BTRIPP (btripp) wrote,

Ah, one more for this month ...

A while back Barnes & Noble was having a clearance on their web site (and frequent readers know how I love a sale!) and they had these nifty little (just over 4x7") copies of The Constitution of the United States with the Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederation for a paltry two bucks a piece. I bought five (giving copies to my daughters and nieces for Constitution Day a few weeks back) and keeping one for myself. Now, readers who have been paying way too much attention are no doubt asking "Brendan, didn't you just read this a little while back?" ... well, yes ... back in April of '06 I plowed through another edition, however, that was more of a "judicial activist" review of Supreme Court meddling with this most important document, and I really wanted a basic reference in my library. This edition fits in quite nicely, with the first quarter of it being an Introduction (by law professor R.B. Bernstein) which puts the process of moving from colonies into confederated states and eventually to a Federal system with our current Constitution into its various historical, cultural, and intellectual contexts.

I'm always happy to find "new info" when reading stuff that I assume I know, and there were bits and pieces in here that I was not aware of. For instance, in the Articles of Confederation (which preceded the Constitution), under Article XI, Canada is offered a full partnership just by acceding to the terms therein (where all other colonies, etc. would require the approval of 9 states). I wonder if that offer is still "on the table"? Ah, before you scoff ... let me outline the second "I did not know that" moment in this ... do you know when the most recent Constitutional Amendment was ratified? Think about it ... these things tend to be HUGE political dust-ups. The one preceding this lowered the voting age from 21 to 18 at the height of the Viet Nam angst back in 1971. Give up? The 27th Amendment was ratified in 1992. No, I don't recall hearing anything about it either. However, I suspect this has a lot to do with it having been proposed in 1789 but not officially ratified until nearly 203 years later (it has to do with paying Senators and Representatives). If a "housekeeping detail" like the 27th Amendment can be pending for two centuries, why not an open invite to our neighbors to the north to join our Republic!

Another good feature to Bernstein's introduction is a look at the sort of compromises that had to be made in drafting the Constitution ... what groups wanted what things in there, what groups didn't, why certain items (that today sound somewhat odd, like the 3rd Amendment) made it in, and why more sweeping philosophical stances didn't. It's a very enlightening read, and I do hope The Girls will eventually bother to delve into it ("eventually" as they're all between 7 and 11 at the moment, and I figure this is a "remember when" book for some time down the road).

As you can guess, I highly recommend getting a copy of this well before the next election (as I'm guessing that Hillary is not going to want it around!), and this is a very concise and enlightening edition. Oddly enough (or not) Amazon doesn't list this as being in print, however, as it at its (very low) $4.95 cover price. I'm guessing that it might also be in your local Barnes & Noble retailer.

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Tags: book review
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