The State as a Work of Art: The Cultural Origins of the Constitution (Penguin Great Ideas)
The founding of the United States after the American Revolution was so deliberate, so inspired, and so monumental in scope that the key actors considered this new government to be a work of art framed from natural rights. Recognizing the artificial nature of the state, these early politicians believed the culture of a people should inform the development of their governing rules and bodies.
Eric Slauter explores these central ideas in this extensive and novel account of the origins and meanings of the Constitution of the United States. Slauter uncovers the hidden cultural histories upon which the document rests, highlights the voices of ordinary people, and considers how the artifice of the state was challenged in its effort to sustain inalienable natural rights alongside slavery and to achieve political secularization at a moment of growing religious expression.
interest, and of which fortunately an admirable description has been left us. What a man of uncommon gifts and high position can be made by the passion of fear is here shown with what may be called a mathematical completeness. All the resources of the state were devoted to the one end of securing his personal safety, though happily his cruel egotism did not degenerate into a purposeless thirst for blood. He lived in the Citadel of Milan, surrounded by magnificent gardens, arbours and lawns. For
set the French upon him; one of his sons formed intrigues against him, and was imprisoned; the March of Ancona, which he had won in war, he lost again the same way. No man enjoys so unclouded a fortune, that he has not somewhere to struggle with adversity. He is happy who has but few troubles. With this negative definition of happiness the learned pope dismisses the reader. Had he been able to see into the future, or been willing to stop and discuss the consequences of an uncontrolled
means so artificial could only be maintained by internal harmony and unity; and this conviction was so widely diffused among the citizens that the conspirator found few elements to work upon. And the discontented, if there were such, were held so far apart by the division between the noble and the burgher that a mutual understanding was not easy. On the other hand, within the ranks of the nobility itself, travel, commercial enterprise and the incessant wars with the Turks saved the wealthy and
who, at the same time, were princes of ruling houses, Giovanni d’Aragona, son of King Ferrante, and Ascanio Sforza, brother of the Moor, sold their votes with the most shameless effrontery; so that, at any rate, the ruling houses of Naples and Milan became interested, by their participation in the booty, in the continuance of the papal system. Once again, in the following conclave, when all the cardinals but five sold themselves, Ascanio received enormous sums in bribes, but without cherishing
no longer. When Louis XII was expected in Genoa (1502), and the imperial eagle was removed from the hall of the ducal palace and replaced by painted lilies, the historian Senarega asked what, after all, was the meaning of the eagle which so many revolutions had spared, and what claims the empire had upon Genoa. No one knew more about the matter than the old phrase that Genoa was a camera imperii. In fact, nobody in Italy could give a clear answer to any such questions. At length, when Charles V