.30(d)



In The Jefferson Rule, peopled with some of our most important and colorful historic figures, down through our entire history, Sehat describes how liberals, conservatives, secessionists, unionists, civil rights leaders, radicals, and libertarians seek out the Founding Fathers to defend their policies. From Jefferson to this very day we look to the eighteenth century to solve our problems, even though the Fathers themselves were a querulous and divided group who rarely agreed.

Beginning with the early national debate between Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton over the future of the nation and continuing through the Civil War, The New Deal, and The Reagan Revolution to Obama and the Tea Party, many pols ask: “What would the Founders do?” instead of what is the common good today?

Recently on the Right (Original Intent) and the Left (Living Constitution), both in the Supreme Court and on the campaign trail, the arguments take place in an outdated arena—voting rights, campaign finance, free speech, gun control, taxes, and war and peace—all touchstone issues—are argued in an outdated context.

This over simplification, that the extreme right uses as a weapon, as an accusation of disloyalty, obscures our real issues. Coming to terms with the past, Sehat suggests, would be the start of a productive debate, and in this account, which is both informative, instructive, and witty, he shows us why.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
From the Jacksonians to the Tea Party, historian Sehat (The Myth of American Religious Freedom) shows how a range of American political leaders have invoked the Founding Fathers for their own ideological ends. Sometimes this has been on behalf of America’s highest ideals, as when Martin Luther King, Jr. described the Declaration of Independence and Constitution to be “a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.” Far more often, however, the Founders’ diverse views have been levied to present a one-dimensional view of American political philosophy, as when Ronald Reagan drew a straight line from Thomas Jefferson to the “conservative principles of limited government, fiscal austerity, and states’ rights.” America’s founders, as Sehat documents, were complex and often contradicted themselves: for example, Jefferson had stood for states’ rights in the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions of 1798 and a strong federal government in the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. Sehat indulges in long digressions while discussing debates over such matters as Reagan’s tax and budget cuts of the early 1980s. He also never explains his cryptic title—what exactly is “the Jefferson rule”? Still, this is a sobering, informative study of concepts from America’s political origins too often viewed with rose-tinted glasses. (May)

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