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The Constitution

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

The Preamble to the U.S. Constitution consists of this single sentence that introduces the document and its purpose. The Constitution is the supreme law of the United States of America and is the oldest written national constitution still in force. Completed on September 17, 1787, with its adoption by the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, it was later ratified by special conventions in each of the thirteen United States. It took effect in 1789 and has served as a model for the constitutions of numerous other nations.

The original copy of the Constitution is on permanent display at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.



The Articles of confederation; an interpretation of the social-constitutional history of the American Revolution 1774-1781 by Jensen, Merrill

The Constitutional Convention of 1787: a comprehensive encyclopedia of America's founding by John R. Vile; foreword by Jack N. Rakove

Encyclopedia of constitutional amendments, proposed amendments, and amending issues, 1789-2002 by John R. Vile

Encyclopedia of the American Constitution by Leonard W. Levy, editor-in-chief; Kenneth L. Karst, associate editor; Dennis J. Mahoney, assistant editor


Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow

Alexander Hamilton: a life by Willard Sterne Randall

Benjamin Franklin by Edmund S. Morgan

Benjamin Franklin: an American life by Walter Isaacson

Franklin: the essential founding father by James Srodes

Gouverneur Morris: an independent life by William Howard Adams

Gentleman revolutionary: Gouverneur Morris, the rake who wrote the Constitution by Richard Brookhiser

George Washington by James MacGregor Burns and Susan Dunn

His Excellency: George Washington by Joseph J. Ellis

James Madison by Garry Wills; general editor, Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr

John Jay: Founding Father by Walter Stahr


The American Constitution--for and against: the Federalist and anti-Federalist papers by selected and edited, with an introduction, by J.R. Pole — A collection of essays and speeches from 1787 to 1788 debating the merits of the proposed United States Constitution.

The Articles of Confederation: the first constitution of the United States by Barbara Silberdick Feinberg — This examination of a pivotal time in America's history — the creation of the Articles of Confederation — describes their purpose and discusses how they led to a more powerful Constitution.

A brilliant solution: inventing the American Constitution by Carol Berkin — For the newly independent United States, the years just after the Revolution were the best of times and the worst of times: though the states celebrated their newfound freedom, they did not have a strong central government that would bind them together. In 1787 James Madison, George Washington and a handful of others met in Philadelphia to frame a creative answer to this political impasse. The author wonderfully reveals the conflicts and compromises that characterized the drafting of the Constitution, and chronicles the development of the document itself, recording the details of each of the articles of the Constitution, for instance, and demonstrating the framers' belief in the primacy of the legislative branch. Most important, the author emphasizes that the framers saw the Constitution as a working document, one that would require revision as the country grew.

The Constitutional Convention by Richard Haesly, book editor — The story of the Constitutional Convention through eyewitness accounts. Includes writings by Alexander Hamilton, George Washington, Abigail Adams, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, as well as other lesser-known delegates to the convention.

The creation of the American Republic, 1776-1787 by Gordon S. Wood — A balanced view by the Pulitzer Prize winner of how the Revolution was made by a variety of social groups — ordinary farmers and artisans as well as merchants and lawyers, women as well as men, blacks as well as whites — and how, in turn, these groups were transformed by the Revolutionary experience

The Debate on the Constitution — Hundreds of newspaper articles, pamphlets, speeches and private letters written or delivered from September 1787 to August 1788. Along with familiar figures like Franklin, Madison, Jefferson, Washington and Patrick Henry, numerous, less famous citizens are represented, all speaking clearly and passionately about government.

Decision in Philadelphia: the Constitutional Convention of 1787 by Christopher Collier, James Lincoln Collier — This clear and well-written volume traces the major issues involved, dismissing sectional, economic or class interests as dominant factors, and concentrating instead on the "deeply rooted attitudes" and "emotions" of individual members. This excellent popular history casts many of the Founding Fathers in a new light.

