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Amending America: If We Love the Constitution So Much, Why Do We Keep Trying to Change It? Paperback – April 27, 1995


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Though the title may sound frivolous, this is a sober, straightforward history of the process of amending the Constitution, augmented by analysis from Bernstein, coauthor of Are We to Be a Nation?: The Making of the Constitution. Bernstein is an able, anecdotal guide to the debates and conflicts over each amendment. He addresses the unsuccessful efforts by states to enact the Equal Rights Amendment and discusses the amendments concerning the flag and the English language that were rejected by Congress. He reflects on how amendments have changed the presidency and judiciary, and, thus, the nature of government. Though his chapter on proposals to rewrite the Constitution seems sketchy, Bernstein, prompted by the 1992 passage of an obscure amendment (about the timing of legislators' salary increases) proposed in 1789, intriguingly explores how several unresolved issues "haunt the Constitution's amending process." Coauthor Agel has collaborated with authors Carl Sagan and Marshall McLuhan, among others.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

From its ratification in 1789 to the present day, the U.S. Constitution has been amended 27 times. According to the authors, over 10,000 more amendments have been debated and rejected. As Bernstein and Agel correctly argue, amending the nation's most fundamental legal and political document is not a trivial issue. Fortunately, they give it the serious attention it deserves. Focusing on the amending article, Article V, the writers stress the salient fact that when we change the Constitution we change the country itself. Emphasizing the critical connection between constitutional language and national aspirations, Bernstein and Agel have produced an excellent work about an often-ignored issue. Any future work will have to begin with this fine book. Recommended for all libraries.
- Stephen K. Shaw, Northwest Nazarine Coll., Nampa, Id.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 415 pages
  • Publisher: University Press of Kansas; Reissue edition (April 27, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0700607153
  • ISBN-13: 978-0700607150
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,738,311 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

R. B. Bernstein was born in Flushing, New York, on 24 May 1956, the oldest son of Fred Bernstein and Marilyn [Berman] Bernstein. He was educated in the New York City public schools, graduating from Stuyvesant High School in 1973. He attended Amherst College, where he was graduated in 1977 with a B.A. magna cum laude in American Studies. While at Amherst, he was a research assistant to Henry Steele Commager. Bernstein was graduated from the Harvard Law School with a J.D. in November 1980.

After three years practicing law, he returned to the study of history, doing graduate work at New York University. From 1983 to the present he has been a member of the New York University Legal History Colloquium, and he has been active in the writing of legal and constitutional history and in activities to promote the historical profession.

From 1984 to 1987 he was research curator for the Constitution Bicentennial Project of The New York Public Library, working with Kym S. Rice under the supervision of Richard B. Morris, Gouverneur Morris Professor of History Emeritus at Columbia University. Among the products of this project was Bernstein's first book, _Are We to Be a Nation? The Making of the Constitution_ (Harvard University Press, 1987). From 1987 to 1990 Bernstein was historian on the staff of the New York City Commission on the Bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution, and from 1989 to 1990 he was research director of the New York State Commission on the Bicentennial of the Constitution.

In the spring of 1988 Bernstein was a visiting part-time lecturer in history at the Newark, New Jersey campus of Rutgers University. In 1991, he became an adjunct assistant professor of law at New York Law School, where he has taught courses on American legal history and law and literature ever since. In 2007 he was named Distinguished Adjunct Professor of Law. In 1997-1998 he also was the Daniel M. Lyons Visiting Professor of History at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York.

Bernstein's later books include _Amending America: If We Love the Constitution So Much, Why Do We Keep Trying to Change It?_ (Times Books/Random House, 1993; Univ. Press of Kansas, 1995), a history of the U.S. Constitution's amending process and the successful and unsuccessful attempts to amend the Constitution from 1789 through the early 1990s; _Thomas Jefferson and Bolling v. Bolling: Law and the Legal Profession in Pre-Revolutionary America_, coedited with Barbara Wilcie Kern and Bernard Schwartz; and _Thomas Jefferson_ (Oxford University Press, 2003). Gordon S. Wood's review of Bernstein's Thomas Jefferson in The New York Times Book Review called the book "the best short biography of Jefferson ever written."

