Tag Archives: Constitutional history

What Kind of Nation: Thomas Jefferson, John Marshall, and the Epic Struggle to Create a United States

The bitter and protracted struggle between President Thomas Jefferson and Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall defined the basic constitutional relationship between the executive and judicial branches of government. More than one hundred fifty years later, their clashes still reverberate in constitutional debates and political battles.
In this dramatic and fully accessible account of these titans of the early republic and their fiercely held ideas, James F. Simon brings to life the early history of the nation and sheds new light on the highly charged battle to balance the powers of the federal government and the rights of the states. A fascinating look at two of the nation's greatest statesmen and shrewdest politicians, What Kind of Nation presents a cogent, unbiased assessment of their lasting impact on American government.

George Washington

George Washington defined progressivism and provided the rationale for its constitutional basis in a vision of self-government: a nation dedicated to and capable of sustaining civil and religious liberty, the intertwined ends of politics as he saw it. For Washington, religious liberty was not a side benefit of independence but rather the objective for which independence was sought. Washingtons political philosophyradical for his timewas a commitment to the belief that law can never make just what is in its nature unjust. Before the close of the Revolutionary War, he had conceived of a union based on the progressive principle that the American people would qualify for self-government in the sense of free institutions in proportion to their moral capacity to govern themselves by the light of reason. Washington managed the conflicts over the spoils of victory that threatened to fracture the union. Containing this discord within the walls of the Constitution may be considered his single greatest achievement. This overview traces Washingtons political development through the war years, describes his contributions to the Constitution and the founding of America, debunks misrepresentations of Washingtons relationship to slavery, and touches his presidential administration, including his precedent-setting decision to retire from the presidency after two terms. This book will be useful in courses on the American founding era, American studies, political philosophy and leadership, as well as of interest and value to the general reader.