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The Founding Fathers Guide to the Constitution

The Founding Fathers Guide to the Constitution

3.6 7
by Brion McClanahan

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What Does the Constitution Really Mean?

Are liberals right when they cite the “elastic” clauses of the Constitution to justify big government? Or are conservatives right when they cite the Constitution’s explicit limits on federal power? The answer lies in a more basic question: How did the founding generation intend for us to


What Does the Constitution Really Mean?

Are liberals right when they cite the “elastic” clauses of the Constitution to justify big government? Or are conservatives right when they cite the Constitution’s explicit limits on federal power? The answer lies in a more basic question: How did the founding generation intend for us to interpret and apply the Constitution? Professor Brion McClanahan, popular author of The Politically Incorrect Guide™ to the Founding Fathers, finds the answers by going directly to the source—to the Founding Fathers themselves, who debated all the relevant issues in their state constitutional conventions.
In The Founding Fathers’ Guide to the Constitution, you’ll discover:

  • How the Constitution was designed to protect rather than undermine the rights of States
  • Why Congress, not the executive branch, was meant to be the dominant branch of government—and why the Founders would have argued for impeaching many modern presidents for violating the Constitution
  • Why an expansive central government was the Founders’ biggest fear, and how the Constitution—and the Bill of Rights—was designed to guard against it
  • Why the founding generation would regard most of the current federal budget—including “stimulus packages”—as unconstitutional
  • Why the Founding Fathers would oppose attempts to “reform” the Electoral College
  • Why the Founding Fathers would be horrified at the enormous authority of the Supreme Court, and why the Founders intended Congress, not the Court, to interpret federal law

Authoritative, fascinating, and timely, The Founding Fathers’ Guide to the Constitution is the definitive layman’s guide to America’s most important—and often willfully misunderstood—historical document.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Praise for The Founding Fathers Guide to the Constitution

“For generations, left-wing judges, professors, and lawyers have told us that we can never know what the Constitution was supposed to mean, so judges are free to do what they want. Yet, in The Founding Fathers’ Guide to the Constitution, Brion McClanahan gives us a clear, clause-by-clause explanation of the original understanding of the Constitution. Constitutional government is possible, if only officials would be true to their oaths.”
—Kevin R. C. Gutzman, J.D., Ph.D., author of The Politically Incorrect Guide™ to the Constitution

“The Constitution for the United States, like all human creations, has been changed by the inescapable ravages of time. Not only the passage of time, but ambition, rent-seeking, ignorance, deception, misunderstanding, ideology, and the lust for power have encrusted our basic instrument of government with layer upon layer of false assumptions and distorted postures that have blocked us from knowing its real meaning and intent. Dr. McClanahan, with insight, painstaking effort, and that rare thing, plain common sense, has presented here as good a picture as we will get of what the Constitution really meant to those who wrote and ratified it. This book is not only a notable feat of historianship, but also an important exercise of citizenship that will enlighten those who yearn for truth.”
—Clyde N. Wilson, Emeritus Distinguished Professor of History, University of South Carolina

“Professor McClanahan provides us with an invaluable window into the intent of all the Framers. This book can best be described as intellectual hard medicine. The readers’ minds will be purged of all the nonsense they have been taught about the Constitution so they can see the document as intended by the founding generation that produced it.”
—Dr. Marshall DeRosa, Professor of Political Science, Florida Atlantic University

“Brion McClanahan’s Founding Fathers’ Guide to the Constitution takes the guesswork out of what the Founders intended. It’s all here, in their own words, which any layman can understand—and just as important, use as the standard to assess the wayward judges, congressmen, and executives of our federal government.”
—Thomas E. Woods, Jr., bestselling author of The Politically Incorrect Guide™ to American History and Rollback: Repealing Big Government Before the Coming Fiscal Collapse