Bernstein has just published _The Founding Fathers Reconsidered_ (Oxford University Press, 2009). His books-in-progress include a concise life of John Adams modeled on his 2003 biography of Thomas Jefferson; a study of the First Congress as an experiment in government; and an examination of the place of scientific ideas and technological developments in American constitutional history.

From 1997 to 2004 Bernstein was co-editor of book reviews for H-LAW, the listserv co-sponsored by H-NET (Humanities and Social Sciences Network On-Line) and the American Society for Legal HIstory. He is also a member of H-LAW's editorial board. For three years he served on the editorial board of Law and Social Inquiry, the journal of the American Bar Foundation. In 2004 he was elected to the board of directors of the American Society for Legal History for a three-year term.

In 1993, Bernstein changed his byline from Richard B. Bernstein to R. B. Bernstein to avoid confusion with the several other Richard Bernsteins active in journalism and law.

In November 2002, in addition to his scholarly activities, Bernstein became director of online operations at Heights Books, Inc., a used-bookstore in Brooklyn.

List of Books

Are We to Be a Nation? The Making of the Constitution (with Kym S. Rice) (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1987).

Defending the Constitution (editor) (Mount Vernon, N.Y.: A. Colish, 1987).

Into the Third Century: The Congress (New York: Walker, 1989).

Into the Third Century: The Presidency (New York: Walker, 1989).

Into the Third Century: The Supreme Court (New York: Walker, 1989).

Well Begun: Chronicles of the Early National Period ((co-editor, with Stephen L. Schechter) Albany, NY: New York State Commission on the Bicentennial of the Constitution, 1989).

Contexts of the Bill of Rights (co-editor, with Stephen L. Schechter) (Albany, NY: New York State Commission on the Bicentennial of the Constitution, 1989).

Where the Experiment Began: New York City and the Two Hundredth Anniversary of George Washington's Inauguration: Final Report of the New York City Commission on the Bicentennial of the Constitution (New York: New York City Commission on the Bicentennial of the Constitution, 1989).

New York and the Union (co-editor, with Stephen L. Schechter) (Albany, NY: New York State Commission on the Bicentennial of the Constitution, 1990).

New York and the Bicentennial (co-editor, with Stephen L. Schechter) (Albany, New York: New York State Commission on the Bicentennial of the Constitution, 1990).

Roots of the Republic: American Founding Documents Interpreted (co-editor, with Stephen L. Schechter and Donald S. Lutz) (Madison, WI: Madison House for the New York State Commission on the Bicentennial of the Constitution, 1990).

Amending America: If We Love the Constitution So Much, Why Do We Keep Trying to Change It? (New York: Times Books/Random House, 1993; paperback, Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1995).

Of the People, By the People, For the People: The Congress, the Presidency, and the Supreme Court in American History (New York: Wings Books, 1993) (reprint in one volume with updates and expansions of Into the Third Century series first issued in 1989).

Thomas Jefferson and Bolling v. Bolling: Law and the Legal Profession in Pre-Revolutionary America (co-editor, with Barbara Wilcie Kern and Bernard Schwartz) (New York and San Marino, CA: New York University School of Law and Henry E. Huntington Library, 1997).

The Constitution of the United States of America, with the Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederation (New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 2002).

The Wisdom of John and Abigail Adams (editor/introduction) (New York: Metro Books, 2002; reprint, New York: Fall River Press, 2008).

Thomas Jefferson (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003).

Thomas Jefferson: The Revolution of Ideas (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004) (Oxford Portraits series)

The Founding Fathers Reconsidered (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009).

