The History of American Constitutional and Political Thought

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In a post yesterday about my class on Trump and the Constitution, I noted the existence of an archive of hundreds of free, publicly accessible primary documents in the history of American constitutionalism that Howard Gillman, Mark Graber, and I have produced over the past few years as a companion to our casebooks. The materials are all edited and include an introductory statement. Although a new cache of materials should be going live in a few days, a current index of the available materials relating to constitutional structures and powers can be found here and an index of materials relating to rights and liberties can be found here. Both the casebooks and the online companions reflect our interest in expanding our thinking about American constitutionalism to include all of American history, from the colonial era to the present, and to include extrajudicial debates over constitutional meaning and practices as well as judicial pronouncements. Everything from James Otis on the writs of assistance to Frederick Douglass on the anti-slavery Constitution to Robert Jackson on executive privilege over investigative files to the 2nd Circuit on state regulation of teeth-whitening procedures.

I have created a similar archive of dozens of free, publicly accessible primary documents in American political thought, which serves as a companion to my reader. A topical and chronological index of those materials can be found here. These materials are also edited and include an introductory note, and new items are gradually added over time. The “to do” list is long on that one, but suggestions are welcome. If Oxford University Press continues to support it, and time permits, I hope that archive too will grow to include hundreds of items. Somewhat unusually, the collection includes items in the history of American thought on political economy and American foreign policy, as well as materials on more traditional topics like liberty and democracy, equality and status, and citizenship and community. Everything from John Cotton on the virtues of religious intolerance to Benjamin Tucker on individualist anarchism to William James on the moral equivalent of war to Donald Trump’s speech to the people of Poland.

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