|Paperback cover of The Penguin Guide to the United States Constitution, by Richard Beeman, 2010. That's my shelf of Founding Fathers books. Photo by Mark C. Taylor.|
|Professor Richard Beeman.|
Because I’m a huge history and political science nerd, I recently read The Penguin Guide to the United States Constitution, by Richard Beeman. No, it’s not a guide for flightless fowl like Opus from Bloom County; rather it comes from the Penguin publishing house. It’s an excellent compact and concise guide to the Constitution of the United States, and should be required reading for every American. Beeman annotates the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, as he explains what the different articles meant at the time, and how they are interpreted now. It’s remarkable how durable the Constitution has been over the more than 200 years it has been the law of the land.
In addition to the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, the book also features three of the Federalist Papers, numbers 10, 51, and 78. My only annoyance is that the Federalist Papers are edited slightly, which is odd, because presenting them unedited only would have added a couple of more pages to the book. But that’s a small quibble.
The rest of the book features essays by Beeman about the early years of the American republic, from the American Revolution until 1801. These essays provide a good brief glimpse at the struggles and debates of those years. Beeman also has a short essay at the end of the book that highlights important Supreme Court decisions throughout the history of the United States, which gives the reader insight about how the Constitution has been interpreted over the years.
While there are many books about the Constitution and the Founding Fathers, The Penguin Guide to the United States Constitution is an excellent short introduction to the most important document in the history of the United States.