The Constitution Explained: A Guide for Every American

The Constitution Explained: A Guide for Every American

by David L. Hudson Jr JD
The Constitution Explained: A Guide for Every American

The Constitution Explained: A Guide for Every American

by David L. Hudson Jr JD


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The United States Constitution is a short document, and it is written in general language, which leaves much of the meaning unwritten and open to interpretation. Dig into this important document and watershed in the history of governments!

Explore the history, the various clauses, amendments, and interpretations. Understand your rights (and responsibilities)! From the Constitutional Convention to the creation of the Constitution and its eventual ratification, and to the Bill of Rights and the thorny constitutional issues of today, The Constitution Explained: A Guide for Every American covers the history, our founding fathers’ goals, and the varied interpretations of the Constitution that have informed the politics and functioning of the U.S. government. You’ll discover …

  • How the Constitution makes the United States of America different from many countries around the world because it gives us a peaceful mechanism to resolve governmental issues
  • The rights and responsibilities of U.S. citizens
  • An in-depth look at the freedoms enshrined in the Bill of Rights
  • “The Miracle at Philadelphia” and “the Great Compromise”
  • The many different methods used to interpret the Constitution
  • Controversial U.S. Supreme Court picks throughout history and how the size and tenure of the Supreme Court justices has long been a contentious issue
  • The remarkable evolution of death penalty jurisprudence
  • The “Bill” Process, Pardon Power, Power of Judicial Review, and other stated and implied powers found in Articles I (Congress), II (Presidency) and III (Judicial)
  • And much, much more!

    A guide to the citizenship and the American government, The Constitution Explained sheds a light on the differing and changing interpretations of the many broadly worded key phrases in the Constitution. You’ll learn how the Constitution has been adopted to different times and various situations. You’ll learn what it does—and does not—promise U.S. citizens. Richly illustrated, it also has a helpful bibliography, glossary, and extensive index. This invaluable resource is designed to help you understand the power and strength of the U.S. Constitution!

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    Product Details

    ISBN-13: 9781578597505
    Publisher: Visible Ink Press
    Publication date: 06/14/2022
    Pages: 384
    Sales rank: 551,362
    Product dimensions: 7.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.90(d)

    About the Author

    David L. Hudson, Jr., J.D. is an Assistant Professor of Law, teaching First Amendment Law and Bar Exam Workshop at Belmont University’s College of Law. For 17 years, he was an attorney and scholar at the First Amendment Center in Nashville, Tennessee. Hudson also has taught classes at Vanderbilt Law School and the Nashville School of Law, and he served as a senior law clerk for the Tennessee Supreme Court. In June 2018, the Nashville School of Law awarded him its Distinguished Faculty Award. He earned his undergraduate degree from Duke Universityand his law degree from Vanderbilt Law School. He is an author, co-author, or co-editor of more than 40 books, including Visible Ink Press’s The Handy Law Answer Book, The Handy Supreme Court Answer Book, and The Handy American History Answer Book, as well as Let The Students Speak: A History of the Fight for Free Expression in American Schools and The Encyclopedia of the First Amendment (co-editor). He writes regularly for the American Bar Association’s Preview of United States Supreme Court Cases and ABA Journal, the First Amendment Watch, and the Free Speech Center. 

    Read an Excerpt

    The First Amendment

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceable to assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

    The First Amendment consists of the first 45 words of the Bill of Rights and consists of five freedoms: (1) religion, (2) speech, (3) press, (4) assembly and (5) petition. Additionally, the U.S. Supreme Court also ruled in NAACP v. Alabama (1958) that the First Amendment protects the related freedom of association.

    The First Amendment serves as our blueprint for personal freedom. It ensures that we live in an open society. The First Amendment contains five freedoms: religion, speech, press, assembly and petition. Without the First Amendment, religious minorities could be persecuted, or the government could establish a single, national religion. The press could not criticize government and citizens could not mobilize for social change. This would mean we would lose our individual freedom.

    Freedom of Religion

    The first two clauses of the First Amendment — “respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” — are the religion clauses. The first is the Establishment Clause. The second is the Free Exercise Clause. Together, these clauses require that the government act in a neutral manner when it comes to religion.

    The Establishment Clause provides that church and state remain separate to a certain degree. In a letter to the Danbury Baptists in 1802, President Thomas Jefferson used the phrase a “wall of separation between church and state.” The U.S. Supreme Court later used Jefferson’s “wall of separation” metaphor to describe the meaning of the Establishment Clause and rule that state-mandated prayer in public schools violated the Establishment Clause.

    The concern over separation between church of state was significant to several of the Framers, notably James Madison and Thomas Jefferson. They and some others desired to place some distance between church and state to prevent American political leaders from acting like English monarchs who were intolerant of other religious views.

    King Henry VIII of England was a prime example of what can happen when there is not a sufficient barrier between church and state. King Henry broke away from the Catholic Church in 1531 after the Pope refused to support his divorce from Catherine of Aragon. Henry established the Protestant Church of England. In 1534, the English Parliament passed the Act of Supremacy establishing Henry as the head of the Church of England. This was a disaster for religious freedom.

    Later, Parliament passed the Treason Act, which effectively silenced anyone who spoke out against the King. The act was used to silence religious dissenters. Religious intolerance seemed to the standard in much of Europe, including England. Many people fled England to settle in America and the New World because of religious persecution. Religious dissenters in England were ostracized, punished and imprisoned.

    Modern Establishment Clause jurisprudence began with the 1947 case Everson v. Board of Education (1947). It involved a New Jersey man Arch Everson challenged a policy that provided bus transportation for students attending both public and private, including parochial, schools. Everson believed that the state should not be providing any funding or reimbursements to families whose kids attended religious schools. To Everson, this amounted to the state supporting or establishing religion.

    The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in favor of the policy, noting that it applied to all schools, not just religious schools. But, even in his majority opinion, Justice Hugo Black took a broad view of what the Establishment Clause did. “The First Amendment has erected a wall between church and state,” Black wrote. “That wall must be kept high and impregnable. We could not approve the slightest breach. New Jersey has not breached it here.”

    Table of Contents

    About the Author

    1. Overview, history, and contemporary relevance of the U.S. Constitution
    2. Constitutional Law Toolkit, key terms and methods of interpretation
    3. The Articles of Confederation
    4. The Philadelphia Convention
    5. The Ratification Process – Addition of the Bill of Rights
    6. Article I and the Powers of Congress
    7. Article II and the Powers of the Executive (Presidency)
    8. Article III and the Powers of the Judiciary
    9. Other Articles – Amending the Constitution
    10. First Amendment Freedoms
    11. Second Amendment and the Right to Bear Arms
    12. Fourth Amendment
    13. Fifth and Sixth Amendments
    14. Eighth Amendment and the Death Penalty
    15. Fourteenth Amendment: Equal Protection and Due Process
    16. Nineteenth Amendment and Amendments Dealing with Voting
    17. Amendments Dealing with Presidential Succession
    18. Current Constitutional Controversies

    Glossary of Terms
    Further Reading

    Customer Reviews