Our Secret Constitution: How Lincoln Redefined American Democracy

By George P. Fletcher | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 1
REDEMPTION
UNDER LAW

“Without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins.”

—John Brown

In the Western experience with evil, we choose repeatedly to put our faith in law and the legal culture to redeem ourselves from sin. Over and over again, we find states indulging in total war, terror, genocide, and the mass killing of their own people, and then turning to the legal culture in the hope that they can atone for the iniquity and live once again as a civilized nation. This view—that the law shall make us clean—should give us pause. Faith in the law has not been an unqualified virtue in the Christian West. One might expect individuals influenced by Jesus's Sermon on the Mount to turn first to love and charity as the means of atonement. But nations—organized, organic societies—must take a different path. A nation must proceed collectively to find redemption.

I write in this chapter of religious ideas and their value in understanding our legal experience. This, admittedly, is an unusual take in our rigorously secular academic world. The American university world has distanced itself from the sensibilities of ordinary Americans who take the Bible seriously as a source of wisdom and who live their lives with devotion to values of faith and redemption. In this interpretation of law as the path to national redemption, I seek to find a middle way

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Our Secret Constitution: How Lincoln Redefined American Democracy
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents *
  • Preface ix
  • Introduction - The Argument for the Secret Constitution 1
  • Chapter 1 - Redemption Under Law 15
  • Chapter 2 - Radical Gettysburg 35
  • Chapter 3 - Nationhood 57
  • Chapter 4 - Loyalty and Betrayal 75
  • Chapter 5 - Equality 91
  • Chapter 6 - The Revolution That Never Was 113
  • Chapter 7 - Equality Without Vision 141
  • Chapter 8 - A Maxim of Justice: Its Birth and Rebirth 165
  • Chapter 9 - The Secret Constitution Resurgent 189
  • Chapter 10 - Government as Partner Against the Past 211
  • Chapter 11 - Neither Blue nor Gray 225
  • Afterword - Election Blues 2000 231
  • Notes 261
  • Index 285
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