Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.
Dr. Kevin C. Murphy introduces the historical context of the creation of the United States Constitution.
Books from the Library
Find these books in the library's e-book collection:
The annotated U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence by Here in a newly annotated edition are the two founding documents of the United States of America: the Declaration of Independence (1776), our great revolutionary manifesto, and the Constitution (1787-88), in which "We the People" forged a new nation and built the framework for our federal republic. Together with the Bill of Rights and the Civil War amendments, these documents constitute what James Madison called our "political scriptures" and have come to define us as a people. Now a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian serves as a guide to these texts, providing historical contexts and offering interpretive commentary. In an introductory essay written for the general reader, Jack N. Rakove provides a narrative political account of how these documents came to be written. In his commentary on the Declaration of Independence, Rakove sets the historical context for a fuller appreciation of the important preamble and the list of charges leveled against the Crown. When he glosses the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the subsequent amendments, Rakove once again provides helpful historical background, targets language that has proven particularly difficult or controversial, and cites leading Supreme Court cases. A chronology of events provides a framework for understanding the road to Philadelphia. The general reader will not find a better, more helpful guide to our founding documents than Jack N. Rakove.
Publication Date: 2012-10-22
The framers' coup : the making of the United States constitution by Americans revere their Constitution. However, most of us are unaware how tumultuous and improbable the drafting and ratification processes were. As Benjamin Franklin keenly observed, any assembly of men bring with them "all their prejudices, their passions, their errors of opinion, their local interests and their selfish views." One need not deny that the Framers had good intentions in order to believe that they also had interests. Based on prodigious research and told largely through the voices of the participants, Michael Klarman's The Framers' Coup narrates how the Framers' clashing interests shaped the Constitution - and American history itself.The Philadelphia convention could easily have been a failure, and the risk of collapse was always present. Had the convention dissolved, any number of adverse outcomes could have resulted, including civil war or a reversion to monarchy. Not only does Klarman capture the knife's-edge atmosphere of the convention, he populates his narrative with riveting and colorful stories: the rebellion of debtor farmers in Massachusetts; George Washington's uncertainty about whether to attend; Gunning Bedford's threat to turn to a European prince if the small states were denied equal representation in the Senate; slave staters' threats to take their marbles and go home if denied representation for their slaves; Hamilton's quasi-monarchist speech to the convention; and Patrick Henry's herculean efforts to defeat the Constitution in Virginia through demagoguery and conspiracy theories.The Framers' Coup is more than a compendium of great stories, however, and the powerful arguments that feature throughout will reshape our understanding of the nation's founding. Simply put, the Constitutional Convention almost didn't happen, and once it happened, it almost failed. And, even after the convention succeeded, the Constitution it produced almost failed to be ratified. Just as importantly, the Constitution was hardly the product of philosophical reflections by brilliant, disinterested statesmen, but rather ordinary interest group politics. Multiple conflicting interests had a say,from creditors and debtors to city dwellers and backwoodsmen. The upper class overwhelmingly supported the Constitution; many working class colonists were more dubious. Slave states and nonslave states had different perspectives on how well the Constitution served their interests.Ultimately, both the Constitution's content and its ratification process raise troubling questions about democratic legitimacy. The Federalists were eager to avoid full-fledged democratic deliberation over the Constitution, and the document that was ratified was stacked in favor of their preferences. And in terms of substance, the Constitution was a significant departure from the more democratic state constitutions of the 1770s. Definitive and authoritative, The Framers' Coup explains why the Framers preferred such a constitution and how they managed to persuade the country to adopt it. We have lived with the consequences, both positive and negative, ever since.
Publication Date: 2016-10-14
Unifying the Nation: Article IV of the United States Constitution by In-depth examination of a rarely studied article of the United States Constitution. While there is a vast amount of scholarship on the US Constitution, very little of it addresses Article IV. The article's first section, the Full Faith and Credit Clause, requires that individual states must respect "the public acts, accords, and judicial proceedings of every other state," and the second section, the Privileges and Immunity Clause, prevents one state from treating the citizens of another state in a discriminatory manner. In Unifying the Nation, Joseph F. Zimmerman provides a unique and comprehensive examination of court cases pertaining to both sections. Article IV, he argues, is central to the political and economic union of the individual states that comprise the nation. Many of the court cases cited in the text have tremendous day-to-day relevance and implications for the practice of government, such as same-sex marriage, child adoption, child support, public welfare, health care, and telecommunications. Joseph F. Zimmerman is Professor of Political Science at the University at Albany, State University of New York. His many books include The Initiative, Second Edition: Citizen Lawmaking; State-Local Governmental Interactions; and Interstate Water Compacts: Intergovernmental Efforts to Manage America's Water Resources, all published by SUNY Press.
Publication Date: 2015-01-27
The fourteenth amendment and the privileges and immunities of American citizenship by This exhaustively researched book presents the history behind a revolution in American liberty: the 1868 addition of the Privileges or Immunities Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. It follows the evolution in public understanding of 'the privileges and immunities of citizens of the United States', from the early years of the Constitution to the election of 1866. For 92 years nothing in the American Constitution prevented states from abridging freedom of speech, prohibiting the free exercise of religion, or denying the right of peaceful assembly. The suppression of freedom in the southern states convinced the Reconstruction Congress and supporters of the Union to add an amendment forcing the states to respect the rights announced in the first eight amendments. But rather than eradicate state autonomy, the people embraced the Fourteenth Amendment that expanded the protections of the Bill of Rights and preserved the Constitution's original commitment to federalism and the principle of limited national power.
Publication Date: 2014