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The Heritage Guide to the Constitution

Publisher: Regnery Publishing • 2014 • 500 pages
5 out of 5 • View Ratings Details • 11 Ratings

The U.S. Constitution refers to itself as “the supreme Law of the Land.” Yet today it is the Supreme Court, rather than the Constitution itself, which most determines our fundamental law — often based on non-constitutional (even non-American) premises, such as international law. Now, under the supervision of former Attorney General Edwin Meese, and in conjunction with the nation’s preeminent conservative think tank — The Heritage Foundation — The Heritage Guide to the Constitution brings together more than 100 of the nation’s best conservative legal scholars to provide the first ever clause-by-clause examination of the complete Constitution, revealing its real meaning according to the original intent of the Framers. Considering the centrality of Constitutional interpretation to nearly every major issue dividing our nation, this is one book that belongs in every conservative’s library.

Special features of this monumental work:

  • A noted and uniquely qualified expert analyzes each of the almost two hundred clauses in the Constitution — from the Preamble to the Twenty-seventh Amendment
  • Each essay provides a description of the original understanding of the clause, as far as it can be determined. If within the standard of original understanding there are credible and differing interpretations, they are noted and explained
  • Each essay further explains the current state of the law regarding the clause and, where appropriate, gives brief explanations of the historical development of current doctrine
  • At the end of each essay, the authors add cross-references to other clauses in the Constitution, suggestions for further research, and a listing of significant cases concerning that clause
  • Written to be accessible and helpful for informed citizens and students of the Constitution generally, while also especially useful for lawmakers and judges
  • A complete index of cases referenced throughout the Guide is provided in an Appendix
  • Important stand-alone essays by Edwin Meese (The Meaning of the Constitution), Professor Matthew Spalding (The Formation of the Constitution) and Professor David Forte (The Originalist Perspective)

In addition to the text of the Constitution itself, the Guide takes three widely recognized sources to be especially authoritative in this project. First, The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787, the definitive collection of the records and debates of the Constitutional Convention, written by participants of the Convention, including in particular the extensive notes taken by James Madison. Second, The Federalist Papers, the great series of essays written by Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison in 1787 and 1788 to defend the Constitution during the debates over the document’s ratification. And third, Joseph Story’s Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States, a classic and substantive work on the meaning of the U.S. Constitution, written in 1833 by one of its best scholars and one of the greatest Justices of the Supreme Court.

Discover the real meaning of the Constitution

  • The “general Welfare” clause: to liberals, the charter for the Welfare State. How its original intent was to limit federal spending
  • Congress’s power to “regulate Commerce . . . among the several states”: misinterpreted by the Courts to mean regulate virtually anything, any time, anywhere. But what did the Framers really mean by “Commerce” and “regulate” — and, for that matter, “among the several States”
  • The Constitution gives Congress the power to “coin Money.” But does that include a power to print money?
  • The important difference — well-known to the Framers — between Congress’s power to “declare” war and the Commander-in-Chief’s constitutional responsibility to “make” war in response to aggression
  • Why the Constitution plainly forbids dual citizenship — though millions of American citizens today are also active citizens of other countries (some hostile to ours)
  • The “Necessary and Proper” clause: why it was meant to authorize Congress to enact laws plainly adapted for executing only Congress’s enumerated powers — not (as liberals think) any law Congress considers “reasonable”
  • How the Supreme Court’s judicial power evolved from judging the constitutionality of government actions to overturning legislation it disliked, often substituting its own policy preferences
  • How the Framers limited federal court involvement to matters between states, not within them — meaning that federal courts had no right to overturn state laws
  • How the Supreme Court in recent years has put the First Amendment’s “No Establishment of Religion” and “Free Exercise of Religion” clauses in mutual tension — and why it was not so for the Framers
  • Why most of the Founders did not believe that government should be “untainted” by religion — and, to the contrary, believed it was a necessary support of good government
  • * What exactly did the Framers mean — and, no less important, not mean — by “Freedom of Speech”? How the Court has taken it far afield of their original intent
  • The “Incorporation Doctrine”: How this novel (post-1940s) interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment has been used by the Courts to make most provisions of the Bill of Rights limit the power of the states in the same way they limit the federal government
  • Why the Court’s recent decision in Kelo v. City of New London, seizing homes for redevelopment by private businesses, is such a worrisome departure from precedent, and the meaning of the Constitution itself
  • The Eighth Amendment’s primary purpose in forbidding “cruel and unusual punishment” — nothing at all to do with forbidding capital punishment
  • The Ninth Amendment: originally designed to prevent the expansion of federal power seemingly implied by the listing of prohibitions within the Bill of Rights — yet more often today cited to create new rights (such as abortion) to be enforced on state legislatures
  • And much more

Among the 100 eminent conservative legal scholars who contributed to this first-of-its-kind volume:

Albert W. Alschuler, Univ. of Chicago Law School * Gerard V. Bradley, Notre Dame Law School * James L. Buckley, U.S. Court of Appeals * Einer Elhauge, Harvard Law School * James W. Ely, Jr., Vanderbilt Univ. Law School * Trent England, The Heritage Foundation * Richard A. Epstein, Univ. of Chicago Law School * John Feerick, Fordham Univ. Law School * Charles Fried, Harvard Law School * Douglas Ginsburg, U.S. Court of Appeals * Michael S. Greve, American Enterprise Institute * James C. Ho, U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution * Charles Kesler, Claremont McKenna College * Douglas Kmiec, Pepperdine Univ. Law School * Gary Lawson, Boston Univ. Law School * Robert Levy, Cato Institute * Forrest McDonald, Univ. of Alabama * Thomas Merrill, Columbia Law School * Paul Moreno, Hillsdale College * John Copeland Nagle, Notre Dame Law School * Mackubin Owens, U.S. Naval War College * Terence Pell, Center for Individual Rights * Stephen B. Presser, Northwestern Univ. Law School * Paul Rosenzweig, The Heritage Foundation * Stephen Safranek, Ave Maria Law School * Bradley Smith, Capital Univ. Law School * Matthew Spalding, The Heritage Foundation * William J. Stuntz, Harvard Law School * Jonathan Turley, George Washington Univ. Law School * David Wagner, Regent Univ. Law School * dozens more

“The Constitution — the original document of 1787 plus its amendments — is and must be understood to be the standard against which all laws, policies, and interpretations should be measured. It is our fundamental law because it represents the settled and deliberate will of the people, against which the actions of government officials must be squared. In the end, the continued success and viability of our democratic Republic depends on our fidelity to, and the faithful exposition and interpretation of, this Constitution, our great charter of liberty. —Edwin Meese, from his introductory essay

“Our peculiar security is in the possession of a written Constitution. Let us not make it a blank paper by construction.” —Thomas Jefferson

“The Constitution ought to be the standard of construction for the laws, and that wherever there is an evident opposition, the laws ought to give place to the Constitution.” —Alexander Hamilton

“The Constitution means what the delegates of the Philadelphia Convention and of the state ratifying conventions understood it to mean; not what we judges think it should mean.” —Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas

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