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Good reference book for U.S. constitution?

  1. Jul 5, 2014 #1
    I'm looking for some kind of reference/guide book for the U.S. constitution. I actually don't know exactly what I'm looking for, but I envision something which contains the full document and all the ammendments, but also information about the people and history behind the document - facts and tidbits about the authors, the circumstances and history behind each ammendment, and perhaps discussion of modern day interpretation.

    I'm sure there must be dozens of sources like this, but knowing the name of something is half the battle... any suggestions/reccomendations?
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  3. Jul 5, 2014 #2


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  4. Jul 5, 2014 #3
    Thanks, but I'm requesting a book because I plan on reading this material on a plane ride in a few weeks, so I can't use the internet - however I'll look at the references and see if any of them are what I'm looking for.
  5. Jul 5, 2014 #4

    Vanadium 50

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    The Federalist Papers describe what the original authors were thinking. However, they don't discuss amendments. Particularly the recent ones, since the authors are by that time dead.
  6. Jul 5, 2014 #5

    jim hardy

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    Federalist Papers are fascinating but not a quick read(for me at least).

    "Five Thousand Year Leap" is interesting but has a religious and conservative bent to it that puts some people off.
    Might be about right for a plane ride though.

    "Federalist Papers" deserves serious study .
  7. Jul 6, 2014 #6


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    You could also use your computer without having internet access.
    You could download many of the references cited on wikipedia.
    You could also download the wikipedia page itself.

    On archive.org and elsewhere you might find many downloadble books, like for example:

    Last edited: Jul 6, 2014
  8. Jul 6, 2014 #7


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    The Federalist Papers were a series of articles written at the time immediately after the Constitution had been drafted and signed. The idea behind these articles was to urge ratification by the states of this new document.


    The authors of the papers were secret at the time of publication, but later, it is thought that Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay were the three men chiefly responsible for authoring these papers, either individually or in collaboration.

    The Federalist Papers, although advocating the ratification of the Constitution, are remarkable for being against adopting the Bill of Rights, as the first 10 Amendments to the Constitution are now known.
  9. Jul 14, 2014 #8


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    Certainly the Federalist Papers are worth reading, as others have recommended, as are the papers of Hamilton, Jay, Jefferson and Adams.

    Perhaps one can start with an 'annotated' version of the US Constitution.

    https://beta.congress.gov/content/conan/pdf/GPO-CONAN-2013.pdf (2830 pages; ~20 MB)

    More on the US Constitution at the National Archives
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2014
  10. Jul 17, 2014 #9
    So I picked up three books today from the library,

    One is a copy of the complete Federalist papers, one is an annotated copy of the entire constitution, and figured I'd throw in 'Rights of Man' by Thomas Paine. 'Common Sense' would probably be more appropriate, but that's much shorter and I'll probably read that before I leave.

    Thanks for all the suggestions!
  11. Jul 19, 2014 #10


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    Which version of the Federalist did one buy?

    I have the Bantam (1982) paperback text. The author is Gary Wills. He gives some interesting commentary, especially about how folks may interpret the language differently, particularly in modern times, with meanings different from those expressed or implied by the authors.

    See also texts on the Constitutional Convention (1787), aka Philadelphia Convention, . . .

    and the Articles of Confederation
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2014
  12. Jul 19, 2014 #11

    jim hardy

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    It is interesting indeed to look into the usages that were popular at the time.

    For example, the term "regulation" had recently(~1760) acquired a meaning in the new field of botany, which was a hobby of Jefferson;
    'the ability of an organism to adapt existing tissue to another purpose as opposed to growing it anew".....

    which makes me wonder , was there perhaps a waggish double-entendre in his phrase "well regulated militia" ?

    Look for one of those dictionaries that gives dates in its etymology notes.
  13. Jul 19, 2014 #12


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    I would love to have some old dictionaries (of the English language and European languages) from the 1700s and 1800s.

    Wills makes comments about Hamilton's background, including an interest in protecting manufacturing interests, as well as Jefferson's agrarian background.

    As for the term regulation, one would have to look at terms used in technology, industry or politics to see how the term 'regulate' or 'regulation' are used. They appear numerous times in the US Constitution.
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2014
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