Review by Choice Review
Utilizing speeches and newspaper articles, Tsesis (law, Loyola Univ., Chicago) traces the importance of the Declaration of Independence as the purveyor of "transcendent" American norms. The document soon became a rallying cry for the common person. However, the Jacksonian era focused on property rights and later national expansion. Antebellum arguments for individual rights and the states' suppression thereof both drew on the Declaration. But for Lincoln, the Declaration was the primary moral guide. Tsesis argues that after the Civil War the Declaration was "out of vogue" in popular dialogue, even though the Reconstruction Amendments drew heavily on its values. The causes of women's rights and labor gained importance in the latter-19th century, although this rhetoric was besmirched by support for racial limits on immigration. During the New Deal, economic reformers also began to draw on the Declaration. The 1960s, with strong support from the courts, saw the fruition of many previous claims based on the Declaration. Tsesis concludes that due to incorporation of many of its values into constitutional law, the Declaration now serves largely patriotic purposes. But he insists that it remains a foundational component of American political culture. Summing Up: Recommended. General readers, undergraduate students, graduate students, and research faculty. R. Heineman Alfred University
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.