The Revolutionary Constitution

The Revolutionary Constitution

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The framers of the Constitution chose their words carefully when they wrote of a more perfect union-not absolutely perfect, but with room for improvement. Indeed, we no longer operate under the same Constitution as that ratified in 1788, or even the one completed by the Bill of Rights in 1791-because we are no longer the same nation. In The Revolutionary Constitution, David J. Bodenhamer provides a comprehensive new look at America's basic law, integrating the latest legal scholarship with historical context to highlight how it has evolved over time. The Constitution, he notes, was the product of the first modern revolution, and revolutions are, by definition, moments when the past shifts toward an unfamiliar future, one radically different from what was foreseen only a brief time earlier. In seeking to balance power and liberty, the framers established a structure that would allow future generations to continually readjust the scale. Bodenhamer explores this dynamic through seven major constitutional themes: federalism, balance of powers, property, representation, equality, rights, and security. With each, he takes a historical approach, following their changes over time. For example, the framers wrote multiple protections for property rights into the Constitution in response to actions by state governments after the Revolution. But twentieth-century courts-and Congress-redefined property rights through measures such as zoning and the designation of historical landmarks (diminishing their commercial value) in response to the needs of a modern economy. The framers anticipated just such a future reworking of their own compromises between liberty and power. With up-to-the-minute legal expertise and a broad grasp of the social and political context, this book is a tour de force of Constitutional history and more

Product details

  • Hardback | 296 pages
  • 154.94 x 236.22 x 27.94mm | 521.63g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 0195378334
  • 9780195378337
  • 1,644,061

Review quote

"David J. Bodenhamer has written a lucid and informative topical history of American constitutional law and constitutionalism in The Revolutionary Constitution. Bodenhamer has provided a constitutional history that embraces a very modern understanding of constitutionalism. Arranging the book in ten topical chapters, Bodenhamer addresses each topic in isolation, covering the full American historical period for the respective topic. The result is a series of essays about important themes of American constitutional history, such as the origins of constitutionalism in America, federalism, equality, rights, and --Bodenhamer's overarching intended theme--the history of 'power and liberty.'" --Ian J. Drake, H-Law"Usefully illuminates both the development and contemporary significance of constitutional ideas and practices. As the author of previous works on the history of legal rights in the United States, Bodenhamer is well positioned to elucidate the ways the Constitution has evolved over time and how liberty is realized through its terms. For readers looking for a historically sensitive introduction to the American constitutional system, The Revolutionary Constitution should serve them well. --Journal of American History "[Bodenhamer's] writing is highly informed and elegant, and his judgements are sound...Highly recommended." --CHOICE"In The Revolutionary Constitution, David J. Bodenhamer chronicles how the lodestars of power and liberty have guided American constitutionalism. Fascinating chapters spanning the history of the republic demonstrate that the revolutionary generation framed but did not resolve fundamental issues like federalism, representation, and equality. Instead, Bodenhamer's compelling and concise constitutional history reveals that Americans have devised generational solutions to persistent challenges like these as they constantly renewed the nation's revolutionary heritage." --Michael Grossberg, co-editor of The Cambridge History of Law in America "David Bodenhamer has written a book every student of the Constitution, as well as anyone interested in how our nation developed, should read. It argues convincingly and lucidly that the Constitution was the result of an amazing revolutionary movement, and that its vitality comes not from the dead hand of the past, but from the Framers' genius in drafting a document that would allow future generations to maintain that spirit." --Melvin I. Urofsky, author of Louis D. Brandeis: A Lifeshow more

About David J. Bodenhamer

David J. Bodenhamer is Founder and Executive Director of The Polis Center, Professor of History, and Adjunct Professor of Informatics at Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis. He is the author or editor of several books on American legal and constitutional history, including Fair Trial: Rights of the Accused in American History, and is co-editor of the International Journal of Humanities and Arts more

Table of contents

Introduction ; Chapter 1: Antecedents ; Chapter 2: Revolution ; Chapter 3: Mechanics ; Chapter 4: Federalism ; Chapter 5: Balance ; Chapter 6: Property ; Chapter 7: Representation ; Chapter 8: Equality ; Chapter 9: Rights ; Chapter 10: Security ; Further Reading ; Indexshow more

Rating details

7 ratings
3.85 out of 5 stars
5 14% (1)
4 57% (4)
3 29% (2)
2 0% (0)
1 0% (0)
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