American Constitutions

The 411 on the American Constitutional Tradition

Both the Left and Right claim the Constitution and its meaning as their own. Leftists like to cite the “elastic” clauses of the Constitution while conservatives often call it a “limiting” document. But how did the founding generation view the document, particularly when it was being sold to the States for ratification? What did the preamble mean to them? How did they define the powers of Congress, the president, and the federal court system? And what about the so-called “elastic” or “sweeping” clauses of the Constitution? Does the Left have a case, or is the Constitution a “limiting document” as the Right suggests? The battle over the Constitution and its meaning cuts to the heart of the United States polity.

This course tackles those big questions and more. American constitutionalism did not begin in 1787 in Philadelphia and did not end once the United States Constitution was ratified in 1788. The founding generation spoke openly about their reverence for the constitutional traditions of Western Civilization. There were nearly a dozen written constitutions produced before the Philadelphia Convention and one major constitution after--The Confederate States Constitution. The Constitution has been amended and interpreted, debated and denounced, but the American political tradition would not be the same without written constitutions.

If you truly want to understand American government, you need to understand the customs and traditions that made the American political experience possible. You need to get the 411 on the American Constitutional Tradition.

Your Instructor


Brion McClanahan holds a Ph.D in American History from the University of South Carolina. He is the author or co-author of six books, including the #1 Amazon best selling 9 Presidents Who Screwed Up America and How Alexander Hamilton Screwed Up America.

Course Curriculum

  The Constitution for the United States
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