FRACTURING THE FOUNDING: HOW THE ALT-RIGHT CORRUPTS THE CONSTITUTION

Vol. 30 No. 7 (August 2020) pp. 114 - 119

FRACTURING THE FOUNDING: HOW THE ALT-RIGHT CORRUPTS THE CONSTITUTION, by John E. Finn. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2019. 258pp. Cloth $34.00. ISBN: 978-1-5381-2367-6.

Reviewed by Kevin McGravey, Department of Political Science & Public Policy, Merrimack College. Email: mcgraveyk@merrimack.edu.

While media attention on the Alt-right has grown recently, there has been a relative lack of serious scholarly treatment of the Alt-right and its approach to the Constitution. John E. Finn’s FRACTURING THE FOUNDING fills this lacuna with an important and timely book, offering an accessible primer on who makes up the Alt-right, how and why the Alt-right has developed its own version of the Constitution, and why understanding this movement matters. Finn’s treatment of the Alt-right and its constitution, which he refers to as the Alt-constitution, is carefully done and offers an excellent source for scholars and students alike.

Finn’s book contains six chapters in addition to a substantive introduction and conclusion that collectively present a case that the Alt-right has produced its own constitutional vision at odds with the Constitution’s text and values. After an introduction that motivates the book’s purpose and layout, Finn begins with a definitional sketch of the Alt-right that presents both continuities and discontinuities within it. Finn explains that the Alt-right, like other movements, shares common goals but is not monolithic. Despite differences within the Alt-right, which are explored through brief biographical sketches of Alt-right leaders, Finn outlines common principles around which the movement coheres. Among these principles are “white racial supremacy…belief in the sanctity of state and local government coupled with the suspicion…of the federal government…strict limits or a complete ban on immigration and opposition to gun control and the social welfare state” (p. 23).

Having defined the Alt-right, Finn proceeds in subsequent chapters to explain and critique the Alt-right’s approach to the Constitution. He looks at particular areas in which its vision of the country and its laws both breaks with and endangers traditional constitutional principles. In Chapter 2, Finn details the Alt-constitution’s religious foundations. As he notes, the Alt-right goes beyond the somewhat common notion that there are religious roots undergirding the idea of, for example, natural rights in the Constitution. Rather, for the [*115] Alt-right, understanding its very particular Christian foundations “is the single most important key to understanding what the Alt-constitution means….” (p. 72). The Alt-right believes not only that “the United States is a Christian nation” but more fundamentally “that the Founders’ handiwork is divinely inspired” and thus “the original Constitution is perfect and has no need of change” (p. 43). As Finn emphasizes, the idea that the Founding was divinely inspired has significant implications for the Alt-right’s approach to constitutional interpretation which emphasizes a version of originalism and draws upon the Protestant notion that a text such as the Constitution can be understood without expert guidance from scholars and judges. Religion is central, on Finn’s account, to understanding the Alt-right’s conception of the Founding and the entire Alt-constitution more broadly.


In Chapters 3 and 4 – together a real strength of the book – Finn surveys the Alt-right’s conception of the First and Second Amendments. Chapter 3 outlines the Alt-constitution’s First Amendment. With respect to the speech clause, Finn notes that what distinguishes the Alt-constitution’s protection of speech is that unlike others who debate the meaning of the clause, the Alt-right denies the claim that “the First Amendment does not protect all manner of speech or expression” (p. 81). In other words, they emphasize (though, as noted later, not for all citizens or viewpoints) a kind of speech absolutism. Later in Chapter 3, Finn describes the Alt-constitution’s approach to the religion clauses which emphasize the protection of Christianity. This protection takes two forms. On the one hand, Justice Thomas’s view that the Establishment Clause is merely a restriction on the establishment of a federal religion but allows states the freedom to aid religion is “a cornerstone of the Alt-constitution’s conception of freedom of religion” (p. 99). But, on the other, the Alt-right free exercise clause emphasizes the protection of Christian religions over others. For example, Finn explains how the Alt-first amendment would see CHURCH OF LUKUMI BABALU AYE, INC. v. CITY OF HIALEAH (1993) as wrongly decided because the protection of the Alt-right’s free exercise clause extends only to Christian faiths. With respect to parts of the First Amendment, Finn critically engages with the Alt-right on these clauses and draws out the hypocrisy in their approach. While the Alt-constitution professes absolutism, that absolutism applies only to positions friendly to and persons within the movement. As Finn summarizes, “the free speech provisions of the Alt-first amendment are white and the religion clauses are Christian” (p. 100). [*116]

