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Constitutional Government

Constitutional Government: The Constitutional Convention

1787: The Grand Convention
Clinton Rossiter (MacMillan Company, 1966)
Rossiter, the editor of the most widely read edition of The Federalist Papers, examines the meeting that created the Constitution in this very readable (and trustworthy) work, focusing on the setting, men, events, and consequences of the federal convention through the early years of the new Republic. A number of related documents are also included.

Miracle at Philadelphia: The Story of the Constitutional Convention, May to September 1787
Catherine Drinker Bowen (Little, Brown and Company, 1966)
This popular (but less authoritative) narrative of the Constitutional Convention focuses narrowly on the participants and the day-to-day convention debate in almost novel-like form.

The Summer of 1787
David Stewart (Simon & Schuster, 2007)
This more recent work gives a lively account of the conflicts and negotiating that created the Constitution.

The Founders' Constitution
Edited by Philip B. Kurland and Ralph Lerner (Liberty Fund, 2000)
Originally published by the University of Chicago Press to commemorate the bicentennial of the Constitution, this extensive work consists of extracts from the leading works on political theory, history, law, and constitutional arguments on which the Framers and their contemporaries drew and which they themselves produced. Liberty Fund has prepared a paperback edition of the entire work in five volumes. It is also available online at http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders.

The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787
Max Farrand (Yale University Press, 1986)
This definitive work, originally published in 1937, gathers into three volumes all the records written by participants of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, including the extensive, official notes taken throughout by James Madison.

Constitutional Government: The Founders Debate the Constitution

The Framing and Ratification of the Constitution
Leonard Levy and Dennis Mahoney (MacMillan, 1987)
A nice collection of 21 essays on the framing and ratification of the Constitution, addressing various topics ranging from our colonial background and the events leading up to the Constitutional Convention to questions of original intent and organization of the new government.

From Parchment to Power: How James Madison Used the Bill of Rights to Save the Constitution
Robert Goldwin (American Enterprise Institute, 1997)
A clear and convincing historical study of the constitutional issues surrounding the creation of the Bill of Rights, looking at the philosophical arguments behind these guarantees and how Madison crafted the first 10 amendments then shepherded them through the First Congress.

The Federalist Papers
Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison (Mentor Books edition, 1999)
Published as a series of newspaper articles intended to sway New Yorkers in the debate over ratification, this famous collection of essays in defense of the Constitution remains the greatest work of American political philosophy. The classic edition, edited by the late Clinton Rossiter, has now been published with a fine introduction by Charles Kesler, as well as an historical glossary and other supplementary materials.

Debates on the Constitution
Bernard Bailyn (The Library of America, 1993)
A very nice two-volume collection of Federalist and anti-Federalist speeches, articles, and letters during the struggle over ratification of the Constitution, focusing on debates in the press and correspondence between September 1787 and August 1788, as well as on the debates in the state ratifying conventions of Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Massachusetts, South Carolina, Virginia, New York, and North Carolina.

The Essential Antifederalist
Edited by William B. Allen and Gordon Lloyd (University Press of America, 1985)
This volume of essays offers an accessible selection of leading anti-Federalist opinion. After a nice interpretative essay by the editors, the selections are grouped to focus on the origins of anti-Federalist thought, then later views on federalism, republicanism, capitalism, and democracy.

What the Anti-Federalists Were For: The Political Thought of the Opponents of the Constitution
Herbert J. Storing (The University of Chicago, 1981)
A brief introduction to the thought of the anti-Federalists, who opposed the ratification of the Constitution and wanted a small republic, more federalism, and a bill of rights, among other things. It also considers their affect on enduring themes of American political life, such as a concern for big government and the infringement of personal liberty.

Commentaries on the Constitution
Joseph Story (Carolina Academic Press, 1987)
A classic and substantive work on the meaning of the U.S. Constitution by one of its early scholars and one of the greatest justices of the Supreme Court. A reprint of the 1833 edition includes histories of various colonies, of the Revolutionary and of the Confederation periods; it also includes straight-forward commentaries on the clauses of the Constitution.

Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution 1787-1788
Pauline Maier (Simon and Schuster, 2010)
A history of what came after the convention in Philadelphia based on the wealth of historical sources surrounding the state ratification conventions. Maier combines thorough academic research with a knack for good writing.

Constitutional Government: Interpretation and Assessment

Originalism: A Quarter-Century of Debate
Edited by Steven G. Calabresi (Regnery, 2007)
Through a collection of speeches, panel discussions and debates, this book chronicles the development and growth of originalism as a judicial philosophy. Calabresi has compiled a variety of viewpoints on originalism from leading legal scholars, including Attorney General Edwin Meese’s 1985 speech to the American Bar Association and his speech to the Federalist Society twenty years later.

Essays on the Making of the Constitution
Edited by Leonard Levy (Oxford University Press, 1987)
A strong collection of essays that bring together differing viewpoints on the roles and motivations of the framers of the Constitution. Includes a selection from Charles Beard's historic An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution as well as essays attacking and essays defending Beard's thesis.

The American Founding: Essays on the Formation of the Constitution
Edited by J. Jackson Barlow, Leonard W, Levy, and Ken Masugi (Greenwood Publishing, 1988)
This is a collection of 11 short but scholarly essays on the political thought of the American Founding by authors such as Merrill Peterson, Jack Rakove, Harry V. Jaffa, and Henry Steele Commager. The essays address topics such as classical political thought, John Locke, equality, natural rights, and the Enlightenment in relation to American thought.

Saving the Revolution: The Federalist Papers and the American Founding
Edited by Charles Kesler (New York: Free Press, 1987)
A very approachable collection of 14 essays by foremost scholars explaining and interpreting The Federalist Papers on topics such as republicanism, federalism, foreign policy, the separation of powers, executive power, and the original purposes of the Constitution.

Taking the Constitution Seriously
Walter Berns (Simon and Schuster, 1987)
This brief work makes a defense of the original intent of the Framers by relating the Constitution back to the principles of the Declaration of Independence and considering how the Founding dealt with various challenges to the idea of constitutionalism.

The American Presidency: An Intellectual History
Forrest McDonald (University Press of Kansas, 1994)
This work examines the creation and history of the presidency and by looking at the political theorists who influenced the Founders, at the Constitutional Convention, the precedent-setting terms of Washington, and at Jefferson and the evolution of the office's expressed and implied powers.

The Heritage Guide to the Constitution
Edited by David Forte and Matthew Spalding (Regnery, 2005)
A more recent work in the Story tradition. It brings together more than 100 scholars to create a line-by-line examination of every clause of the Constitution, explaining their original meaning as well as their contemporary understanding.

Constitutional Government: Online Resources

The Heritage Guide to the Constitution Online
The Heritage Guide to the Constitution brings together the nation’s leading legal experts to provide the only clause-by-clause examination of the Constitution and how it’s been interpreted over the years.

This website from the National Constitution Center features a basic introduction to the Constitution, a library of Founding-era documents, and lesson plans for teachers.

U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774-1873
The Library of Congress has digitized the records of the Continental Congress and the U.S. Congress through 1873, as well as selected bills and statutes.

The Constitutional Convention
The Claremont Institute’s twelve-step guide to the Constitutional Convention of 1787, provides both a basic overview and a thorough day-by-day account of the proceedings. Visitors will also find biographies of and documents by some of the major participants.