Magruder's American Government by William A. McClenaghan, Frank Magruder

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Magruder's American Government Summary

(Critical Guide to Censorship and Literature)

The Boston-based firm Allyn & Bacon began publishing Frank Abbott Magruder’s civics textbook American Government in 1917. Revised annually, the book became a fixture in U.S. high schools, where it was long regarded as a straightforward explication of the American political system. During the Joseph McCarthy era after World War II, however, a number of conservative critics, notably Lucille Cardin Crain and Allen Zoll, called for the book’s removal from schools because of its allegedly procommunist stance. Crain’s attacks appeared in the Educational Reviewer, a quarterly newsletter published by the Conference of American Small Business Organizations. Zoll assailed the book in privately issued pamphlets. The criticisms of Crain, Zoll, and others included charges that the textbook promoted communism by endorsing the United Nations Charter and by referring to the U.S. post office as a practical example of socialist policy. As a result, the book was removed from schools in Georgia, Texas, and Arkansas and was the target of pressure in several other states.

After Magruder died in 1949 authorship of American Government was assumed by his protégé, William A. McClenaghan. Attacks on the book did not, however, stop. During the 1950’s the John Birch Society, the Texas Daughters of the American Revolution, and the Minutewomen (a Connecticut group of McCarthy devotees) also began to campaign against the book. With the waning of the Red Scare, such criticisms gradually abated. During the 1960’s, however, Christian Fundamentalists Norma Gabler and Mel Gabler renewed attacks on American Government, this time on religious grounds. They periodically managed to impede adoption of new editions of the book by Texas schools well into the 1990’s.

Chapter 1 Summary: Principles of Government

Section 1

There are four major theories that attempt to explain how states evolved from earlier governments and tribes:

1. The force theory suggests that a strong man, dictator, soldier, or a powerful group of people maintained power through force.

2. The evolutionary theory argues that as more and more families combined into a society, government evolved naturally.

3. The divine right theory suggests that God, or gods, created the state.

4. The social contract theory, which emerged from the philosophies of John Locke, suggests that the state, or government, can exist only with the consent of the governed. The government of the United States is based on this theory.

Section 2

Government takes various forms. To help classify different types of governments, consider the following basic principles.

1. Geographic distribution of power:

  • A unitary government places all power at the national level.
  • A federal government distributes power and authority between the national and local levels.
  • A confederation places most power with the states, which then loosely cooperate to make national decisions.

2. Legislative/Executive interaction:

  • In a presidential system, the Legislative and the Executive branches are equally powerful.
  • In a parliamentary system, the Executive branch is contained within the Legislative branch.

3. Degree of public participation:

  • A dictatorship is an all-powerful Executive branch that does not answer to the public.
  • A democracy is a government that answers to the people through elections.

Section 3

In addition to the structures and principles already discussed, democracies must adhere to a few basic concepts:

  • Democracies believe in the individual worth of human beings.
  • Democracies support equality between persons.
  • Democracies run by majority rule but still protect minority rights.
  • Democracies believe in compromise.
  • Democracies support a large degree of individual freedoms.

Chapter 2 Summary: Origins of American Government

Section 1: Our Political Beginning

The colonists that first settled in the Americas borrowed heavily from the English tradition of government. Although England was a monarchy at that time, it also had a Bill of Rights and a Parliament. It was within this framework that the early colonial governments emerged. Because of the physical distance between the colonists and the...

(The entire section is 1,508 words.)