AN ANTI-FEDERALIST CONSTITUTION: THE DEVELOPMENT OF DISSENT IN THE RATIFICATION DEBATES

Vol. 30 No. 7 (August 2020) pp. 109 - 113

AN ANTI-FEDERALIST CONSTITUTION: THE DEVELOPMENT OF DISSENT IN THE RATIFICATION DEBATES, by Michael J. Faber. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 2019. 489pp. Cloth. ISBN: 978-0-7006-2777-6.

Reviewed by Beau Breslin, Department of Political Science, Skidmore College. Email: bbreslin@skidmore.edu.

The United States Constitution is taking a beating these days. Harvard scholar Danielle Allen writes, “We are in our Articles of Confederation Moment,” by which she means that our constitutionally designed system of government no longer adequately serves our needs. We might disagree with the interesting constitutional modifications she proposes, but her larger point is that the Constitution may have simply run its course. Similarly, Matt Ford just offered his recipe for serious constitutional reform in a provocative NEW REPUBLIC piece entitled, “Rebuilding the Constitution: American Democracy is Broken, Here’s How to Fix It.” He too insists that America’s fundamental law needs significant repair. Not to be outdone, a group of legal scholars is currently undertaking an experiment in virtual constitution-making, attempting to map out an American Constitution for the twenty-first century.

Allen, Ford, and so many others belong to a long and illustrious line of constitutional skeptics dating back to the American Founding when Anti-Federalists set the standard for constitutional criticism. The Anti-Federalists opposed ratification of the newly drafted U.S. Constitution because they believed that the document would not adequately serve America’s needs. And they did so with a wide variety of arguments. Some wrote compellingly about the disaster that awaits with such a dramatic shift in power from the states to the federal government. Others lamented the lack of a list of rights embedded in the constitutional text. Still others argued that the environment and the proposed constitutional design are not conducive to realizing a prosperous nation. Ultimately, the Anti-Federalists did not prevail in their opposition to a Constitution that is now 233 years old, but they nonetheless left an impressive and enduring legacy.

Michael J. Faber takes a fresh look at the Anti-Federalists in his terrific new book, AN ANTI-FEDERALIST CONSTITUTION: THE DEVELOPMENT OF DISSENT IN THE RATIFICATION DEBATES. In so doing, Faber reminds us that constitutional [*110] reproach—then and now—is a crucial character in America’s ongoing political story. Although countless volumes have been written about the Anti-Federalists in the last two centuries, Faber offers at least two novel contributions. First, he organizes the many Anti-Federalist voices into three broad camps: the “Democratic” Anti-Federalists, the “Power” Anti-Federalists, and the “Rights” Anti-Federalists. Second, and most excitingly, he imagines an actual Anti-Federalist Constitution. The Anti-Federalists could not generate enough support for their own Constitutional Convention and thus the loosely defined collective never produced an alternative constitutional draft, but Faber’s imagined Constitution provides most interesting results.

Faber begins the book by explaining how his work will be different. “Certainly this story has been told before…,” he writes, “but the examination has generally focused on people or events. Here I endeavor to tell a story about ideas…” (p. ix). The three strands of Anti-Federalist argument—democratic, power, and rights—represent those dominant ideas. Faber explains that Democratic Anti-Federalists (like Centinel) were concerned primarily with issues of representation while the Power Anti-Federalists (like Brutus) were principally concerned with the concentration of authority in the hands of the national government. Finally, the Rights Anti-Federalists were focused mainly on the absence of rights protections in the constitutional document. Faber reminds us that most Anti-Federalists navigated easily among all three strands and very few pushed exclusively for just one. But he writes convincingly that the three strands are an effective lens through which to view the entire Anti-Federalist movement.

