Guest Post: Strange Constitutional Bedfellows: The First and Third Amendments in the Mormon Quest for Religious Liberty

Today’s guest post comes from Spencer W. McBride, who has blogged with us before. Dr. McBride received his PhD at Louisiana State University in 2014 and is now a historian and documentary editor at the Joseph Smith Papers. His research examines the politicization of clergymen during the American Revolution and in the early American republic.

JS LegionOf the ten amendments that comprise the United States Bill of Rights, the third amendment is arguably the least controversial. Go ahead, think back to your high school civics class and try to remember what rights are protected by the third amendment. Can’t remember? Don’t feel too bad. It is rarely invoked by politicians and political activists, it does not often spark heated debates in the media, and the U.S. Supreme Court has never heard a case in which it was the primary basis. Let’s face it, since the adoption of the first ten amendments to the Constitution, Americans have not been overly concerned that the government will quarter troops in the homes of private citizens without their consent. Continue reading

Winter Reads

Just in time for your holiday shopping list, here’s our preview of new titles—share your finds in the comments! Continue reading

The Week in Early American History

TWEAHConstitution Day Edition.

How did you celebrate Constitution Day on Wednesday? If you’re a politician on Capitol Hill, and didn’t answer either “by showing off my pocket-sized edition” or “standing near an oversized facsimile of my favorite amendment with text selectively crossed out to illustrate the imagined dangers posed by my political opponents,” then shame on you. Speaking of those pocket-sized editions, the Washington Post profiled Zeldon Nelson, the Idaho farmer and chief executive of the National Center for Constitutional Studies who sells them for just over a dollar a piece. Continue reading

The Week in Early American History

TWEAH

Let’s kick another weekly roundup of early American history links off with this fascinating and fun look at Revolutionary-era pronunciations of the word “Huzza(h)!” over at Journal of the American Revolution (hint: it rhymes with “fray”). Continuing with the general theme of historical language and pronunciation, Sam Sack’s New Yorker review of Ben Tarnoff’s newly-released, The Bohemians: Mark Twain and the San Francisco Writers who Reinvented American Literature, includes some reflections on Twain’s use of “unrefined idiomatic English” and “how America learned to hear itself talk.”  Continue reading

Interviews with Historians: Carol Berkin

BerkinCarol Berkin is Presidential Professor Emerita at Baruch College and the CUNY Graduate Center. She received her bachelor’s degree at Barnard College. In 1972, she received her PhD at Columbia University, where she also worked on the Papers of John Jay and Alexander Hamilton. Her dissertation on Jonathan Sewall won the Bancroft Award for Outstanding Dissertation and the subsequent book, Jonathan Sewall: Odyssey of an American Loyalist, was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in 1974. She then spent her entire teaching career at Baruch College and the CUNY Graduate Center. Her most popular works include A Brilliant Solution (2002), which has been translated into Polish and Chinese, First Generations: Women in Colonial America (1996), Revolutionary Mothers: Women in the Struggle for American Independence (2005), and Civil War Wives (2009). She is a pioneer in early American women’s history and also the author and editor of numerous textbooks, readers, and teaching guides for women’s history including Women of America (1980), Women’s Voices, Women’s Lives: Documents in Early American History (1998), In the Words of Women: The Revolutionary War and the Birth of the Nation, 1765 – 1799 (2011), and Clio in the Classroom: A Guide to Teaching Women’s History (2009). She is also the editor of History Now, an online magazine published by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. She has appeared in numerous television documentaries, including Founding Brothers and Founding Fathers on the History Channel and Ric Burns’ New York on PBS. Continue reading

Rough and Ready and Real

Ratification coverThe ratification of the Federal Constitution is a notoriously difficult historical event to categorize. On the one hand, it is a watershed moment; the creation of a consolidated federal government with extensive power is a clear break with the immediate post-Independence traditions of American governance. Yet at the same time, it is traditionally seen as the final achievement of a revolutionary generation—the fulfillment of the ideals of the Revolution.[1] Continue reading