Original Meanings: Politics and Ideas in the Making of the Constitutionby Jack Rakove
What did the U.S. Constitution (USC) originally mean, & how can we recover the intentions of its framers? Traces the complex weave of ideology & interests from which the USC emerged & shows how Amer. have attached different meanings to their founding document from the moment it was published. Examines the classic issues that the framers of the USC had to solve: federalism, representation, exec. power, individual rights, & the idea that the USC itself should become supreme law. Pays particular attention to James Madison, the USCs presiding genius, whose brilliance shaped the documents framing, ratification, & amendment. Winner of the Pulitzer prize.
Since the 1980s, conservative legal scholars (e.g., Robert Bork) have espoused "originalism" in constitutional interpretation. Adding historical perspective to the legal debate, Rakove here dispels the idea that the Founding Fathers were a monolith; by examining the personal roles of the founders, particularly James Madison, who exercised perhaps the most significant influence over the framing of the Constitution, Rakove shows that the framers were a diverse lot, variegated in their view of the polity they had created. Cmpromise was integral to the politics of constitution-making, Rakove shows, and the need to forge a workable document took precedence over theoretical consistency. The survival of slavery was the most notorious, but not the only, matter on which the framers compromised; the very nuances of federalism itself were unaddressed, leaving a theoretical debate that contributed to the Civil War. Rakove seems to suggest that some of the framers (Jefferson, with his contempt for tradition, stands out), forthright as they were in recreating their political union after the failed Articles of Confederation, would be puzzled at our tendency to worship their creation. Rakove appears to contend that the Constitution was intended to be a living document, not a static, once-and-for-all enumeration of all individual rights and federal powers. "How," asks the author rhetorically, "could those who wrote the Constitution possibly understand its meaning better than those who had the experience of observing and participating in its operation?"
A unique contribution to the historical and legal debate surrounding the Constitution.
- Blackstone Audio, Inc.
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- 5.20(w) x 5.70(h) x 1.50(d)
Meet the Author
JACK N. RAKOVE was born in Chicago in 1947. Since 1980 he has taught at Stanford University, where he is currently Coe Professor of History and American Studies. He is the author of The Beginnings of National Politics and James Madison and the Creation of the American Republic. He is the editor of Interpreting the Constitution: The Debate over Original Intent.
STEVEN WEBER made his film debut in 1984 in The Flamingo Kid and has since acted in numerous films and television series, including Wings and The Shining. He has also appeared in many stage productions, including National Anthems and the Broadway musical The Producers.
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