discriminatory attitudes to live up to their own ideals, at least in matters of criminal and judicial procedure. In the final two chapters, it becomes clear that Self-Evident Truths is a recognizably twenty-first-century history of the founding era; there, the persistence of wealth inequality as a social and political problem takes cen- ter stage. Brown’s boldest claim is that the radical potential of the Ameri- can Revolution perhaps found its most insurmountable barrier not in ideas about inequalities based on race or gender—though those conceptions proved to be serious obstacles—but rather in the exaltation of the concept of private property. He twice cites approvingly Gordon Wood’s conclusion that, when the Founders talked equality, they meant equality of opportunity only: unequal outcomes were to them, it seems, both expected and just. Our nation’s Revolutionaries, Brown notes, were “committed to the pursuit and accumulation of wealth, and its heritability” (310). Such a view of property rights not only helped make the ultimate abolition of slavery exception- ally difficult, but also aided in establishing particularly intractable forms of social hierarchy with which we still live. Self-Evident Truths, then, accom- plishes the remarkable task of clarifying how a presumption of equal rights in
The Journal of the Civil War Era – University of North Carolina Press
Published: Aug 20, 2018
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