Moral Minorities and the Making of American Democracy (Paperback)
  • Moral Minorities and the Making of American Democracy (Paperback)
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Moral Minorities and the Making of American Democracy (Paperback)

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£37.99
Paperback 312 Pages / Published: 13/04/2017
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Should the majority always rule? If not, how should the rights of minorities be protected? In Moral Minorities and the Making of American Democracy, Kyle G. Volk unearths the origins of modern ideas and practices of minority-rights politics. Focusing on controversies spurred by the explosion of grassroots moral reform in the early nineteenth century, he shows how a motley but powerful array of self-understood minorities reshaped American democracy as they battled laws regulating Sabbath observance, alcohol, and interracial contact. Proponents justified these measures with the "democratic" axiom of majority rule. In response, immigrants, black northerners, abolitionists, liquor dealers, Catholics, Jews, Seventh-day Baptists, and others articulated a different vision of democracy requiring the protection of minority rights. These moral minorities prompted a generation of Americans to reassess whether "majority rule" was truly the essence of democracy, and they ensured that majority tyranny would no longer be just the fear of elites and slaveholders. Beginning in the mid-nineteenth-century, minority rights became the concern of a wide range of Americans attempting to live in an increasingly diverse nation. Volk reveals that driving this vast ideological reckoning was the emergence of America's tradition of popular minority-rights politics. To challenge hostile laws and policies, moral minorities worked outside of political parties and at the grassroots. They mobilized elite and ordinary people to form networks of dissent and some of America's first associations dedicated to the protection of minority rights. They lobbied officials and used constitutions and the common law to initiate "test cases" before local and appellate courts. Indeed, the moral minorities of the mid-nineteenth century pioneered fundamental methods of political participation and legal advocacy that subsequent generations of civil-rights and civil-liberties activists would adopt and that are widely used today.

Publisher: Oxford University Press Inc
ISBN: 9780190609498
Number of pages: 312
Weight: 446 g
Dimensions: 233 x 171 x 20 mm


MEDIA REVIEWS
...[W]onderful, lively... * Journal of American History *
In this engaging historical account, Professor Volk provides perspective that illuminates political movements of both the 1800s and today. * Harvard Law Review *
In this boldly argued and engagingly written book, Kyle Volk brilliantly recasts the political history of nineteenth-century America. Volk's narrative brings to life the political ideas and tactics of a motley crew of individuals and groups - from German immigrants and African Americans to Seventh Day Baptists and liquor dealers - who struggled mightily against their era's proliferating array of morals regulations and racial codes. Taking their causes to the courts, the statehouses, and the streets, these unlikely champions of minority rights forged a pluralistic conception of democracy that shaped the public culture of their era and left behind an enduring legacy of dissent for later generations. * Michael Willrich, author of Pox: An American History *
In Moral Minorities, Kyle Volk examines why, in an era of mass democracy, ordinary Americans organized to protect their civil liberties. Minority rights, it turns out, did not emerge just from elites and courts, but from the grassroots efforts of citizens determined to protect their liberties from overzealous majorities. A must-read for anyone interested in the tension between majority rule and minority rights in a diverse society. * Johann Neem, author of Creating a Nation of Joiners: Democracy and Civil Society in Early National Massachusetts *
Moral Minorities is a stunning intervention in the history of grass-roots politics and American democratic thought, as well as in the emerging fields of popular constitutionalism and everyday political practice. Kyle Volk shows us the history of minority rights movements in an entirely new light. He dramatically revises our understanding of the origins of such movements, their constitutional underpinnings, and their surprising political trajectories. * Reeve Huston, author of Land and Freedom: Rural Society, Popular Protest, and Party Politics in Antebellum New York *
This excellent book chronicles the rise of what Kyle G. Volk calls 'a new, popular minority-rights politics' in the mid-nineteenth century that laid the groundwork for minority mobilization in the century and a half to follow. In six compelling chapters, the book tracks transformations in who were the most vocal minorities arguing for a place in American democracy and how those minorities made the case for protecting themselves from majoritarian demands.... This is the rare book that is both deeply historical and strikingly urgent... This book is clever in its conception, rich in its research, wise in its argumentation, and eloquent in its writing. * Common-place *
In this timely book, Professor Kyle G. Volk artfully explains the competing forces and shifting political coalitions in the mid-nineteenth century that ultimately constructed the modern paradigms of morality politics, majority rule, and minority rights that still govern our democratic landscape today. * Harvard Law Review *

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