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Archive for June 2011

The Fourth and Thomas Jefferson

What better way to prepare for the Fourth of July, which celebrates Thomas Jefferson’s brilliant Declaration of Independence, than to reflect on the never-ending dispute over whether Jefferson fathered from one to four children borne by his slave, Sally Hemings. The accusation began with a scandal-mongering newsman in 1802.  James Callender, a Scot, had been…

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The (Ab)Uses of History

As we enter the presidential campaign season, pity the Founding Fathers.  Among the recent incantations of the Founding Fathers by Republican hopefuls, we find: Mitt Romney, with characteristic vagueness, launched his campaign by “hailing” the Founding Fathers (attaboy, fathers!). Michelle Bachmann was delighted to proclaim that the Founding Fathers ended slavery (boy, is Abe Lincoln…

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Five Amendments That Would Surprise the Framers

Yesterday, after I delivered a talk on the Constitutional Convention of 1787, a gentleman in the book-signing line asked an interesting question:  “Which of the constitutional amendments would be most surprising to the Framers?” I had to stop and think.  Then I said, “The Prohibition amendment.”  [That’s No. 18, for those who are keeping score…

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