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Customer Review

33 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Original Intent, January 8, 2012
This review is from: The Founding Fathers Guide to the Constitution (Hardcover)
One of the measures of a great book is how much clarity it brings to sticky subjects. The sticky subject in this case affects many: how much power and reach does the central government rightfully have?

Should the Constitution be loosely interpreted, existing as an elastic "living document" where new powers are added freely? Or should it be strictly interpreted, existing as a "limiting document" whereby the powers given are limited to those expressly defined?

Leap frogging over 220+ years of punditry and political posturing, Dr. McClanahan's fascinating The Founding Father's Guide To The Constitution goes directly to original interpretations made by those who proposed and voted the new form of government into being. It was here, after all, that proponents and opponents grappled with the same issues of how the sparsely worded document should be interpreted.

By revealing these arguments that won the day and earned the Constitution its ratification we find great clarity of intent.

It's at this moment of the Constitution's path toward ratification that McClanahan submerges us -- where we experience the debates surrounding the document's handful of provisions. In their own words we see proponents of the Constitution interpret the new nation's proposed powers while overcoming opponents' interpretations to win agreement and win ratification.

Did the "Necessary and Proper" clause, for example, create an "elastic power" that gave free reign to expand the central government's reach? Or was it simply a means to strictly execute the powers outlined in the previous clauses of the document?

Only one of these interpretations assured States and enabled the Constitution's ratification.

In their own words we see the kind of government the framers and ratifiers agree to create.

It's pretty fascinating and a bit awe inspiring.

I admit to being moved while reading this book (with the benefit of two centuries of hindsight) at the prescience and integrity of those involved. By being submerged in these debates at the moment of its birth, you can't help feeling a Constitution other than the one created could very well have resulted... and perhaps failed like the Articles of Confederation before it.

I remember seeing a quote from TV talking head Joy Behar: "Do you think this Constitution-loving is getting out of hand?" The Founding Father's Guide To The Constitution is a book that hard-hearted folks like Joy might find within it something to love.

I sure did.
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Showing 1-9 of 9 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jan 19, 2012 8:28:12 AM PST
Seaotter says:
Good review.

Posted on Jan 27, 2012 4:01:30 PM PST
slithy tove says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 9, 2012 7:53:52 PM PST
[Deleted by Amazon on Sep 4, 2013 10:51:43 AM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 12, 2012 6:23:04 PM PST
Carol H says:
I've never posted a review on Amazon (although I obviously read them from time to time), and I own a bookstore. So, I suppose if I ever do decide to post a review, the first time I do I should expect to be accused of not reading much???

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 12, 2012 7:08:54 PM PST
Carol H says:
slithy tove: I just looked up your reviews--out of 40, 15 are for movies, 18 for other products, and only 7 for books--and of those there's a dictionary and a couple of grammar books. So, should I jump to the conclusion that you don't read much? Luckily for you, I also read your book reviews. So, now that I've given you a little spanking, let me also say that I agree completely with your assessments of Joseph Conrad and Heart of Darkness, and Cormac McCarthy's The Road. And, while I have no interest whatsoever in the SR-71 Blackbird cockpit, or software engineering, if I had to read a book on one of those subjects, I would only hope they were half as readable as your reviews.

Posted on Feb 13, 2012 10:00:18 AM PST
John G says:
Yeah, I'd rather spend my limited free time talking about things that move me -- that deserve my -- and other people's -- time and attention. Trolling book reviews isn't how I like to spend my time. Maybe that's just me.

Anyway, against my better judgment I am ignoring the "don't feed the trolls" rule: I did put a few more items up that have moved me. More to come in the future, I'm sure...

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 13, 2012 11:47:32 AM PST
Carol H says:
I'm a troll? I wasn't reading, I was trolling?

Isn't the reason for the "see all [#] reviews" link so that if someone is curious about or interested in something the reviewer wrote they can read the reviewer's other posts?

And, if you felt reading my post was a waste of your "limited free time", why did you waste even more by replying to it?

I'm a grandmother who's been reading everything that falls within my field of vision for the past 60 years, and I don't intend to start apologizing for that. I do intend to check with my children to make sure my grandchildren are being taught that good manners (treating others with courtesy and respect), are not pinkie-in-the-air niceties, but absolutely essential in all our dealings with people, especially people we don't know.

My biggest disappointment with the internet is that it has become a venue for ostentatious displays of rudeness.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 13, 2012 12:11:27 PM PST
John G says:
No, sorry Carol! That comment wasn't meant for you - but for the same person you first replied to: Slithy Tove -- who started off this comment thread by talking junk directed at me and using troll-like behavior, trying to disparage what I posted.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 13, 2012 4:54:47 PM PST
Carol H says:
Thank you. Apology accepted. Now, it looks like "Slithy" owes both of us an apology.

I've just ordered the book that started all this (from the library--after 40+ years of collecting books, I now make sure I want to keep them before I buy them), so I'll soon see how my opinion compares with yours.

I'm also curious to see how this book compares to another book I recently read, "The Dirty Dozen: How Twelve Supreme Court Cases Radically Expanded Government and Eroded Freedom" by Levy & Mellor. If you're not familiar with it, I strongly recommend it. As you've probably gathered from the title, it takes the "limiting document" POV. Having read dozens of books on the Constitution and Founding (my undergraduate degree was in History), The Dirty Dozen is easily one of the most readable for the lay person I've ever come across.
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