The core of the book (Chapters 3-17) is organized along chronological and geographical dimensions. “To find the Anti-Federalist position,” Faber insists, “one needs to sort through the arguments made, with an eye toward the sequence of events and the counterarguments raised by the Federalists” (p. 350; emphasis added). Faber thus weaves the plot of the ratification debates from the early discussions in Pennsylvania to the last holdouts in North Carolina and Rhode Island. He marches his way through the debates, describing the actors and the arguments, and, eventually, the results.

BOXING PANDORA: RETHINKING BORDERS, STATES AND SECESSION IN A DEMOCRATIC WORLD

Vol. 30 No. 7 (August 2020) pp. 104 - 108

BOXING PANDORA: RETHINKING BORDERS, STATES AND SECESSION IN A DEMOCRATIC WORLD, by Timothy William Waters. New Haven: Yale University Press. 320pp. Cloth $38.00. ISBN: 9780300235890.

Reviewed by Mark Rush, Department of Politics, Washington and Lee University. Email: rushm@wlu.edu.

BOXING PANDORA really is two books in one. In the first part, author Tim Waters offers a thoughtful criticism of contemporary thinking about the legitimacy of nation-states and the rules and assumptions governing thinking about secession, and then places this in a broader assessment of the blind spots that afflict contemporary approaches to international relations. This part of his argument is powerful, provocative and important. In the second part, Waters offers a new rule and set of criteria for secessionist movements. He sets this forth in reasonable terms and develops it carefully with an eye towards anticipated criticisms.

The second part of BOXING PANDORA is not as strong as the first. That is because making this argument presents a much more formidable challenge than demonstrating the illogic that underlies our understanding of the international system. However, this is not a gratuitous criticism. BOXING PANDORA is an important, courageous work that scholars of and practitioners in international affairs alike will find to be a provocative read and a welcome challenge to contemporary approaches to global politics.

Waters asserts from the outset that “secession” is nothing more than a manifestation – and, in some cases, a necessary prerequisite for the universally recognized right – of self-determination. While this was a largely “inchoate” notion until the early 20th century, the aftermath of the First World War “produced a rapid expansion of self-determination claims” (p. 21). While laudable, self-determination as envisioned by Woodrow Wilson was clearly a product of the era and grounded myopically in terms that recognized only ethnicity and nation-states. It was correspondingly incomplete, Waters argues, because it ignored the possibility that a people might not be easily identifiable as an existing nation or a recognized ethnic group. Instead, he argues, a people might manifest itself through democratic mechanisms (p. 25). [*105]

While self-determination was conceptually incomplete, it was recognized and applied in a remarkably inconsistent manner. Thus, while nations such as Austria and Hungary arose in the aftermath of the First World War, Kurds, to this day, remain stateless (pp. 143-44). Accordingly, the contemporary system of nation-states essentially derives from a map drawn in the 1920s and is as ad hoc in nature as are the lines drawn by Sykes and Picot to sort out the Middle East at that time (Fromkin). Furthermore, this vision of the world was based on two irreconcilable principles: the promotion of decolonization and self-determination on the one hand and the equally firm insistence on the integrity of pre-existing national borders on the other (pp. 42-43). This built-in tension was exacerbated after the Second World War, he argues, when it was modified to support a renewed round of decolonization and self-determination—but only for “non-self-governing territories separated from the parent state” (p. 91). If you were a minority within the parent state or, alas, within one of those newly-freed colonies, you were out of luck because “while those who do not govern themselves must be freed from the dominion of others,” no other “others” were entitled to recognition (p. 91)

LIGHTS, CAMERA, EXECUTION: CINEMATIC PORTRAYALS OF CAPITAL PUNISHMENT

Vol. 30 No. 7 (August 2020) pp. 100 - 103

LIGHTS, CAMERA, EXECUTION: CINEMATIC PORTRAYALS OF CAPITAL PUNISHMENT by Helen J. Knowles, Bruce E. Altschuler, and Jaclyn Schildkraut. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2019. 183 pp. Hardcover $83.32. ISBN: 978-1498579667.