The Federalist papers by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, John Jay; edited by Clinton Rossiter; with a new introduction and notes by Charles R. Kesler — John Jay, one of the revolutionary authors of The Federalist Papers, wrote that "This country and this people seem to have been made for each other, and it appears as if it was the design of Providence, that an inheritance so proper and convenient for a band of brethren ... should never be split into a number of unsocial, jealous, and alien sovereignties." In this statement Jay argues that if the United States was truly to be a single nation, its leaders would have to agree on universally binding rules of governance — in short, a constitution. In a brilliant set of essays, Jay along with his colleagues Alexander Hamilton and James Madison explored in detail the implications of establishing a kind of rule that would engage as many citizens as possible, but that would also include a system of checks and balances. Their arguments proved successful in the end, and The Federalist Papers stand as key documents in the founding of the United States.

55 men: the story of the constitution: based on the day -by-day notes of James Madison by Fred Rodell — The story of the Continental Congress and how its representatives worked together to create the U.S. Constitution.

Forge of union, anvil of liberty: a correspondent's report on the first federal elections, the first federal Congress, and the Bill of Rights by Jeffrey St. John; foreword by Warren E. Burger — The author describes historical events as though he were a political correspondent of the time. A series of "monthly reports," with such titles as "Surgery Saves Life of President" and "Bill of Rights Stalled in Virginia," follows the process of establishing the first federal government from July 4, 1788, to January 1790.

The founding: a dramatic account of the writing of the Constitution by Fred Barbash — An excellent short and popular account of the Constitutional Convention. The author makes effective use of James Madison's published convention notes to construct dramatic first-person dialogue and enlivens the story by highlighting the impact of the small states and otherwise "obscure characters" on the deliberations.

Founding brothers: the revolutionary generation by Joseph J. Ellis — This illuminating analysis of the intertwined careers of the founders of the American republic documents the lives of John Adams, Aaron Burr, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and George Washington, and explains how their encounters transformed their era and shaped the history of the United States. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize.

Founding the Republic: a documentary history by edited by John J. Patrick — Presents a broad picture of the issues that confronted those who framed our government by showing how they arrived at consensus from their numerous conflicting positions. A chronology of major events is followed by seven sections of documents, organized topically.

1787: the day-to-day story of the Constitutional Convention by compiled by historians of the Independence National Historical Park, National Park Service — A diary of the events and lives of the people involved with the Constitutional Convention during the summer of 1787.

The summer of 1787: the men who wrote the U.S. constitution by David O. Stewart — A study of the chief conflicts faced during the Constitutional Convention and the men who played key roles in deciding the issues at hand. The author describes the political and economic challenges of forming a new nation, exploring how particular individuals created strategies to allow states to put aside their parochial interests and form a national government that would respect the rights of citizens.

To begin the world anew: the genius and ambiguities of the American founders by Bernard Bailyn — The Pulitzer Prize-winning historian offers a series of illuminating profiles of the characteristics, achievements, political philosophy, influence, and ambiguities of some of the most important figures of the Revolutionary generation — including Jefferson, Franklin, and the authors of The Federalist Papers — Hamilton, Madison and Jay.

Witnesses at the creation: Hamilton, Madison, Jay, and the Constitution by Richard B. Morris — This popular history focuses the roles of Alexander Hamilton, John Jay and James Madison in the creation and ratification of the Constitution.

The words we live by: your annotated guide to the constitution by Linda R. Monk — An award-winning journalist analyzes the Constitution, line by line, to help readers understand this historical document, which set the stage for the evolution of the United States. The author covers everything from the Preamble to the Bill of Rights with insight, legal expertise, and anecdotes that show how the Constitution affects modern life.

The Bill of Rights

The Bill of Rights: a history in documents by John J. Patrick — Contemporary documents are used to explore the history of the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution, the British traditions on which they were based, and their impact on American society.

