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Posted June 12, 2012
Author Might Have an Agenda, Proceed With Caution...
Upon reading Professor McClanahan's new volume, The Founding Fathers' Guide to the Constitution, I left feeling a mixture of both genuine contentment as well as dissatisfaction. Going into the book, I had high hopes that the author would present a unique viewpoint on the Founder’s understanding of the Constitution; to my immediate dismay, I found myself browsing over a predictable thesis that most academics constantly regurgitate over-and-over again.
Perhaps because I consider myself a history buff and political junkie, I found that after I’d read a few dozen pages on the Legislative branch that I could pretty much chart the rest of the book’s viewpoint on the Executive, Judiciary, etc.
While in my opinion the reading is quite dry - the author simply drops quotes from sentence to sentence without framing them or providing much of an introduction – I still fervently applaud McClanahan for his diligent research and efforts to compound the various viewpoints from the founding era into a single, slim volume. But while the author provides the reader with a plethora of speakers, both renowned as well as obscure, it appears as though McClanahan selectively chooses certain quotations and arguments to fit what some critics may call out as an “agenda.” Although I won’t go as far as some on the left may egregiously claim, McClanahan does, in fact, espouse a consistently libertarian, Anti-Federalist viewpoint for understanding the “one” “true” intention of the founders. While there is certainly nothing wrong with re-discovering the beliefs of strict construction or interpreting the constitution literally, I warn future readers from believing that this political philosophy was the sole ideology that guided the founders when framing the constitution. As with any generation of leaders debating virtually any topic, the Founding Fathers surely were not monolithic in their beliefs; therefore when it appears that the author is embracing one form of thought over another/others, it’s best prescribed to take these arguments with only a grain of salt.
McClanahan’s thesis on the founders’ understanding of republicanism and the constitution is by no means wrong, inaccurate, or perverted to meet a hidden agenda. It is well cited and provides a great variety of sources, as opposed to just the Philadelphia Convention or the Federalist Papers for support. It just appears to me - from my previous readings on the founders and my understanding of this period – that this book, whether intentionally or not, leaves out several other credible viewpoints on constitutionalism and how the United States ought to be governed.
**Sidenote**: Although I’ve chosen to rate this book 3 out of a 5 star scale, if given more precision, I probably would have awarded McClanahan’s work a 3.5 or 3.75.
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Posted June 12, 2012
The Founding Fathers Guide to the Constitution was a good primer
The Founding Fathers Guide to the Constitution was a good primer for people who don't understand the constitution very well. Brion McClanahan tells to many side stories of the founding fathers. He should have been more direct on his arguments.
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