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The Making of America: The Substance and Meaning of the Constitution
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214 of 228 people found the following review helpful
I love this book. It taught me about the Constitution and its simple, exalted ideas. If you read this book you will understand America's "charter of freedom" better than you would from taking a college course in political science. (At least, that's what happened to me.)

I wouldn't say The Making of America is "bipartisan." It fully lauds the Constitution as having a "success formula" for prosperity and freedom that is unique and superior to any other political system in the world. If you want a book that regards America's Constitution as neither better nor worse than other government systems, then this is not the book for you.

The Making of America is well organized. Here is a synopsis of the contents: It begins with interesting biographical information on " the man who discovered America's Freedom Formula" - Thomas Jefferson. The next chapter explores various governments - real governments that existed, such as what the Anglo-Saxons, Israelites, and French (during the times of Napoleon) had, contrasting their advantages and weaknesses. All of these were assessed by the Founders (especially Jefferson), so the author is showing what influenced the Founders' thinking about governments. It's amazing. The third chapter describes some of the Revolutionary War battles, and the Colonial leaders, and how the existing government - the Articles of Confederation - was severely deficient and in need of replacement, which chapter 4 explores further. Chapter 5 is all about the Constitutional Convention at Philadelphia, and 7 explains, very simply, the balance of powers in government and all that complex stuff about three branches and division of powers and the Great Compromise and all that.

Chapter 8 is one of my favorite parts; it explains capitalism - not just what it is, but exactly why it works: It allows maximum freedom for people to invent, try, sell, buy, prosper, fail. It gives real examples of what happened when the government intervened in the economy, such as with price controls, and discusses whether big business is bad or good. Chapter 9 recounts the ratification of the Constitution and the reaction of the states and people, and talks about the Federalist Papers. It then examines the Preamble, its wording and principles.

Now we get to the heart of the book. From here until the conclusion, each chapter explores, in depth, every article and section of the Constitution - almost sentence by sentence. The author chose a very interesting way to do this - instead of boringly stating why this or that clause was included, he identifies the principle that the section allows. So after giving a sentence straight from the Constitution, he writes: "This provision gives the American people the RIGHT to ..." and says what it lets us do. Here's an example. On page 500, you read the text from Article I.10.1, "No state shall grant any title of nobility." The author says, "This further secures the RIGHT of the American people not to have [government] creating an aristocracy of privileged citizens." And then interesting history is given, describing how before the Constitution granted this right, King George III and the House of Lords were corrupt and arrogant and elitist because they were given special titles and considered above the common people, and so the American Founders wanted to forbid this practice to protect the people. Every sentence almost, of the Constitution is explained in this way. Throughout The Making of America, plenty of history is provided, in an easy-to-understand way, to help the reader see what life was like before the Constitution; also, the entire book is replete with quotations from the Founding Fathers - this is so that the reader knows exactly what the Founders intended, because much of the Constitution is misinterpreted now. Also, the amendments are studied in the same format as the Constitution, analyzing them in their historical contexts. After you read this book, you'll feel smart because your mind will be buzzing with philosophy, history, and political science. I can't tell you how much I've learned from this book. It has increased my understanding, and therefore, my love, for America's Founders and Constitution.

Also, there is a handy subject index, a copy of the Constitution's text, brief description and pictures of each of the Convention delegates, and a good introduction and conclusion.

My only complaint about this book is that there isn't a new edition; it seems it was written in the mid 80s. Don't worry, though - the information isn't outdated - because it only deals with timeless principles; but still, it would be nice if there were a newer edition; it has a rather plain cover - pale yellow with grey and red letters - and, for some reason, the print is huge, like it's for the visually-impaired or something. But that doesn't really matter; the text itself is fascinating.

You can use this great book as a reference tool - like if you hear some legislation is passing in the House and you want to know if it's really Constitutional or not - or you can read it cover-to-cover, as I did; either way, get this book, if you want to understand the Constitution and America's "freedom formula."
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234 of 250 people found the following review helpful
on July 8, 2002
The most complete book written on the substance and meaning of the U.S. Constitution. The first couple hundred pages or so focus on the history leading up to to the Constitution (including Biblical history relevant to the Constitution). The rest of the book focuses on the Constitution itself.
Skousen (he was actually aided by a whole team of researchers and scholars to get all the material and documentation for the book) then takes the text of the Constitution and analyzes it phrase by phrase, using actual quotes made by Founding Fathers, which describe the phrase in question or the concept that the phrase deals with. Every single phrase in the Consitiution is covered. Most phrases are covered by several Founding Fathers.
I've had a copy of this book for about 10 years now and I never get bored with it. I consider it to be one of the most important books ever written.
To understand what the Founding Fathers had in mind when they wrote the Constitution, this book is indispensible.
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99 of 109 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon January 30, 2005
This is one of the most important books that I have ever read.

