[Download] Original Meanings Politics and Ideas in the Making of the Constitution ✓ Jack N. Rakove

Jack N. Rakove ´ 5 review

Original Meanings Politics and Ideas in the Making of the Constitution

From abortion to same sex marriage today's most urgent political debates will hinge on this two part uestion What did the United States Constitutio. This is a deeply and meticulously researched book by one of the leading Constitutional scholarshistorians Jack Rakove as distinct from constitutional law he is not a lawyer The scholarship is superb and it is as indispensable for politics and law as it is profound historicallyThe book is comprehensive it covers James Madison and his political philosophy writings preceding and during the making of the Constitution the period preceding and leading to the Constitutional Convention in 1787 at Philadelphia the politics during the making of the Constitution the idea of ratification the debates between Federalists and anti Federalists during the ratification process federalism presidency representation and Bill of Rights the idea of legal originalism and generally philosophy and ideas that were infused into the ConstitutionThe general thesis of the book is that originalism as a judicial and political philosophy is untenable not only because it is difficult as a historical matter to ascertain the intention of the framers and understanding of the text during and after ratification but even importantly because the very premise of originalism is uestionable There exists no compelling reason to consider original intent meaning and understanding to be paramount to our understandings today The Constitution s primary usefulness is not mainly in its strict text but in its ability to provide general guidelines for the functioning of our gov t and democracy In that sense it is a flexible and living document and cannot simply be reduced to a strict text to be interpreted narrowly guided by simplistic historical narrative This book serves as a scholarly antidote to originalism grounded in a realist approach to historyWARNING The book is very dense in both senses of the word firstly it is physically dense small font single spaced Therefore don t be deceived by its mere 370 pages of reading the rest are endnotes index etc It feels like at least double of that Secondly due to its intellectual rigor it s a difficult read And this coming from a lawyer I have read uite a few difficult texts in my life So do yourself a favor DO NOT skim through it It is to be read slowly and thoroughly so that it can be fully absorbed and understood as well as appreciatedThis book would be perfect for any serious students of history political science and philosophy law and politics However I would also recommend it to any casual student of history as well and I am one

Summary Original Meanings Politics and Ideas in the Making of the Constitution

Its complex weave of ideology and interest showing how this document has meant different things at different times to different groups of American. Professor Rakove s work is a must read for anyone interested in the idea of original intent In his opening chapter The Perils of Originalism he raises a couple of uestions Whose intent and understanding are we to look at the Framers or the Ratifiers Are we to look at specific individuals just a few or the entirety of those Framers andor Ratifiers Inasmuch as several of them changed their opinions over the course of their live at what time in their life are we to lookThe next couple of chapters describe the road to the Philadelphia Convention and Madison s major role in making it happen But it is the chapter entitled Debating the Constitution that is the meat of the topicThe author notes that both sides feared that cunning leaders would manipulate even well meaning citizens A note unwarranted idea considering what is occurring today When considering discussions in the contemporary press one needs to keep in mind that the press was predominately Federalist tho several papers attempted to be somewhat even handed Most people know that James Madison took copious notes though not necessarily verbatim notes during the convention and that he John Jay and Alexander Hamilton wrote the Federalist Papers but Luther Martin an Anti Federalist who refused to sign the Constitution wrote a serial history of the Convention His history is an account of its maneuvers and factions which confirmed in the minds of many that its secret history was a tale of subversionAmong Madison s fears and Rakove uotes Madison regarding a public decision on a constitutional dispute could never be expected to turn on the true merits of the uestion He feared that passions would overrule reason Again one could argue that this is currently occurring The author also notes that the writers of the Federalist Papers had their own doubts they left privately Doubts that left both men convinced that the Constitution might prove seriously even fatally flawed because it lacked key provisions each respectively favored According to Rakove Madison apparently felt it better to trust future experience to identify remediable defects in an adopted Constitution than to risk the uncertainty of a second convention Rakove goes on to describe the various uestions and debates during and after the Convention Among the Anti Federalist uestions was which features of the Constitution were most likely to prove vulnerable to manipulation Rakove suggests in his section on Madison and the Origins of Originalism that the debate started even before ratification and continued after During the first session of Congress there was a debate and one of the representatives wrote that another representative had spoken to Pubius and Publius informed him that upon mature reflection he had changed his opinion regarding the issue of government officers removal by the president When the Jay Treaty came up for approval Madison apparently had changed his mind about the House involvement in treaties Rakove notes that when discussing the Treaty the House was prepared to entertain interpretations reconstructing the positions of framers ratifiers and the people He continues the ensuing disagreements prompted a few representatives on both sides to suggest that recourse to historical evidence was futileHaving earlier read Science and the Founding Fathers Science in the Political Thought of Thomas Jefferson Benjamin Franklin John Adams and James Madison by Bernard Cohen I find a different light cast on original intent These were enlightened men men of the enlightenment who reasoned and adapted to changing times They often referred to the new government as an experiment which can lead one to believe they were able to change their opinions when new evidence came forth Perhaps the Original Intent of the framers aside from forming a stronger central government was to create a living constitution that would change with the times

