American Character: A History of the Epic Struggle Between Individual Liberty and the Common Good

By Colin Woodard

The writer of American Nations examines the historical past of and recommendations to the most important American query: how top to reconcile person liberty with the upkeep of a loose society

The fight among person rights and the great of the neighborhood as a complete has been the root of approximately each significant confrontation in our heritage, from the debates on the Constitutional conference and within the run as much as the Civil struggle to the fights surrounding the agendas of the Federalists, the Progressives, the recent purchasers, the civil rights circulation, and the Tea occasion. In American Character, Colin Woodard strains those key strands in American politics throughout the 4 centuries of the nation’s life, from the 1st colonies during the Gilded Age, nice melancholy and the current day, and he explores how assorted areas of the rustic have effectively or disastrously accommodated them. The self sufficient streak stumbled on its such a lot pernicious shape within the antebellum South yet was once balanced within the Gilded Age through communitarian reform efforts; the hot Deal was once an instance of a winning coalition among communitarian-minded japanese elites and Southerners.

Woodard argues that retaining a liberal democracy, a society the place mass human freedom is feasible, calls for discovering a stability among holding  individual liberty and nurturing a loose society. Going to both libertarian or collectivist extremes leads to tyranny. yet the place does the “sweet spot” lie within the usa, a federation of disparate nearby cultures that experience consistently strongly disagreed on those matters? Woodard leads readers on a riveting and revealing trip via 4 centuries of fight, experimentation, successes and screw ups to supply a solution. His traditionally expert and pragmatic feedback on how you can do so stability and holiday the nation’s  political impasse should be of curiosity to a person who cares in regards to the present American predicament—political, ideological, and sociological.

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Taxes have been tremendous low, and have been designed to spare these so much in a position to pay them. The slave lords who managed the colonial South Carolina legislature taxed retailers and different townspeople at the genuine price in their estate and resources, yet imposed a flat tax on rural land in line with its acreage, no longer its worthy, which means terrible farmer with 100 acres of wooded area within the hilly frontier paid an analogous tax as a planter with a hugely ecocnomic hundred-acre rice-growing plantation and manor condo. stressed, legislators undid this disparity after the Revolution, yet planters refused to permit assessors to envision their manors to figure out the real price in their holdings. 23 With scant taxes gathered, there have been only a few public providers. Taxpayer-financed public colleges have been proven throughout New England within the early 17th century; within the colonial Deep South they didn't exist in any respect, and in a few states weren't demonstrated till the 1870s, mostly as a result of the powerful individualistic spirit of the white, property-owning heads of family who have been the single humans allowed to vote there. As Clement Eaton, a mid-twentieth-century historian of the yankee South, defined, “It used to be considered as the obligation of the person and never of the kingdom to determine that his kids have been expert. ” contributors of the planter oligarchy employed tutors for his or her youngsters and despatched them to personal academies, ideally the elite ones again in England, and secured public investment for the schools their youngsters later attended. such a lot decrease- and middle-class whites bought the educations they can come up with the money for. As overdue as 1850 basically 10 to sixteen percentage of white childrens within the seven states ruled by means of the Deep South have been enrolled in public college, in comparison to 60 to ninety percentage of youngsters total within the usa. for this reason, white grownup illiteracy within the Deep Southern states stood at thirteen to 26 percentage (and fifty three to sixty three percentage for all adults); in Massachusetts—the least literate New England state—the total price of illiteracy used to be lower than five percentage, whereas in New Hampshire it was once 1. 7 percentage. The Deep Southern elite thought of an uneducated inhabitants to be an outstanding factor, and actively blocked efforts to extend the literacy of negative whites. while settlers within the uplands of South Carolina, which were settled by way of self sufficient Scots-Irish farmers and herders, requested nation legislators in 1855 to provide their groups the precise to tax themselves to supply universal colleges for his or her young ones, the planters who managed the physique refused considering that in basic terms they'd the facility to impose taxes. 24 simply because nation legislation enforcement, courts, and prisons have been so underfunded, humans took the legislations into their very own fingers, and safeguard and police paintings have been principally conducted by way of privately equipped militias, plantation overseers, and lynch mobs. at the eve of the Civil struggle, Florida’s white-on-white homicide expense reached a surprising 86 in step with 100,000 inhabitants—higher than the final price on the earth homicide capital in 2009, Honduras (66.

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