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date: 05 March 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Every revolutionary liberal democratic founding has its secret drawers where one can find the illiberal ideas and mnemonic traces of illiberal acts in and through which the state came into being and sustains itself. With regard to the American founding, conventional approaches either ignore the American Civil War altogether, or attempt to render it continuous with the constitution of 1789 by arguing that, apart from the abolition of slavery, the Union survived the war intact. Illiberal aspects of the revolution itself are also ignored. For many Americans, it would seem, it is better to keep the drawer closed. This chapter considers whether it is possible to develop an account of the founding in which the drawer is left open. Although the chapter concentrates on the American founding, parallel interpretive challenges attending the English and French revolutions are explored.

Keywords: legal history, American history, American Civil War, American founding, liberal democratic founding, revolution

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