Reviewed by Aaron R.S. Lorenz, Law & Society, Ramapo College. Email: alorenz@ramapo.edu.

LIGHTS, CAMERA, EXECUTION is an innovative and creative resource for those interested in better understanding the complexities surrounding society’s desire for vengeance and capital punishment. The authors, Knowles, Altschuler, and Schildkraut, pen an outstanding summary and assessment of historical and contemporary times related to the death penalty. Using filmmaking, the authors effectively persuade the reader that capital punishment in America should not be viewed as isolated to specific crimes or defendants.

The authors use nine films to connect the deep and overlapping issues of capital punishment in the United States. Chapter by chapter, they explore these films: MURDER IN COWETA COUNTY, THE THIN BLUE LINE, DEAD MAN WALKING, THE LIFE OF DAVID GALE, A LESSON BEFORE DYING, THE GREEN MILE, THE CHAMBER, LAST DANCE, AND MONSTER’S BALL. The analysis is probing. Setting the tone of the book, their study of MURDER IN COWETA COUNTY provides the reader with the vision of “southern justice.” The 1983 made-for-TV-movie starring Andy Griffith and Johnny Cash was based on the 1948 murder of Wilson Turner, a sharecropper who was murdered by the white, wealthy landowner, John Wallace. In 1950, Wallace became the richest man executed and the first in Georgia convicted based on the testimony of black men. Knowles, Altschuler, and Schildkraut establish the tone for the book as they begin to address the intersection between race, class, and capital punishment. Their treatment of the murder concludes with an anecdote about the grandson of the sheriff from 1948 who notes about the road named after John Wallace, “Maybe it teaches people a lesson…the more they realize that everyone is accountable under the law” (pp. 31-32).

The author’s treatment of THE THIN BLUE LINE shows the difficulty in detailing Errol Morris’ 1988 documentary which tells the story of a wrongful conviction and overzealous prosecutor [*101] against the backdrop of the history of the electric chair and gas chambers in Nazi Germany. In their discussion of DEAD MAN WALKING, they once again address the complexity of capital punishment. The film is based on the book by Sister Helen Prejean, a Roman Catholic Sister who befriended a death row defendant played by Sean Penn. The film is lauded for its behind-the-scenes look at the process leading up to the execution. Just as Justice Marshall discussed in FURMAN V. GEORGIA (1972), the history of capital punishment in America speaks to the finality of it. He writes in his concurrence, “While this fact cannot affect our ultimate decision, it necessitates that the decision be free from any possibility of error” (p. 408). Knowles, Altschuler, and Schildkraut use this notion to connect DEAD MAN WALKING and its final scenes with the idea that executions do not ultimately provide closure. That ambiguity is what legal scholars focus on, what the director Tim Robbins focused on, and why LIGHTS, CAMERA, EXECUTION is so effective in considering the emotional and legal components of the death penalty through the lens of film.

One of the strengths of this book is the authors’ ability to simultaneously connect each of the nine films while also isolating them to provide their warranted attention. In their discussion of THE LIFE OF DAVID GALE, they provide detailed analysis of a unique Hollywood tale about a philosophy professor who is sentenced to death for killing a fellow capital punishment opponent. Given the profession of the lead character played by Kevin Spacey, it is no surprise that THE LIFE OF DAVID GALE is especially philosophical in its discovery of truth and justice as it relates to the death penalty. Knowles, Altschuler, and Schildkraut detail Gale’s conviction as emblematic of the legal conundrum that there is no single truth. Instead, the law, particularly the processes involved in capital punishment, struggles with assessing the accuracy of witnesses testifying or more broadly debated, precisely what “beyond a reasonable doubt” means. This is one of the strengths of the book, a masterful detailing of legal concepts debated for generations but placed against the backdrop of film. This is akin to the work of John Brigham in THE CONSTITUTION OF INTERESTS when he argues that it is the law that makes something what it is. The work of Knowles, Altschuler, and Schildkraut follows that constitutive notion in that norms simply become less clear, particularly because they are unconventional.

