Cover image for The United States : an experiment in democracy
The United States : an experiment in democracy
Becker, Carl L. (Carl Lotus), 1873-1945.
Publication Information:
New Brunswick, N.J. : Transaction Publishers, [2001]

Physical Description:
xxvi, 332 pages ; 23 cm
General Note:
Originally published: New York : Harper, c1920.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
JK271 .B53 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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According to Carl Becker "if the framers of the Constitution could come back to earth and see what the federal government is doing to-day, they would all agree that this monstrous thing was no child of theirs; for to-day the federal government exercises as a matter of course powers which they never dreamed of." This prescient statement rings as true today as it did when Becker wrote An Experiment in Democracy nearly eighty years ago. This American classic is an engaging, gracefully rendered piece of historical literature as well as a non-ideological meditation on the "meaning of America."

Carl Becker's ruminations are invariably provocative, notably wise, and remarkably enduring. He clearly believed in what has been called a "living Constitution," one that must be adapted to changing circumstances and imperatives in America life, and his faith in democracy seems to have strengthened as the decades progressed.

In his new introduction, Michael Kammen places this American classic in historical perspective. Kammen sees Becker as more than an archival historian, but rather as a master of the "creative synthesis" looking at familiar sources in fresh ways and developing new points of view that were frequently revisionist and, on occasion, radically arresting. Much has changed between 1920 and the present; but Carl Becker's sagacity persists, just as his expository prose will continue to please a new generation of historians and students of American social history. Carl Becker was the author of "Kansas"; The Declaration of Independence: A Study in the History of Political Ideas; Modern History: The Rise of a Democratic, Scientific, and Industrial Civilization; "Benjamin Franklin"; "Everyman His Own Historian"; The Heavenly City of the Eighteenth-Century Philosophers; How New Will the Better World Be?; and Freedom and Responsibility in the American Way of Life.

Author Notes

Few historians of the United States have written as well as Carl Becker, Cornell University's famous professor of modern European history. Becker was born in Iowa and studied at the University of Wisconsin, where he earned his Ph.D. in 1907. His study The Heavenly City of the Eighteenth-Century Philosophers (1932), is a classic, as is The Heavenly City Revisited. Becker taught at Dartmouth and the University of Kansas before joining the Cornell faculty in 1917.

After his retirement in 1941, Beck was professor emeritus and university historian at Cornell. His work continues to remain a model for writers of history, with its economy of words, keen analytical sense, and graceful style. As a distinguished essayist, practicing historian, and apostle of democracy, Becker almost always made freedom and responsibility his themes.

Beck died in 1945.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Table of Contents

Introduction to the Transaction Editionp. ix
I. America and Democracyp. I
II. The Origins of Democracy in Americap. 5
III. The New World Experiment in Democracyp. 20
IV. Democracy and Governmentp. 64
V. New World Democracy and Old World Interventionp. 108
VI. Democracy and Free Landp. 142
VII. Democracy and Slaveryp. 186
VIII. Democracy and Immigrationp. 225
IX. Democracy and Educationp. 262
X. Democracy and Equalityp. 296