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on November 7, 2005
Excellent unbiased scholarship! Provides an authoritative research device for people who want to know what the Constitution says and what the history of the various provisions are. One of the greatest points is that it also includes the court cases and legal articles that explain in more detail the particular provision involved.

This book will be a great tool for legislators, lawyers and judges, and law students. But most importantly - it is terrific for anyone who is interested in understanding what the Constitution actually says. It features a clause-by-clause analysis of the original and contemporary meaning of the Constitution. It can be called the ultimate guide to our beloved Constitution that, in spite of much abuse, still stands head and shoulders above any other document of it's kind in the world. Highly recommended!
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This is a book that should be read in every home in America. We have a written Constitution and the more each of us knows about this document, its origins, history, the debates about its meaning, and the present views about it, the better our public discourse can be and the more we can hold our representatives, Presidents, judges and justices to account.

This book takes the Constitution clause by clause and provides an article that discusses the origin of that clause, what was said about it at the time (if such a record exists), what the courts have said about it over time, and where the current debate rests. Yes, the Heritage Foundation is the sponsoring organization for this book. However, these articles are not simple conservative talking points about each clause. The articles are quite readable but scholarly in providing serious discussion of what this written document has meant, has been held to mean, how it has been ignored, and where the current trends are in our public life.

I think it is essential that we realize that we have a written Constitution and that it is very different than the British Constitution, which is unwritten and changes with the political will of the people and the audacity of their politicians. That movement is represented in our country by those who for the past century or so have been saying that our Constitution is a "living document". No, we have a written document with a mechanism for changing it. That process has been used effectively over time to accommodate society as it changes. To leave it open ended to mean whatever judges and unelected justices impose upon it is to subject ourselves to tyranny and to have a very different government that our founders fashioned for us.

While the book begins with a few really nice essays, you do not have to read this book front to back. You can dip into it here and there and read the articles independently of each other. In fact, it is probably best to focus on certain clauses one at a time, dig deeply in the article and have discussions about it (especially with your children). That way, over time, the whole of it takes on a stronger and interconnected substance. You will be able to see the serious debates and debunk the spurious claims made by those who find the written Constitution an impediment to their political aims. The fact that it is an impediment to them is actually to our protection and the reason our founders wrote the thing down. We should be grateful to them for doing that and study what was created by them for us. This book is a great tribute to them and a valuable resource for our study.

Reviewed by Craig Matteson, Ann Arbor, MI

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Originalism: A Quarter-Century of Debate
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on November 11, 2005
In an era of American history where Supreme Court Justices sworn to uphold the Constitution of the United States cite foreign law, "international public opinion," and any number of random foundations for their erroneous rulings, "The Heritage Guide to the Constitution" offers readers a glimpse into the proper methods for interpreting the Constitution. Written by former Reagan Attorney General Edwin Meese, in conjunction with Constitutional experts Matthew Spalding and David Forte, the book explores the Constitution step-by-step, line-by-line in an attempt to shed light on the true and original intent of the Founding Fathers.

With great emphasis on historical context, "The Heritage Guide to the Constitution" not only examines the text of the world's greatest governmental document, but it also extensively cites the notes and opinions of the Founders, the Federalist papers, time-honored commentaries on the Constitution, and a number of other sources in its efforts to bring the Constitution into the world of today. In so doing, the book proves itself a valuable resource for all Americans who grapple with the great Constitutional questions of our day... Is the Constitution a "living document"? Is it a rigid set of rules? What is the true interpretation of a specific passage? Is the best judicial philosophy one of a strict constructionist nature? Whether or not this book provides you with the answers to those questions, I have no doubt you will finish reading it a more informed and competent citizen, whether layperson or Constitutional scholar. This should be essential reading for every high school student in our nation...
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on November 22, 2005
This is a necessary text for every legislator, and for anyone involved in law, policy, politics, or public affairs. I wish I had this book during my years in law school. It will destroy many assumptions taught in academia, and well illustrates the very weighty issues considered during the framing of the Constitution and Bill of Rights. It is not polemical, but it does inspire, and yet could easily be part of a course syllabus. You will come away with the belief that the Framers came very close to perfection with respect to balancing the issues of liberty, power, freedom, and order. And this is the very root of the problem today: the lack of faith in the vision of which the Framers were possessed. The tension between originalism and textualism is present throughout, and yet the authors do much more than describe contradictions: they offer a vision of jurisprudential traditionalism that could integrate both approaches to combating the "case-law chaos" sown by today's non-Constitutionalist court.