The Bill of Rights: a user's guide by Linda R. Monk — The history and development of the first ten Constitutional amendments.

Freedom of speech, press, and assembly by Darien A. McWhirter — What is a public forum? What is the clear and present danger test for political free speech? How are the courts grappling with a definition for obscenity? What are the rights of the press? What is commercial speech? When does the right to privacy overrule the right to free press? Are picket lines the same as demonstrations? These are just a few of the questions covered in this study of how the Supreme Court has responded to these issues over the past century.

In defense of liberty: the story of America's Bill of Rights by Russell Freedman — Freedman briefly discusses the evolution of the Constitution and Bill of Rights from ideas first set forth in the Magna Carta, and then examines the first ten amendments in individual chapters using potential scenarios and real-life examples of infringements of Constitutional rights. A compelling and timely discussion.

In our defense: the Bill of Rights in action by Ellen Alderman, Caroline Kennedy — Article by article, intention by intention, the first ten amendments are examined through cases that have challenged and been interpreted through them.

James Madison and the struggle for the Bill of Rights by Richard Labunski — Recounts James Madison's exploits in the critical period from 1787 to 1789, as he battled anti-Federalist Patrick Henry to secure Virginia's ratification of the new Constitution, won a hard-fought election to the House of Representatives, and shepherded the Bill of Rights through the fledgling Congress.

The Second Amendment in law and history: historians and constitutional scholars on the right to bear arms by edited by Carl T. Bogus; with contributions by Michael A. Bellesiles ... [et al.] — Eight essays by the nation's leading historical and constitutional scholars present a clear, thorough, well-documented look at the historical and legal record of the right to bear arms.

Speaking freely: trials of the First Amendments by Floyd Abrams — Legendary First Amendment advocate Floyd Abrams re-creates eight of the most important cases of his career — landmark trials and Supreme Court arguments in cases involving key First Amendment protections, including the famous Pentagon Papers case.


Jefferson & Madison on separation of church and state by edited by Lenni Brenner — A complete selection of writings from Thomas Jefferson and James Madison focusing specifically on their very forward thinking beliefs in the separation of church and state.

Jefferson vs. Hamilton: confrontations that shaped a nation by Noble E. Cunningham, Jr — Selections from the writings of two of the foremost antagonists among the Founding Fathers, edited and explained by historian and biographer Cunningham. The author has juxtaposed some of the principal writings of both men and supplied some commentary — all intended to reveal how the two leading political figures faced the major issues of their day.

The letters of Fabius in 1788 on the federal Constitution by Fabius and John Dickinson — After helping to write the Constitution in 1787, John Dickinson sent a series of letters in support of the document to a Delaware newspaper. Using the pen name of the Roman general Fabius, his essays were widely published throughout the nation beginning in April 1788 and had a powerful influence in tipping the scales in favor of ratification of the new Constitution.

Selected writings and speeches of Alexander Hamilton by Morton J. Frisch, editor — A collection of Hamilton's most important political and economics writings and speeches.



Alexander Hamilton [videodisc] by Twin Cities Public Television in association with Middlemarch Films; WGBH/ Boston

Benjamin Franklin [videodisc]: citizen of the world

George Washington [videodisc]: American revolutionary by Arts and Entertainment Network

George Washington [videodisc]: founding father by a presentation of Non Fiction Films, Inc., in association with A & E Network; Perpetual Motion Films; written by Robert Litz

George Washington [videodisc]: the man who wouldn't be king


Founding fathers [videodisc] — The story of how these disparate individuals fomented rebellion in the colonies, formed the Continental Congress, fought the Revolutionary War, and wrote the Constitution is told by noted historians. The production is enhanced with beautifully photographed reenactments as well as the use of period paintings and engravings.

United States Constitution & Bill of Rights [videodisc] by Full Circle Entertainment, Inc — A discussion of the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and subsequent amendments dealing with slavery, prohibition, and voting rights.