America's Unwritten Constitution

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2012-09-11
  • Publisher: Basic Books

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Despite its venerated place atop American law and politics, our written Constitution does not enumerate all of the rules and rights, principles and procedures that actually govern modern America. The document makes no explicit mention of cherished concepts like the separation of powers and the rule of law. On some issues, the plain meaning of the text misleads. For example, the text seems to say that the vice president presides over his own impeachment trial--but surely this cannot be right. As esteemed legal scholar Akhil Reed Amar explains in America's Unwritten Constitution, the solution to many constitutional puzzles lies not solely within the written document, but beyond it--in the vast trove of values, precedents, and practices that complement and complete the terse text. In this sequel to America's Constitution: A Biography, Amar takes readers on a tour of our nation's unwrittenConstitution, showing how America's foundational document cannot be understood in textual isolation. Proper constitutional interpretation depends on a variety of factors, such as the precedents set by early presidents and Congresses; common practices of modern American citizens; venerable judicial decisions; and particularly privileged sources of inspiration and guidance, including the Federalistpapers, William Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England, the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, and Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech. These diverse supplements are indispensible instruments for making sense of the written Constitution. When used correctly, these extra-textual aids support and enrich the written document without supplanting it. An authoritative work by one of America's preeminent legal scholars, America's Unwritten Constitutionpresents a bold new vision of the American constitutional system, showing how the complementary relationship between the Constitution's written and unwritten components is one of America's greatest and most enduring strengths.

Table of Contents

Introductionp. ix
Reading Between the Lines: America's Implicit Constitutionp. 1
Heeding the Deed: America's Enacted Constitutionp. 49
Hearing the People: America's Lived Constitutionp. 95
Confronting Modern Case Law: America's "Warrented" Constitutionp. 139
Putting Precedent in Its Place: America's Doctrinal Constitutionp. 201
Honoring the Icons: America's Symbolic Constitutionp. 243
"Remembering the Ladies": America's Feminist Constitutionp. 277
Following Washington's Lead: America's "Georgian" Constitutionp. 307
Interpreting Government Practices: America's Institutional Constitutionp. 333
Joining the Party: America's Partisan Constitutionp. 389
Doing the Right Thing: America's Conscientious Constitutionp. 417
Envisioning the Future: America's Unfinished Constitutionp. 449
Afterwordp. 479
Appendix: America's Written Constitutionp. 487
Notesp. 517
Acknowledgmentsp. 597
Illustration Creditsp. 599
Indexp. 601
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

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