CREATING THE LAW: STATE SUPREME COURT OPINIONS AND THE EFFECT OF AUDIENCES

Vol. 30 No. 6 (July 2020) pp. 96-99

CREATING THE LAW: STATE SUPREME COURT OPINIONS AND THE EFFECT OF AUDIENCES, by Michael K. Romano and Todd A. Curry. New York: Routledge, 2020. 184pp. Cloth $124.00. ISBN: 978-1-138-61683-7. Paper $35.96. ISBN: 978-1-138-61684-4.

Reviewed by Abigail A. Matthews, Department of Political Science, University at Buffalo, SUNY. Email: aamatthe@buffalo.edu.

For whom do state supreme court justices write? And how do those audiences affect a state supreme court’s opinion? Those are the primary questions Romano and Curry address in CREATING THE LAW: STATE SUPREME COURT OPINIONS AND THE EFFECT OF AUDIENCES. In one of the first book-length analyses of the state supreme opinion writing process, Romano and Curry build on the work of federal court scholars such as Maltzman, Spriggs, and Wahlbeck (2000) and Baum (2006), arguing that state supreme court judges engage in strategic behavior to achieve policy goals while simultaneously protecting their vulnerable authority, thanks to shorter tenure periods than Article III judges. Harnessing the research potential from variation among the states, Romano and Curry seek to understand how audience, environmental, and institutional factors constrain the opinion writing process.

A key assumption upon which they build their argument is that state supreme court judges are political representatives. While judges do not have the same tools as legislators to remind voters of who they are and the work they do, Romano and Curry argue that these judges can engage in credit claiming by strategically writing their opinions. When judges explain their choices in their written opinions, they are using the space to appease their constituents’ audiences, Romano and Curry argue. They go on to connect this to retention incentives and legal language. Unlike traditional political representatives who rely on various mediums to credit claim, judges put all their decisions in writing for the public to read (p. 22).

Building from the assumption that state supreme judges are political representatives, a critical question in CREATING THE LAW is who makes up the judges’ constituency. According to Romano and Curry, those who vote to keep judges in their seats are the “authorizing” or “constituency” audience. In retention systems, citizens are the authorizing constituency and in states that appoint justices, governors or legislators are the justices’ audience. Yet the constituency is not the only audience for whom judges write; judges also write with fellow members of the court in mind. The book’s [*97] research design does a good job balancing efforts to measure and analyze the authorizing constituency with the influence of court colleagues.

Diving into the language of the written opinions, CREATING THE LAW posits that judges are intentional in how they justify and persuade. The key to Romano and Curry’s argument is that justification and persuasion are distinct tools. Judges use justification when they want to present only one correct choice while persuasion acknowledges that there are several choices available, but the judge’s choice is the best. Persuasion requires the judge to advocate for their position and when engaging in persuasion as a tactic, judges present information to “maximize” the success of their opinion.

Romano and Curry operationalize justification and persuasion concepts as opinion clarity, argument complexity, and authenticity. They measure justification by its readability—how well a judge conveys the “correct” choice. They also measure justification by analogical reasoning language. Romano and Curry operationalize persuasion using argument complexity, or the judge’s ability to evaluate complicated situations and arrive at a decision. To further evaluate persuasion, they measure an opinion’s authenticity or tone, the counterpart of argument complexity. However, Romano and Curry note that the distinction between the justification and persuasion can be “amorphous” (p. 34). Because the authors attribute specific meanings to the terms, and because I often use the terms interchangeably, I found it to be a bit confusing at times. Examples to illustrate the terms, especially how each measure is operationalized, would have been helpful in better understanding the overarching arguments.

