Reflections on Constitutional Law

Reflections on Constitutional Law

Reflections on Constitutional Law

Reflections on Constitutional Law


Anastaplo emphasizes the continuing significance and importance of the Constitution by examining the most important influences on the American constitutional system, including the Magna Carta and the Declaration of Independence. According to Anastaplo, a rigorous understanding of the Constitution is crucial to comprehending the true meaning of Supreme Court decisions.


My mother had to abandon her quest, but managed to extract
from the restriction itself a further refinement of thought, as great
poets do when the tyranny of rhyme forces them into the discov
ery of their finest lines.

—Marcel Proust, Swann’s Way (Overture)

At the foundations of the series of reflections offered in this volume are my Commentaries on the Constitution of 1787 and on its Amendments published by the Johns Hopkins University Press in 1989 and 1995.

I observed, at the outset of those Commentaries, “I was surprised to discover, upon preparing [them] for publication, that there evidently had not been, since the Ratification Campaign of 1787–1788, any other booklength, section-by-section commentary upon the United States Constitution proceeding primarily from the original text itself. Even during the Ratification Period the longer expositions, as in the Federalist and in the State Ratification Conventions, were not systematic but rather were tailored, properly enough, to local interests and concerns. There have been, of course, many instructive systematic accounts of constitutional law in our own time [as well as heretofore], but these have relied far more than I want to do [in my Commentaries] upon judicial and other official interpretations and applications of the Constitution and its Amendments.”

I believe that those documents were examined in my Commentaries with an appropriate rigor, providing a reliable guide for those interested in a coherent account of the 1787 Constitution and its twenty-seven Amendments. My hope was to offer my fellow citizens an account that would exhibit in our Constitution the admirable features that William Blackstone (as his Commentaries draw to an end) was able to find in his:

Of a constitution so wisely contrived, so strongly raised, and so
highly finished, it is hard to speak with that praise which is justly

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