The Annotated U. S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence

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Overview

Here in a beautifully bound cloth gift 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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Editorial Reviews

New Yorker

[An] excellent guide...valuable and judicious.
— Jill Lepore

Claremont Review of Books

Gracefully written...compact and easy to read...Rakove is nuanced and judicious.
— Matthew Spalding

Choice

Unlike many of his contemporaries, [Rakove] breathes life into the two founding documents of the U.S., and arguably into the ideals and beliefs that define America and Americanism. This volume gives students, scholars, practitioners, and general readers an insightful, easily understood, and well-researched narrative political account of how these documents came to be written. Rakove places the colorful personalities of the founding fathers, along with the concepts, issues, and concerns involved with these documents, within an easily discernable context. His attention to historical and political detail is unwavering and on target. Indeed he puts the fun back into reading and learning about the U.S.'s two most important documents.
— W. Jakub

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

With more decisions to come on the heels of the U.S. Supreme Court's redefinition of campaign—finance law in the context of the First Amendment, [this book is a] timely reminder that Americans too rarely read, much less consider, their nation's most important documents as closely as they should...[It's an] important addition to a vital and ongoing American debate. Whatever one thinks the Constitution and Declaration of Independence mean, there's value in revisiting those texts, reviewing how they've been construed throughout U.S. history and reconsidering arguments for and against differing interpretations. [This book] invites Americans to do just that—and to renew their appreciation for the genius of those who drafted the blueprints for U.S. freedom and republican government.
— Alan Wallace

New Republic online

Provide[s] some essential civic education...Rakove's inclusion of (and comments on) the Declaration of Independence is useful, and his extensive introduction is especially valuable. Rakove is one of the most gifted writers among contemporary American historians, and he provides an illuminating overview of the political history that generated both the Declaration in 1776 and then, only eleven years later (following the failure of our first constitution, the Articles of Confederation), the Constitution that was drafted in Philadelphia.
— Sanford Levinson

Choice
Unlike many of his contemporaries, [Rakove] breathes life into the two founding documents of the U.S., and arguably into the ideals and beliefs that define America and Americanism. This volume gives students, scholars, practitioners, and general readers an insightful, easily understood, and well-researched narrative political account of how these documents came to be written. Rakove places the colorful personalities of the founding fathers, along with the concepts, issues, and concerns involved with these documents, within an easily discernable context. His attention to historical and political detail is unwavering and on target. Indeed he puts the fun back into reading and learning about the U.S.'s two most important documents.
— W. Jakub
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
With more decisions to come on the heels of the U.S. Supreme Court's redefinition of campaign--finance law in the context of the First Amendment, [this book is a] timely reminder that Americans too rarely read, much less consider, their nation's most important documents as closely as they should...[It's an] important addition to a vital and ongoing American debate. Whatever one thinks the Constitution and Declaration of Independence mean, there's value in revisiting those texts, reviewing how they've been construed throughout U.S. history and reconsidering arguments for and against differing interpretations. [This book] invites Americans to do just that--and to renew their appreciation for the genius of those who drafted the blueprints for U.S. freedom and republican government.
— Alan Wallace
New Republic online
Provide[s] some essential civic education...Rakove's inclusion of (and comments on) the Declaration of Independence is useful, and his extensive introduction is especially valuable. Rakove is one of the most gifted writers among contemporary American historians, and he provides an illuminating overview of the political history that generated both the Declaration in 1776 and then, only eleven years later (following the failure of our first constitution, the Articles of Confederation) the Constitution that was drafted in Philadelphia.
— Sanford Levinson
Adam Liptak
Rakove…gains momentum as his book progresses. His writing becomes slyer, shedding some of its textbook quality.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
This probing commentary on America's founding documents by constitutional historian Rakove (winner of a Pulitzer for Original Meanings) begins with a long essay on their historical and political background, stressing their ideological innovations. His detailed exegeses unavoidably lose some thematic coherence while elucidating the Declaration as a work of propaganda (considerably overstating George III's despotism, notes Rakove) and the Constitution's murky political compromises. Rakove is a constitutionalist—but he's palpably dissatisfied with the Constitution we've got. Among other complaints, he says amending the Constitution is so difficult, we passively interpret it instead of remaking it to suit our evolving purposes. Rakove's is a lucid, thought-provoking guide to the contents—and discontents—of our national charters. 34 b&w illus. (Nov.)
Library Journal
What are the frameworks through which we govern our country? In separate texts, Rakove and Lipsky provide annotated analysis of our founding U.S. documents. Pulitzer Prize-winning author Rakove (history & political science, Stanford Univ.; Original Meanings: Politics and Ideas in the Making of the Constitution) presents both the Declaration and the Constitution with carefully laid out annotation that's accessible to general readers as well as high school and college students. His extended introduction provides a readable and instructive analysis of how the writing of the Constitution progressed, especially on matters concerning representation, executive power, and creation of the amendments. His annotations often rely upon contemporary usage and meaning from the time of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution—useful for students to understand—and he compares such usage to other documents of the time.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674036062
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 11/30/2009
  • Edition description: Annotated
  • Pages: 354
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 7.00 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Jack N. Rakove is the 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.

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Table of Contents

  • A Note to the Reader

  • Introduction
    The Declaration of Independence
    The U.S. Constitution
    Amendments to the Constitution
  • A Calendar of Events
  • Further Reading
  • Credits
  • Acknowledgments

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 31, 2010

    Great new addition to the works about the Constitution and Declaration of Independence

    Dr. Rakove is at his best covering this fascinating subject about our nation's leading document. It's interpretation by scholars is an ongoing process. It is a compact volume and easy to find quick material about each section and clause in the document. I find it helpful when teaching class and needing a quick interpretation for students. Students have found it an easy read and a valuable research tool.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 13, 2010

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