THE US SUPREME COURT AND THE CENTRALIZATION OF FEDERAL AUTHORITY

Vol. 30 No. 6 (July 2020) pp. 92-95

THE US SUPREME COURT AND THE CENTRALIZATION OF FEDERAL AUTHORITY, by Michael A. Dichio. Albany, New York: SUNY Press, 2018. 294 pp. Hardcover $95. ISBN: 9781438472539. Paperback $32.95. ISBN: 9781438472522.

Reviewed by Staci L. Beavers, Department of Political Science, California State University San Marcos. Email: sbeavers@csusm.edu.

Michael A. Dichio’s THE US SUPREME COURT AND THE CENTRALIZATION OF FEDERAL AUTHORITY is a volume whose brevity (just 152 pages of text) belies its broad sweep across most of American history and extensive data collection and analysis. The book’s brevity also belies how challenging this work may be to grasp for a reader not already deeply immersed in the author’s subfield.

As a student of American Political Development (ADP), Dichio’s stated goal is to scrutinize “the Supreme Court’s role in national state expansion since the founding” (p. xxiv). In contrast to what he sees as a narrower focus within the ADP literature on Weberian bureaucracy and comparative political development (p. 2), Dichio turns his attention instead to the Supreme Court “as a key centralizer of federal authority” through its constitutional rulings (p. 2). While previous scholars have demonstrated the judiciary’s role in re-allocating power from the states to the federal government, Dichio’s primary contribution is the historical breadth of his data with an investigation spanning most of American history rather than focusing on any particular time period(s).

To that end, Dichio pulls together an extensive database of over 600 constitutional rulings from ratification in 1788 through 1997 to examine patterns across key issue areas as well as across multiple “dimensions of the federal government” (p. 65). His analysis reveals a generally steady pattern of rulings over the Court’s history that have directed power from the states to the national government. As he puts it, “the Court--through time and regardless of its ideological composition--has persistently acted as an important instrument of the broader central state, expanding federal authority over society” (p. 143).

Dichio’s method of case selection is intriguing: He identified “landmark constitutional decisions” for his database by scouring top “constitutional law casebooks and treatises published between 1822 [*93] and 2010” (p. xxiii). Specifically, he sought cases that were widely understood to have served as influential precedents since being handed down, and cases included in at least 6 of his separate reference sources made the cut (p. 32). Dichio used multiple methods to validate his database, including evaluating his identified cases against Fowler and Jeon’s (2008) “‘authority score’” of case citations (p. 33). Using this database, Dichio examined historical patterns of Supreme Court decisions’ impact on the balance of national versus state authority across a range of issues. Both decisions upholding federal policies and decisions striking down state policies (thus supporting federal over state authority) were coded as having directed power from the states to the central government.

Overall, Dichio finds that a resounding 60% of cases reviewed from 1789-1997 resulted in some form of centralizing of power with the national government (p. 39). Dichio asserts that, contrary to common narratives, the Supreme Court consistently rendered decisions that consolidated central authority a majority of the time. While acknowledging that the Court’s pattern of centralizing power wasn’t perfectly steady over time, he argues the data unexpectedly show a great deal of consistency. For example, despite the infamy of the DRED SCOTT V. SANDFORD (1857) decision and its blow to federal power in striking down the 1820 Missouri Compromise, Dichio’s data show that more than half of the Taney Court’s key federalism-impacting decisions actually favored centralized authority (pp. 72-73).

THE WILL OF THE PEOPLE: THE REVOLUTIONARY BIRTH OF AMERICA

Vol. 30 No. 6 (July 2020) pp. 86-91

THE WILL OF THE PEOPLE: THE REVOLUTIONARY BIRTH OF AMERICA, by T.H. Breen. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2019. 272pp. Hardcover $29.95. ISBN: 978-0-674-97179.

Reviewed by Matthew B. Kirk, Department of Political Science, University at Albany. Email: mbkirk@albany.edu.

