America's Constitution by Akhil Reed Amar
A Biography

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In America’s Constitution, one of this era’s most accomplished constitutional law scholars, Akhil Reed Amar, gives the first comprehensive account of one of the world’s great political texts. Incisive, entertaining, and occasionally controversial, this “biography” of America’s framing document explains not only what the Constitution says but also why the Constitution says it.

We all know this much: the Constitution is neither immutable nor perfect. Amar shows us how the story of this one relatively compact document reflects the story of America more generally. (For example, much of the Constitution, including the glorious-sounding “We the People,” was lifted from existing American legal texts, including early state constitutions.) In short, the Constitution was as much a product of its environment as it was a product of its individual creators’ inspired genius.

Despite the Constitution’s flaws, its role in guiding our republic has been nothing short of amazing. Skillfully placing the document in the context of late-eighteenth-century American politics, America’s Constitution explains, for instance, whether there is anything in the Constitution that is unamendable; the reason America adopted an electoral college; why a president must be at least thirty-five years old; and why–for now, at least–only those citizens who were born under the American flag can become president.

From his unique perspective, Amar also gives us unconventional wisdom about the Constitution and its significance throughout the nation’s history. For one thing, we see that the Constitution has been far more democratic than is conventionally understood. Even though the document was drafted by white landholders, a remarkably large number of citizens (by the standards of 1787) were allowed to vote up or down on it, and the document’s later amendments eventually extended the vote to virtually all Americans.

We also learn that the Founders’ Constitution was far more slavocratic than many would acknowledge: the “three fifths” clause gave the South extra political clout for every slave it owned or acquired. As a result, slaveholding Virginians held the presidency all but four of the Republic’s first thirty-six years, and proslavery forces eventually came to dominate much of the federal government prior to Lincoln’s election.

Ambitious, even-handed, eminently accessible, and often surprising, America’s Constitution is an indispensable work, bound to become a standard reference for any student of history and all citizens of the United States.

About Akhil Reed Amar

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Akhil Reed Amar is Sterling Professor of Law and Political Science at Yale University, and periodically serves as a visiting professor at Harvard, Columbia, and Pepperdine Law Schools. Amar is the author of four books, including America's Constitution, which won the Silver Gavel Award from the American Bar Association, and The Bill of Rights, which was awarded a Silver Gavel Certificate of Merit. A member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a Senior Scholar at the National Constitution Center, Amar is often cited by the Supreme Court and is a frequent expert witness in Congressional hearings.
Published February 29, 2012 by Random House. 672 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Political & Social Sciences, War, Law & Philosophy, Professional & Technical, Education & Reference, Children's Books. Non-fiction

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Among amendments to consider now, he remarks, is a recasting of the rules of succession: “Much as Americans responded to the tragedy of November 22, 1963 by revising the Constitution’s succession system, so Americans in the wake of September 11, 2001 have good reason to rethink our statutory succ...

Jul 15 2005 | Read Full Review of America's Constitution: A Bio...

Kirkus Reviews

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He emphasizes that much of our unwritten Constitution is written—Supreme Court opinions, presidential proclamations, congressional acts—but that it also encompasses common sense and legal scholarship that aims to decipher a document that contains no instructions on how to interpret its many gener...

Jul 15 2012 | Read Full Review of America's Constitution: A Bio...

Kirkus Reviews

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A needed explication of a document that all Americans should know—but that few have ever read.

May 20 2010 | Read Full Review of America's Constitution: A Bio...

The New York Times

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A conservative reading of the Constitution, Akhil Reed Amar argues, can lead to liberal outcomes.

Nov 06 2005 | Read Full Review of America's Constitution: A Bio...

Publishers Weekly

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You can read the U.S. Constitution, including its 27 amendments, in about a half-hour, but it takes decades of study to understand how this blueprint for our nation's government came into existence.

Jun 20 2005 | Read Full Review of America's Constitution: A Bio...

Publishers Weekly

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Yale law professor Amar follows his highly regarded historical-textual analysis of America’s Constitution with a companion volume on the history, culture, and legal tenets of the “unwritten constitution,” the traditions and precedents that inform constitutional interpretation.

Jul 02 2012 | Read Full Review of America's Constitution: A Bio...

Book Reporter

Indeed, as the Iraqis struggle with the creation of their constitution, the President might consider sending a copy of AMERICA'S CONSTITUTION to each member of the Iraqi Parliament.

Dec 22 2010 | Read Full Review of America's Constitution: A Bio...

Bookmarks Magazine

When used correctly, these extra-textual aids support and enrich the written document without supplanting it.

An authoritative work by one of America’s preeminent legal scholars, America’s Unwritten Constitution presents a bold new vision of the American constitutional system, showi...

Sep 12 2012 | Read Full Review of America's Constitution: A Bio...

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