The Constitution as Political Theory: Between Rationalism and Reverence

The Constitution of the United States of America is a legal document, serving as the supreme law of the land, establishing the framework of the federal government, determining the powers of the federal government as well as certain powers of the states, and delineating a set of basic rights. Yet, the Constitution has played another important, far less remarked upon role unrelated to its status as law or to any connection it has to the United States. The body of thought that went into developing the Constitution, and then into explaining and defending it during the debate over ratification, comprises a notable contribution to political theory. Americans who took the lead in this task engaged fundamental questions of political life, challenged well-known philosophical positions, and offered new theoretical insights. The best of their work, which found its expression in The Federalist, merits a place alongside classics in political.

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