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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Ronald Brackney on September 15, 2008
Format: Paperback
I am disappointed to see only one review of this book (repeated two more times). This book was nominated for the Pulitzer, Parker and Bancroft
book prizes as was Mr. Bernstein's book "Are We to Be a Nation?"
Mr. Bernstein is a professor at New York Law School and gives the reader
a scholarly but highly readable and easily understandable treatise on
our Constitution and especially the Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights
IS about "individual rights" and the author explains in detail why this
is so. This book should be required reading for any college course on
the U.S. Constitution in my opinion and for any citizen wanting to understand what America is all about.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Paula on June 8, 2001
Format: Paperback
I drafted the Supreme Court petition questioning the legality of a people's initiative which purportedly sought to amend the 1987 Philippine Constitution which was our first democratic constitution after the dictator President Ferdinand Marcos was exiled (Santiago v. COMELEC). One of my main references for the petition was this book of which I am deeply indebted for valuable research in U.S. constitutional law and legal history. It discussed exhaustively and in a very provoking manner, the challenges posed by amendments to the immutable nature of the constitution as fundamental law of the land. Our petition, which sought to deny the proposed amendments by way of a people's initiative, differentiated between piecemeal amendments and a revision of the Constitution. I argued that if the amendments sought would ultimately change the form of government, then it should be considered a revision. Our petition was granted by the Supreme Court and became a landmark case in Philippine history. It also found its way as a bar exam question. This book was my guidepost as I drafted the petition in the wee hours of morning in view of the urgency for a Supreme Court ruling on the matter and to avert an impending national crisis and another coup d'etat. The legal luminaries of this country have hailed Richard Bernstein and Jerome Agel's book as the most persuasive and thought provoking treatise on the subject.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Paula on June 8, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I drafted the Supreme Court petition questioning the legality of a people's initiative which purportedly sought to amend the 1987 Philippine Constitution which was our first democratic constitution after the dictator President Ferdinand Marcos was exiled (Santiago v. COMELEC). One of my main references for the petition was this book of which I am deeply indebted for valuable research in U.S. constitutional law and legal history. It discussed exhaustively and in a very provoking manner, the challenges posed by amendments to the immutable nature of the constitution as fundamental law of the land. Our petition, which sought to deny the proposed amendments by way of a people's initiative, differentiated between piecemeal amendments and a revision of the Constitution. I argued that if the amendments sought would ultimately change the form of government, then it should be considered a revision. Our petition was granted by the Supreme Court and became a landmark case in Philippine history. It also found its way as a bar exam question. This book was my guidepost as I drafted the petition in the wee hours of morning in view of the urgency for a Supreme Court ruling on the matter and to avert an impending national crisis and another coup d'etat. The legal luminaries of this country have hailed Richard Bernstein and Jerome Agel's book as the most persuasive and thought provoking treatise on the subject.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Paula on June 8, 2001
Format: Paperback
I drafted the Supreme Court petition questioning the legality of a people's initiative which purportedly sought to amend the 1987 Philippine Constitution which was our first democratic constitution after the dictator President Ferdinand Marcos was exiled (Santiago v. COMELEC). One of my main references for the petition was this book of which I am deeply indebted for valuable research in U.S. constitutional law and legal history. It discussed exhaustively and in a very provoking manner, the challenges posed by amendments to the immutable nature of the constitution as fundamental law of the land. Our petition, which sought to deny the proposed amendments by way of a people's initiative, differentiated between piecemeal amendments and a revision of the Constitution. I argued that if the amendments sought would ultimately change the form of government, then it should be considered a revision. Our petition was granted by the Supreme Court and became a landmark case in Philippine history. It also found its way as a bar exam question. This book was my guidepost as I drafted the petition in the wee hours of morning in view of the urgency for a Supreme Court ruling on the matter and to avert an impending national crisis and another coup d'etat. The legal luminaries of this country have hailed Richard Bernstein and Jerome Agel's book as the most persuasive and thought provoking treatise on the subject.
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