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N originally mean and who now understands its meaning best Rakove chronicles the Constitution from inception to ratification and in doing so traces. I m giving this book 5 stars because it is a monumental achievement and an exhaustive review of the available information about the drafting ratification and interpretation of the Constitution It is a scholarly work that deserves the Pulitzer Prize that it won But it is not light reading It is in fact a difficult read Mostly I m proud of myself for having gotten through it and I m relieved there won t be a test Despite the difficulty I learned a great deal particularly about how fragile the whole process was They performed a miracle there s no other explanation


About the Author: Jack N. Rakove

Jack Rakove is the William Robertson Coe Professor of History and American Studies and professor of political science and by courtesy law at Stanford where he has taught since 1980 His principal areas of research include the origins of the American Revolution and Constitution the political practice and theory of James Madison and the role of historical knowledge in constitutional litigation



10 thoughts on “Original Meanings Politics and Ideas in the Making of the Constitution

  1. says:

    It is infuriating to me that historians hide their brilliant interpretations of a concept so pertinent to today's political discussion behind incoherent writing styles This book is at times hopelessly dense frustrating the everyday interest in early American history I assume that the Pulitzer is for the message and not the style but boy do

  2. says:

    This is a deeply and meticulously researched book by one of the leading Constitutional scholarshistorians Jack Rakove as distinct from constitutional law; he is not a lawyer The scholarship is superb and it is as indispensable for politics and law as it is profound historicallyThe book is comprehensive it covers James Madison and

  3. says:

    This exhaustively researched and beautifully written account of the politics and ideas behind the making of the US Constitution is a model of history at its very best Through close and scrupulously fair attention to the arguments of b

  4. says:

    Rakove's Pulitzer Prize winning work on understanding the intent of the original framers of the Constitution is a timely work especially given recent Supreme Court nomination battles Perhaps Rakove's views can best be summarized by the following two uotes the first attributed to Madison When the Almighty himself condescend

  5. says:

    I'm giving this book 5 stars because it is a monumental achievement and an exhaustive review of the available information about the drafting r

  6. says:

    It was DENSE and occaisionally enlightening Often I would find myself realizing I had no idea what had been said for the previous 15 minutes You really have to love the subject to find it interesting On the other hand it was NOT depressing unlike many other Pulitzer Prize winning books

  7. says:

    Professor Rakove's work is a must read for anyone interested in the idea of 'original intent' In his opening chapter The Per

  8. says:

    The notion that the original intentions of the framers should guide subseuent generations of Americans begs the ue

  9. says:

    One of the most timely and compelling reads of the last 5 years for me While written in 1996 ; Rakove's work illuminates todays constitutional debates with a detailed examination of the public record and the crucial Political dynamics that informed the founders and ratifiers in their work While this work may be best abs

  10. says:

    For those who like to argue with people who claim to know what the founding fathers were thinking and that we should adhere strictly to their plan Rakove gives the best short ish history of the writing of the US constitution pointi

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