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.
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About the Author
Jack N. Rakove is William R. Coe Professor of History and American Studies and Professor of Political Science at Stanford University and author of the Pulitzer Prize–winning Original Meanings: Politics and Ideas in the Making of the Constitution.
Table of Contents
- A Note to the Reader
- A Calendar of Events
- Further Reading
The Declaration of Independence
The U.S. Constitution
Amendments to the Constitution
What People are Saying About This
Jack Rakove provides clear and accessible annotations to the two most fundamental documents of America's civil religion. Especially important are his insights about 'hard-wired' constitutional provisions that, because they are never litigated, are too often ignored with regard to their role in structuring the American polity. This book will prove of immense value to students, scholars, and ordinary citizens.
Sanford Levinson, author of Our Undemocratic Constitution: Where the Constitution Goes Wrong (and How We the People Can Correct It)
Jack Rakove is one of the most distinguished historians of this nation's Founding era. Here, he explores the background of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and explicates their meaning. Every American citizen wishing to know more about our founding documents will find this book an invaluable introduction to our distinctive legal heritage.
Michael J. Klarman, Kirkland & Ellis Professor, Harvard Law School