A. Goldman
Lake Mary, Florida
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This is a remarkable work with contributions from more than a hundred legal scholars. The intent is to "present the Founder's understanding of the Constitution and its various provisions" along with the judicial interpretations and political circumstances that make up the historical development of constitutional law. Intended for an audience of lawmakers, judges and lawyers, the Heritage Guide is also a valuable addition to the library of any person with an abiding interest in one of the most - if not the most - remarkable documents created by the hand of man.

Every line of the Constitution is scrutinized, interpreted and discussed. Significant cases are cited and references for further research are provided.

This is definitely not light reading, but it is certainly informative and enlightening reading.

Jerry
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If the name of Advisory Board chairman Edwin Meese is familiar, it's because he was among President Reagan's most important advisors, and played a key role in domestic and foreign policy alike. His background lends to a survey which offers an in-depth analysis of the meaning of Constitutional law, from its legal rules and changes made since its original enactment in 1787 to modern times. High school and college-level students alike will find THE HERITAGE GUIDE TO THE CONSTITUTION an important overview of the document's history, following its many changes and gathering over a hundred legal experts to create a line-by-line text examination of the complete Constitution and its contemporary interpretation. With its contrasting insights between original founder intentions and modern applications, any studying the Constitution must have this analysis.
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on February 24, 2006
Even though the topic might at first seem a bit dry, the Heritage Guide to the Constitution is clearly written and easy to follow, and covers the U.S.Constitution line by line; this book makes the concepts and ideas clear and easy to understand. It offers a great deal of information about the context, the debates, and the difficulties surrounding the drafting of the Constitution. It presents a strong case for 'original intent' when interpreting the constitution. This ought to become a textbook in American high schools today.
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on November 9, 2005
"Heritage" refers to the Heritage Foundation which is a right-leaning think tank who published and edited the book. Man, read the fine print.

And it is an excellent refrence book that all Americans should read; the Constitution is barely taught in schools any more and with the policies of our Congress lately its important for the citizens to review this document.
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on January 4, 2006
The Heritage Guide to the Constitution is a well written, concise guide that details every aspect of the US Constitution, as well as providing a comprehensive bibliography and several case law citations that an individual can use for further review. It's written in for the layperson, but has much information that can benefit even the most advanced legal scholar, using some of the top legal minds in the country for its sources.
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on May 6, 2007
Edwin Meese was head of the editorial board for this guide, which is put out by the Heritage Foundation. That might suggest to some people that there's a conservative slant to the guide, but those people would be wrong. The Heritage Guide was first brought to my attention by a very liberal aquaintance who praised it to the skies, and then by a very conservative colleague who likewise praised it highly. They both had good reasons to praise it.

The Guide takes you through the entire text of the Constitution, line by line, article by article, starting with a three-page discussion of the preamble. It's written by around 100 contributors, all of them well-regarded experts in law and political science. Their discussion of even contentious topics (e.g., Amendment II or privacy rights) is dispassionate and clear, laying out for the reader the history and the case law behind contemporary constitutional issues and avoiding value judgements. The contributors write without legal jargon and with admirable directness, making the Guide accessible (not just accessible, but even enjoyably readable) to anyone with a good highschool education. The sophistication of their discussion, though, makes it suitable also for university students at all levels and for anyone who has any interest at all in the U.S. Constitution. No matter what your position is on presidential war powers or gun control, you come away from this guide with a clear and concise understanding of how the legal debate got where it is now. Each article in the Guide is followed by cross references to other passages in the Constitution, suggestions for further research, and a list of significant cases touching on the particular Article and Section of the Constitution discussed. Thus the Guide isn't just good reading on its own, but an excellent tool and springboard for further research on any constitutional topic.

This book should be required reading for university undergraduates, and for at least those few who will fall under my power next year, it will be. I intend to use this book in my classes on "Law and Literature" and "Law and Economics" as required supplementary reading. It will help clarify class discussions that revolve around constitutional issues, improve student papers, and make my students better informed citizens of the United States. That last one is the real payoff for everyone. I recommend this book far beyond the mere number of stars by which Amazon allows me to rate it.
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