Thursday, September 18, 2014
The Heritage Guide to the Constitution
The Heritage Guide to the Constitution is intended to provide a brief and accurate explanation of each clause of the Constitution as envisioned by the Framers and as applied in contemporary law. Its particular aim is to provide lawmakers with a means to defend their role and to fulfill their responsibilities in our constitutional order. Yet while the Guide will provide a reliable reference for lawmakers and policy-makers, and be especially useful for the trained jurist, it is written to be explanatory and educational, accessible and helpful for informed citizens and students of the Constitution generally.
To create such a unique line-by-line analysis of our supreme law, we set about finding an expert to write on each clause identified in the Constitution, from the Preamble to the Twenty-seventh Amendment. Each contributor was asked to write a brief essay on a particular clause, with two objectives. First, provide 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 were to be noted and explained. (The concept of “originalism” is discussed in the introductory essay, “The Originalist Perspective.”) Second, the article was to provide an explanation of the current state of the law regarding the clause and, where appropriate, to give brief explanations of the historical development of current doctrine.
At the end of each essay, the authors have added cross-references to other clauses in the Constitution, suggestions for further research, and a listing of significant cases concerning that clause. (A complete index of cases referenced throughout the Guide is provided in Appendix A.)
In addition to the text of the Constitution itself, and as reflected by extensive references throughout the Guide, we have taken 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.
Here is a link to the complete Guide: