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Kemp, Roger L. (ed), DOCUMENTS OF AMERICAN DEMOCRACY: A Collection of Essential Works. (McFarland Publishing, 2010). NEW copy. Hardcover, glossary, appendices, notes, bibliography, index, 250 pages.

~~~ This reference work presents 27 key documents from the historic origins of the United States government through its subsequent expansion and evolution. The book is divided into five sections, the first of which is an introductory essay about American democracy. Section II includes three documents that laid the foundation for America’s government: the Magna Carta, the 1628 Petition of Right, and England’s Bill of Rights. The third section presents 13 core documents, such as the Mayflower Compact, the Virginia Declaration of Rights, the Articles of Confederation, the U.S. Constitution, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Section IV provides 11 documents of America’s territorial expansion, from the Treaty of Paris through the Louisiana Purchase Treaty and the Alaska Treaty and Hawaii Resolution. The final section is an essay about the future of democracy. There are 12 useful appendices. 250 pages.


National Museum of American History, AMERICAN DEMOCRACY: A Great Leap of Faith. "As new" copy. Hardcover with dust jacket. (Smithsonian Institute Scholarly Press, 2020). Illustrated, 192 pages.
Contributors include Harry R. Rubenstein, William Bird, Lisa Kathleen Graddy, and Barbara Clark Smith, curators at the National Museum of American History, and Grace Cohen Grosman, a former Goldman Sachs Fellow at the National Museum of American History.

~~~ American Democracy: A Great Leap of Faith is the companion volume to an exhibition at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History that celebrates the bold and radical experiment to test a wholly new form of government. Democracy is still a work in progress, but it is at the core of our nation's political, economic, and social life. This lavishly illustrated book explores democracy from the Revolution to the present using objects from the museum's collection, such as the portable writing box that Thomas Jefferson used while composing the Declaration of Independence, the inkstand with which Abraham Lincoln drafted the Emancipation Proclamation, Susan B. Anthony's iconic red shawl, and many more. Not only famous voices are presented: like democracy itself, the book and the exhibition preserve the voice of the people by showcasing campaign materials, protest signs, and a host of other items from everyday life that reflect the promises and challenges of American democracy throughout the nation's history.

~~~ In print at $27.95.


Shankman, Andrew, CRUCIBLE OF AMERICAN DEMOCRACY: The Struggle to Fuse Egalitarianism & Capitalism in Jeffersonian Pennsylvania. "As new" copy. Hardcover with dust jacket. (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2004). Notes, index, 298 pages.

~~~ Arguments over what democracy actually meant in practice and how it should be implemented raged throughout the early American republic. As Andrew Shankman shows, nowhere were those ideas more intensely contested or more representative of the national debate than in Pennsylvania, where the state's Jeffersonians dominated the day.
~~~~~~~Pennsylvania Jeffersonians were the first American citizens to attempt to translate idealized speculations about democracy into a workable system of politics and governance. In doing so, they revealed key assumptions that united other national citizens regarding democracy and the conditions necessary for its survival. In particular, they assumed that democracy required economic autonomy and a strong measure of economic as well as political equality among citizens. This strong egalitarian theme was, however, challenged by Pennsylvania's precociously capitalistic economy and the nation's dynamic economic development in general, forcing the Jeffersonians to confront the reality that economic and social equality would have to take a back seat to free market forces.
~~~~~~~Seeking democracy became a debate about the desirability of capitalism and the precise relations between majority rule and the pursuit and protection of individual rights and interests. From this struggle to fuse egalitarianism and free enterprise in Pennsylvania emerged most subsequent mainstream beliefs concerning the respective roles of democracy and capitalism in American society. In fact, it did much to shape the boundaries of permissible thought in the Jacksonian era concerning political economy and the extent of popular democratic power.
~~~~~~~Shankman's illuminating exploration of the Pennsylvania experience reveals how democracy arose in America, how it came to accommodate capitalism, and at the same time forced egalitarian assumptions and dreams to the margins of society. A resonant work of intellectual and political history, his study also mirrors the aspirations, fears, hatreds, dreams, generous impulses, noble strivings, selfish cant, and enormous capacity to imagine of those who first tried to translate the blueprint for democracy into a tested foundation for the nation's future.

~~~ In print at $39.95.


