In an earlier post I wrote, “We often hear laments that our politicians no longer honor their pledge to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. This is backward. The Constitution was never written for politicians. Our political leaders have no motivation to abide by a two hundred year old restraining order. Americans must enforce the supreme law of the land. The first outsized words of the Constitution read We the People. It’s our document. It was always meant to be ours, not the government’s. It is each and every American’s obligation to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
In order to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution, we need to understand it. Luckily, there are some great learning tools available to every American. These include an online course at James Madison’s Montpelier Center for the Constitution, the webcast series Introduction to the Constitution from Hillsdale College, and several good books, including The Heritage Guide to the Constitution, Tempest at Dawn, and Decision in Philadelphia.
The Center for the Constitution at Montpelier conducts a series of seminars on the Constitution. For those who cannot attend in person, the Center has created a free course on their website. The interactive online course includes text instructions, video discussions with constitutional scholars, and quizzes to test the student’s knowledge. I have taken the first of seven sessions and found it to be accurate, not politicized, and paced to keep the student’s interest. The seminars and online course were originally designed for teachers, but work well for any inquisitive student of the Constitution. Continuing Education Units (CEUs) are available after successful completion of the entire course. The course is free, but it cost $25 to claim CEUs.
Hillsdale College has conducted a series of lectures on the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. The webcasts can be viewed at Hillsdale site or YouTube. (If you scroll to the bottom of the screen, you’ll find a webcast of the Hillsdale Constitution Day Celebration, including Paul Ryan’s speech on “The Rule of Law and America’s Future.” Great speech.) This is a four part lecture series, plus a Q&A session.
Earlier this year, I reviewed The Heritage Guide to the Constitution. The guide is a clause by clause analysis of the Constitution, including the Founders intent and a crisp summary of court opinions related to the clause. This is a great reference book that deserves to be in every constitutional library.
Tempest at Dawn is a novelization of the Constitutional Convention. I hesitated to include it because I wrote it, but many people enjoy learning history told as a story … and this was a great story. Tempest at Dawn is as historically accurate as possible, especially in the debates. I chose the novel form to bring the Framers to life as real people that were struggling with a massive challenge. (Martin has reviewed Tempest at Dawn.)
There are dozens of good history books on the Constitutional Convention. One of the best is Decision in Philadelphia by Christopher Collier. If you can find a copy, another great history book is the out-of-print Great Rehearsal by Carl Van Doren.
Every American citizen has the responsibility to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution. Fortunately, there has been a resurgence in interest about the founding and the Constitution. Many people even carry a copy of the Constitution with them at all times. Hopefully, these sources will help those who want to learn more about the framing, ratification, and meaning of the Constitution.