28 March 2018

BOOK: Joseph TARTAKOVSKY, The Lives of the Constitution : Ten Exceptional Minds That Shaped America’s Supreme Law (New York: Encounter Books, 2018). ISBN 9781594039850, $20.79

(Source: Encounter Books)

Next week, Encounter Books will publish a book on key figures in American constitutional history.


In a fascinating blend of biography and history, Joseph Tartakovsky tells the epic and unexpected story of our Constitution through the eyes of ten extraordinary individuals—some renowned, like Alexander Hamilton and Woodrow Wilson, and some forgotten, like James Wilson and Ida B. Wells-Barnett.

Tartakovsky brings to life their struggles over our supreme law from its origins in revolutionary America to the era of Obama and Trump. Sweeping from settings as diverse as Gold Rush California to the halls of Congress, and crowded with a vivid Dickensian cast, Tartakovsky shows how America’s unique constitutional culture grapples with questions like democracy, racial and sexual equality, free speech, economic liberty, and the role of government.

Joining the ranks of other great American storytellers, Tartakovsky chronicles how Daniel Webster sought to avert the Civil War; how Alexis de Tocqueville misunderstood America; how Robert Jackson balanced liberty and order in the battle against Nazism and Communism; and how Antonin Scalia died warning Americans about the ever-growing reach of the Supreme Court.

From the 1787 Philadelphia Convention to the clash over gay marriage, this is a grand tour through two centuries of constitutional history as never told before, and an education in the principles that sustain America in the most astonishing experiment in government ever undertaken.


JOSEPH TARTAKOVSKY is the James Wilson Fellow in Constitutional Law at the Claremont Institute for the Study of Statesmanship and Political Philosophy.


Overture : the Constitution's third century
-- Builders (1765-1804)
1. Alexander Hamilton: A War Ends and a Constitution Begins
2. James Wilson: The Philosopher of Philadelphia
-- Fighters (1814-1897)
3. Daniel Webster: The First Generation after the Founders
4. Stephen Field: Civil War and Uncivil Justice
 -- Interlude from abroad (1835-1888)
5. Alexis de Tocqueville and James Bryce: Europe Visits at Mid-Century
-- Dreamers (1885-1931)
6. Woodrow Wilson: The President of the Progressives
7. Ida B. Wells-Barnett: Rights after Reconstructions to the Jazz age
-- Restorers (1934-2016)
8. Robert H. Jackson: New Deals and World Wars
9. Antonin Scalia: The Dead Democracy
-- Finale : The experiment endures.

For more information, see the publisher’s website.

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