de Tocqueville, Alexis. DEMOCRACY IN AMERICA Fine in fine slipcase. Bound in red full leather. Translated, edited and with an introduction by Harvey C. Mansfield and Delba Winthrop. Preface by R.G.H. Seitz. Decorated end papers, full color frontispiece of Tocqueville, notes, index, 722 pages.

~~~~ (from the Preface by R.G.H. Seitz: “Unlike most European traverlers to America, Tocqueville checked his preconceptions and prejudices at the door. He was there . . . to observe pragmatically what the modern world’s first republican democracy had wrought: his it worked, or didn’t, how it shaped the character of its people and how it coped with the inevitable weaknesses and vulnerabilities of democratic life. The old aristocratic order of Europe was finished, Tocqueville believed. America was the future and he wanted to see what the future looked like.
~~~~His insights about this sprawling, boisterous, adolescent country are still astonishing for their sensitivity and precision, especially given the brevity of his tour. In the commotion of America, Tocqueville saw the country’s restless nature, the geographic and social mobility of its people and understood that the robust individualism of the American way might ultimately undermine the common good, and while he admired the vigor of American political discourse he cautioned that government by majority could easily slip into a kind of tyranny.
~~~~Tocqueville believed that equality was the essence of democracy, and he was impressed that Americans had so effortlessly bypassed a class-based social system. The abundance of land meant every citizen had access to property (later in the century the federal government literally gave it away to all comers), and the acquisition of property imbued Americans with an irrepressible entrepreneurial spirit as well as an irredeemable materialistic culture. He also recognized that American democracy had turned the old concept of sovereignty upside down. In America, sovereignty resided with the people and distributed upward to a representative government in contrast to the European system in which sovereignty was concentrated at the top, usually with a monarch, and distributed downward to the populace.
~~~~Tocqueville was as comprehensive as he was profound. He recorded the American gift for association, the role of religion in everyday life, the preference for decentralized government and the progressive status of women, and he saluted these features as admirable antidotes to the potential abuse of political power. At the same time, Tocqueville saw slavery as the great blight on American democracy and he viewed with foreboding the future of race relations in the United States.”


Widmer, Edward L. YOUNG AMERICA: The Flowering of Democracy in New York City. VG/VG. Like new. Hardcover in dust jacket. (Oxford University Press, 1999). Photographs, notes, sources, index, 290 pages.

This fascinating study examines the meteoric career of a vigorous intellectual movement rising out of the Age of Jackson. As Americans argued over their destiny in the decades preceding the Civil War, an outspoken new generation of "ultra-democratic" writers entered the fray, staking out positions on politics, literature, art, and any other territory they could annex. They called themselves Young America—and they proclaimed a "Manifest Destiny" to push back frontiers in every category of achievement. Their swagger found a natural home in New York City, already bursting at the seams and ready to take on the world.
~~~~~~~ Young America's mouthpiece was the Democratic Review, a highly influential magazine funded by the Democratic Party and edited by the brash and charismatic John O'Sullivan. The Review offered a fresh voice in political journalism, and sponsored young writers like Hawthorne and Whitman early in their careers. Melville, too, was influenced by Young America, and provided a running commentary on its many excesses. Despite brilliant promise, the movement fell apart in the 1850s, leaving its original leaders troubled over the darker destiny they had ushered in. Their ambitious generation had failed to rewrite history as promised. Instead, their perpetual agitation helped set the stage for the Civil War.
~~~~~~~ Young America: The Flowering of Democracy in New York City is without question the most complete examination of this captivating and original movement. It also provides the first published biography of its leader, John O'Sullivan, one of America's great rhetoricians. Edward L. Widmer enriches his unique volume by offering a new theory of Manifest Destiny as part of a broader movement of intellectual expansion in nineteenth-century America.

~~~~~~~ Currently in print at $75.


Wilentz, Sean, THE RISE OF AMERICAN DEMOCRACY: Jefferson to Lincoln. NEW copy. Hardcover with dust jacket. (NY: WW Norton & Co, 2005). 75 plates, many in color. Extensive notes, index, 1044 pages.

~~~ From Kirkus Reviews: "Is the U.S. a democracy, or a republic? As Wilentz (History/Princeton Univ.) shows in this sprawling account, Americans debated the issue from the post-revolutionary era to the Civil War. In classical terms, a republic is governed 'through the ministrations of the most worthy, enlightened men,' whereas a democracy 'dangerously handed power to the impassioned, unenlightened masses.' One-time revolutionary firebrand Noah Webster so mistrusted the mob that, he thundered, had he foreseen popular rule, he would never have fought for freedom; even Thomas Jefferson, that most impassioned of democrats, allowed that given a free choice, the public chose wrongly more often than not. Democracy as such was an oxymoron, Wilentz observes, with power limited to white propertied men in the early days of the republic; the extension of rights throughout the 19th century to a wider polity was a matter of fierce fighting, and eventually war. The battle over just who was to be in charge began almost as soon as national freedom was achieved, an early test, Wilentz writes, being the Whisky Rebellion of 1794, fought by country people against an excise tax on distilled liquor imposed by urbanite arch-republican Alexander Hamilton. As the contest expanded, Wilentz notes, some of the differences between country and city people gave way to other divisions, and by the time Andrew Jackson ran for office in 1824, the gulf between North and South was beginning to widen (as, for a time, was that between those who believed in a cash economy and those who argued for the merits of credit). Abraham Lincoln, though deeply committed to democratic values, would insist on the supremacy of federal over states' rights, while thenominally democratic leaders of the South meant to exalt 'the supreme political power of local elites.' Wilentz shows that none of these battles was new when Lincoln took office; in some respects, they are still being fought today. Wilentz's book, though very long, wastes no words. A well-crafted, highly readable political history.