The Making of America contains some history leading up to the Constitution. The most important and unique part of the book is a dissection of the Constitution principle by principle.

The author goes through 286 separate principles in the Constitution.

If you read this book, you will understand the U.S. Constitution better than 99% of the 'constitutional lawyers' claiming to be experts.

This is a book that every elected official and every American voter should read and study.
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67 of 79 people found the following review helpful
on July 25, 2000
Indispensable ammunition for those of us seeking to establish "original intent". Skousen's book matches provisions of the Constitution with Madison's Notes on the Convention. Very readable. Liberals hate it...that's good enough for me.
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40 of 47 people found the following review helpful
on December 22, 1998
This book is extremely interesting because it commenced with the development of the constitution, the inspiration of the founder's. Their total alligence and dedication to a document so vitally important to the building of a nation deemed for the freedom of all. Totally interesting and informative to scholars and lay people alike. I found it to be in easy to understand language. Tremendously interesting.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on November 8, 2009
This book has the look and feel of something designed for classroom use...perhaps high school or community college level in a class on government.

The typeface (slightly larger point-size than for many books) and the layout of the pages gives that impression right off the bat.

The book has lots of illustrations--all black and white and mostly reproductions of charts, old political cartoons, etc. They are all appropriate to the subject. The text is broken up by subheads --two or three per page--which is more consistent with something geared to the student attention span.

The text does go into fairly complete discussions of various articles of the constitution, various branches of government, with short bios on the individuals who were in attendance at the original conventions.

Lots of quotations from founding individuals and lots of citations that refer the reader to the Federalist Papers (I also bought this book), de Tocqueville, and/or others.

I bought the book because the description in Amazon.com sounded like something that would be quite apropos to my desire to understand America and American history more fully. These things can be more meaningful to you at other stages of life than they were in high school anyway!!

I read some of the customer reviews, including the two negative reviews. All were helpful in my decision making. The seriousness of the two negative reviews really caused me to pause. Was this book worth buying? But then I read the positive reviews and noted that there are 33 positive 5-star reviews and only two 1-star reviews. (Evidently this is not an in-between book so no 2, 3, or 4-star reviews so far.) I own other books on American history and a few are not of the "fair and balanced" mode, so I figured that I could ferret through an ultra-right wing book as much as I do through an ultra-leftist view.

I am glad that I listened to the 33 positives. The two negative reviews are justified in that the author/editor of this book has chosen to include a lengthy quotation from a 1934 book on U.S. economic history which includes remarks about slavery that would be offensive to anyone who understands that slavery was an evil thing. This quote comes on pages 729-730 of The Making of America. I would say that it might have been better if such a quote were set off from the rest of the text by a different typeface or with a box around it, or etc. This would help us to know that it is not part of the actual text. The book does include comments elsewhere that describe slavery as evil and notes as well that several of the Founding Fathers sought to phase it out, etc. I would say that the two negative writers were one-issue people.

Overall, this book does what it sets out to do.
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30 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on November 9, 2007
A remarkably clear and lucid explanation of how the Constitution was formed. The author's sensitivity to historical context is exceptional. The book is written in a breezy high-school style that makes it accessible to essentially any reader. The author quotes extensively from the writings of the Founders so that the reader doesn't have to take his word for anything. This book is a "must-read" for anyone who wants to be an informed and responsible citizen of our republic.
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38 of 48 people found the following review helpful
on October 29, 2001
I highly recommend this book to anyone wanting to study the original intent of the founding fathers. It pulls no punches and bursts the myths of "political correctness". It is clear these men were inspired and understood their place in history. This book takes the reader though the constitution a step at a time and is able to make even the complex parts of our system plain.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on April 30, 2008
This book is a must read for every American. This should be taught in our school system. Everyone should know the Constitution so they can see for themselves what the government is taking away. Liberty is for all not just a few.
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19 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on September 10, 2007
The Making of America is a must read for every American. This book gives an detailed account of what the Founding Fathers' intended our form of government to be, a Republic, not a Democracy. If you want to be a patriot that is not blown about by every wind of political sophistry, read this book! Did you realize that the Founding Fathers' had a different political spectrum that we use today? Read this book to find out more.
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