Our Constitution: Landmark Interpretations of America's Governing Document

Edited by Michael Stokes Paulsen


Our Constitution: Landmark Interpretations of America's Governing DocumentOur Constitution is a straightforward and objective volume setting forth the text of the Constitution of the United States and the most important interpretations of that document by the U.S. Supreme Court and by other actors in our constitutional system. It focuses on the most important interpretations of the Constitution -- those that have shaped our understandings of the Constitution and been of greatest historical consequence and enduring significance for the nation. The emphasis is on what has proven to be foundational, historic, or enduring, not on right and wrong.

This is not a work of commentary. It leaves entirely to the reader the task of evaluating the merits of the interpretations. The cases and other documents are presented here, unadorned -- and uncorrupted -- by critical commentary. They are edited into as concise a form as possible, to make them accessible to general readers interested in America's Constitution.

Not everything the Supreme court has said about the Constitution (or that the authors of The Federalist, or the framing generation, or revered Presidents, or leading members of Congress have said) is correct interpretation of the Constitution. The materials presented here simply lay out what has been said about the Constitution that has proved to be of enduring importance in shaping our understanding of the Constitution, for good or for ill. The task of interpreting the interpretations — of evaluating these interpretations of the Constitution — is for the critical reader today. This reflects the faith of the Constitution's framers that "We the People of the United States" would be, and remain, the masters of our own written constitution, fully capable of interpreting it for ourselves, doing so correctly, and applying it faithfully. 


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Founded in 1982, the Federalist Society for Law & Public Policy Studies is a group of conservatives and libertarians dedicated to reforming the current legal order. We are committed to the principles that the state exists to preserve freedom, that the separation of governmental powers is central to our Constitution, and that it is emphatically the province and duty of the judiciary to say what the law is, not what it should be. The Society seeks to promote awareness of these principles and to further their application through its activities.

Michael Stokes Paulsen is a Distinguished University Chair & Professor of Law at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he has taught since 2007. A graduate of Northwestern University, Yale Law School and Yale Divinity School, Professor Paulsen has served as a federal prosecutor and as Attorney-Advisor in the Office of Legal Counsel, both in the U.S. Department of Justice, and also as Counsel for the Center for Law & Religious Freedom of the Christian Legal Society.


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