Library Journal
McClanahan (history, Chattahoochee Valley Community Coll.) has written a strict constructionist's guide to the Constitution. Taking the Constitution line by line, from the preamble through the Bill of Rights, he reprints the relevant text then offers snippets from contemporary debates to support his views. The book aims to convince readers that the Constitution's meaning can be derived solely from the writings and speeches of both well- and lesser-known Founding Fathers. What appears to be a more scholarly companion piece to McClanahan's previous Politically Incorrect Guide to the Founding Fathers, this book correspondingly has more extensive endnotes. Regardless of one's political views, the book has a clear agenda and places those who debated the Constitution in a historical vacuum. In contrast, Ray Raphael's Founders: The People Who Brought You a Nation covers many of the personalities and debates in McClanahan's book but discusses their affiliations and current events. VERDICT While this title can be useful for those wanting a literal introduction to the debates surrounding the Constitution, there is no way to evaluate the sources without knowledge of the accompanying history.—Harry Charles, St. Louis, MO

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Regnery Publishing
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Meet the Author

Brion McClanahan is author of The Politically Incorrect Guide™ to the Founding Fathers and holds an M.A. and Ph.D. in American history from the University of South Carolina. Born in Virginia, he attended high school in Delaware and received a B.A. in history from Salisbury University in Maryland. He lives with his wife and children near Phenix City, Alabama, just across the river from Columbus, Georgia.

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The Founding Fathers' Guide to the Constitution 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Splatterdab More than 1 year ago
A must read for those who are questioning today's contemporary interpretation of the Constitution. Regardless of your political persuasion it always helps to get back to the basics. Specifically, what was the intent of our founding fathers? If you believe that they were extremely forward thinking men who cared deeply for future generations then this is a reference that should help in bringing us back on track by practicing critical thought to applying the original intent of the Constitution to today's issues and questions.
WilliamLewis More than 1 year ago
I recently read 'The Founding Fathers Guide to the Constitution' and enjoyed it thoroughly. The author shines a welcome light on the men and ideas competing both at the Philadelphia convention and the state ratifying conventions, not to mention the wise words of Brutus, an Old Whig and others who were rightfully wary of giving too much power to the general government. I wish people were more familiar with these important exchanges (and somewhat less familiar with the Federalist Papers, which have been elevated to gospel status by the Supreme Court). Buy this book for yourself or give it as a gift to someone who thinks they know the "original intent" of the founders and framers. In light of the recent controversy surrounding the Obamacare decision in particular and the role of the court in general, this book and the ideas therein could not be more timely.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good starting place for the beginner. Prof Mc covers most of the basics while including his direct refereces. He misses on several important points which predate Marbury vs. Madison, such as how Constitutional questions were not reviewable by the couts, but were jury questions that were put directly to the jury via jury instructions! If you liked this and want more on govt, try "The Albany Plan Re-Visted", for social issues Thomas Sowell's "Intellectuals and Society", and for the advanced non-lawyer legal student Ed Meese's "Heritage Guide to the US Constitution".
rckrr More than 1 year ago
What would our Founding Fathers think about the United States if they could see it now? To help answer this question the book quotes many of the Founders as they were debating the Constitution while it was going through ratification. I found it startling that many of the Founders who opposed certain sections of the Constitution did so for reasons that are evident today. The Founders were visionaries and many of their fears have been realized. A couple examples include the staggering amount of debt that the U.S. has encumbered and the use of presidential executive orders. I have read the U.S. Constitution, but wanted to get a deeper understanding of what the Founders had envisioned for the country as they were writing and debating it. The book met my expectations.
Conservative-Kyle More than 1 year ago
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.
PoliticalGenius More than 1 year ago
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.
Jumpingjim1 More than 1 year ago
I can,t help but say , I am not the most political person to read this book ! I do however love my Country ! Hence the reason to purchase this book ! It is suppose to be a laymans guide to the constitution !! I find that it is just as vauge in most respects to the constitution ,& even mysterious in some places ! I imagine if you spent a great deal of time Delving into the constitution , you might greatly understand what this book is trying to explain ! I on the other end , have not spent that much time ( do to noones fault but my own ) exploring the constitution & therefor have to say it,s a little bit confusing !