Politics in America, by D. W. Brogan
“The purpose of this book,” says the preface, “is simply to make the American political system intelligible. It has no thesis except that the system has its own logic, its own justification, and is, in general, a success.” Mr. Brogan, in other words, is primarily concerned with the mechanics of the American federal government, not with its ideals or objectives or with the processes of administration, and with the factors that keep it a going concern rather than with possible improvements. Successive chapters deal with the making of the Constitution, the organization of political parties and machines, the influence of racial, religious, and moralistic attitudes, the conduct of elections, and the division of power between the President, the Congress, and the Supreme Court. These subjects are discussed with all Mr. Brogan’s habitual brilliance and lucidity and illustrated with the accustomed flow of anecdotes derived from conversations with a wide variety of Americans and of quotations taken not only from such relatively familiar sources as the Political Science Review but from obscure doctoral dissertations and from the columns of the San Francisco Chronicle and the Brattleboro Daily Reformer. Not only does he appear to have seen everything and met everybody; even more remarkably, he seems always able to recall the exact reference which he needs to illuminate whatever subject he is discussing. For the student of American history it is always a humbling experience to read a book by Mr. Brogan, and it is therefore consoling to be able to report that he is not wholly infallible. It was the commercial interests of New York rather than the fishing interests of New England that were given precedence over the opening of the Mississippi in John Jay’s negotiations with Spain under the Confederation; and the Rush-Bagot Agreement with Canada dealt only with disarmament on the Great Lakes, land disarmament not being ‘ achieved until near the end of the 19th century.
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