In many accounts of the American Revolution, scholars frame the concept of popular will in terms of the political philosophies espoused by the founding generation. Whether drawing from Locke, Montesquieu or others, these portrayals note how popular consent and legitimacy permeated the thought of the nation’s founding leaders. Yet popular will itself may not be manifest in these heady notions. T.H. Breen’s THE WILL OF THE PEOPLE combats the prevailing narrative that public will during the American Revolution responded to admonitions from key political leaders who extracted principles from political theory. Instead, the “voice of the people” can be found in the sentiments of communities as they participated in local affairs. Drawing from a series of localized narratives, Breen offers an alternative theory that envisions the Revolution as ensconced in communal organizations – in committees, church congregations, etc. In doing so, his text captures a genuine popular will as it emerged in the politicking of ordinary people.

Consulting a wide array of primary sources – including letters, accounts of sermons, newspapers, and local committee reports – Breen constructs an evolving portrait of revolutionary stages from the “ground up.” Of these sources, the notes and actions of local committees (of correspondence, safety, and inspection) offer the greatest repository of localized political interests. The various committees regulated and maintained revolutionary fervor at a local level where broader political movements could not reach. While Breen gives some deference to the influence of high minded theorists or noteworthy events, he ultimately locates the revolution in the ground level maintenance of the revolutionary agenda. As a result, the portrayal of public will during the era is wide ranging; committee notes from local townships are juxtaposed with gubernatorial dictums, allowing the author to make an argument for an inclusive conception of public will across the nation. Taking this evidence together, Breen offers a chronological history of the Revolution that proceeded along a series of stages, with each marked by a particular discursive theme. [*87]

In Breen’s account, it was emotive impulses and restraints that characterized the shifting sentiments across the Revolutionary period. Breen offers a historical account of these evolving emotive impulses; instead of a trajectory from the Declaration of Independence to the Treaty of Paris or an account of leaders’ invocation of Locke and Montesquieu, he argues that emotion that guided the actions of communities that in turn maintained the Revolution. As a result, the history offered is comprised of six discrete epochs of sentiment. A sensation of rejection following the failure to arrive at amicable reconciliation (taking the form of the Coercive Acts) gave way to assurance that resistance in the ensuing conflict was justified. The next period was dominated simultaneously by fear and justice: faced with the threat of domestic enemies, local communities vacillated between fear of those enemies and a sense of justice that produced judicial restraint when addressing them. Towards the end of the war, hyperinflation incentivized speculation and profiteering among neighbors – leading to a sense of betrayal. Following the Treaty of Paris, a wave of refugees – consisting of Tories desirous of returning to their homes – facilitated a transition to a new period of revenge. This comprised the final emotive evolution of the Revolutionary epoch, as local discourse revealed a desire for revenge against those who had betrayed the cause of the Revolution. Combined, each of these eras suggests that the true location of revolutionary politics lay in community endeavors instead of those political philosophies.

Breen is particularly adept at illustrating each of these emotive periods with local discourses and histories, with one significant event to frame each chapter. For example, a chapter on the theme of justice revolves around the attempts of Alexander Hanson (a judge in Frederick County, Maryland) to punish Toryism with increasingly savage methods. In that particular instance, plans to draw and quarter political prisoners were quickly shelved in favor of more civilized executions. Breen’s contextualization of each chapter around such a story is illustrative of the tension between the emotions that dominated local discourse and the institutional structures that worked to restrain those emotive impulses. The remainder of each chapter is filled with histories of similar experiences depicting a local mode of politicking that exists without reference to the dictums of leaders (or at least politicking that only grudgingly adheres to mandates from above when they conflict with sentiments in the locale). What results is a complex arrangement whereby the overall work is a narrative of both emotion and restraint of emotion; persons “on the ground” experienced these emotions in response to broader events, yet the exhibition or inhibition of such emotive impulses occurred within those ground-level, idiosyncratic [*88] contexts. While this occasionally clouds the argument that each period is characterized by an overarching shifting popular sentiment, one must bear in mind that Breen’s argument is one of shifting spheres of discourse – not necessarily monolithic paradigmatic shifts. For example, local discourses surrounding the Treaty of Paris were not dominated by the desire for revenge per se; rather, the sentiment of revenge shaped the scope of the content of the debates in that period.