Given the recent spate of news articles referencing the U.S. Constitution and impeachment, we would like to highlight a number of books that can help inform your understanding as you keep up with current events. Links to catalog searches on these topics for children and adults can be found at the bottom of this page. The full text and interpretations of the Constitution can be found at the Interactive Constitution, a nonpartisan tool to allow learners of all ages to engage with the text of the Constitution, discover how experts agree and disagree about its history and meaning, and explore arguments on all sides of the constitutional debates at the center of American life.
The U.S. Constitution
Our Constitution / Donald A. Ritchie & JusticeLearning.org – An in-depth look at the entire text of the U. S. Constitution, annotated with detailed explanations of its terms and contents. Each Amendment and Article is accompanied by sidebar material on the history of its application, including profiles of important Supreme Court cases, texts of related primary source documents, and contemporary news articles.
The Constitution / Paul Finkelman – Examines in detail the structure of the American democracy that still exists today, through an in-depth review of the Constitutional Convention and those involved in the creation of this important document.
Plain, honest men : the making of the American Constitution / Richard Beeman – Demonstrates how the American Constitution was forged through conflict, compromise, and eventually fragile consensus as James Madison and his cohorts devised a plan to radically alter the balance of governmental power.
The second founding : how the Civil War and Reconstruction remade the Constitution / Eric Foner – An authoritative history by the preeminent scholar of the Civil War era, The Second Founding traces the arc of the three foundational Reconstruction amendments from their origins in antebellum activism and adoption amidst intense postwar politics to their virtual nullification by narrow Supreme Court decisions and Jim Crow state laws. Today these amendments remain strong tools for achieving the American ideal of equality if only we will take them up
As Benjamin Franklin famously put it, Americans have a republic, if we can keep it. Preserving the Constitution and the democratic system it supports is the public’s responsibility. One route the Constitution provides for discharging that duty–a route rarely traveled–is impeachment.
Impeachment : an American history / Jeffrey A. Engel, Jon Meacham, Timothy Naftali, Peter Baker – Impeachment is rare, and for good reason. Designed to check tyrants or defend the nation from a commander-in-chief who refuses to do so, the process of impeachment outlined in the Constitution is what Thomas Jefferson called “the most formidable weapon for the purpose of a dominant faction that was ever contrived.” It nullifies the will of voters, the basic foundation of legitimacy for all representative democracies. Only [four] times has a president’s conduct led to such political disarray as to warrant his potential removal from office, transforming a political crisis into a constitutional one. None has yet succeeded.
Impeachment : a citizen’s guide / Cass R. Sunstein – Cass R. Sunstein provides a succinct citizen’s guide to an essential tool of self-government. He illuminates the constitutional design behind impeachment and emphasizes the people’s role in holding presidents accountable. Despite intense interest in the subject, impeachment is widely misunderstood. Sunstein identifies and corrects a number of misconceptions. For example, he shows that the Constitution, not the House of Representatives, establishes grounds for impeachment and that the president can be impeached for abuses of power that do not violate the law.
Impeached : the trial of President Andrew Johnson and the fight for Lincoln’s legacy / David O. Stewart – A revisionist account of the impeachment trial of Andrew Johnson identifies specific incendiary behaviors on the part of the seventeenth president that the author believes failed to heal post-Civil War America.
There are many, sometimes competing, stories of who we are, how we came to be, and what we might become. Here are just a few of those histories from a variety of viewpoints.
The birth of America : from before Columbus to the Revolution / William R. Polk – In this provocative account of colonial America, William R. Polk explores the key events, individuals, and themes of this critical period. With vivid descriptions of the societies that people from Europe came from and with an emphasis on what they believed they were going to, Polk introduces the native Indians encountered in the New World and the black Africans who were brought across the Atlantic. With insightful analysis, he also discusses the dual truths of colonial societies’ “growing up” and “growing apart.”
A people’s history of the United States / Howard Zinn ; introduction by Anthony Arnove – A controversial work since its original landmark publication in 1980, A People’s History of the United States has been chronicling American history from the bottom up, throwing out the official version of history taught in schools-with its emphasis on great men in high places-to focus on the street, the home, and the, workplace. Known for its lively, clear prose as well as its scholarly research, A People’s History of the United States is the only volume to tell America’s story from the point of view of-and in the words of-America’s women, factory workers, African-Americans, Native Americans, the working poor, and immigrant laborers.
A short history of the United States / Robert V. Remini – A much-needed, concise history of the United States of America, this accessible and lively volume contains the essential facts about the discovery, settlement, growth, and development of the American nation.
These truths : a history of the United States / Jill Lepore – In the most ambitious one-volume American history in decades, in elegiac prose, Lepore’s groundbreaking investigation places truth itself–a devotion to facts, proof, and evidence–at the center of the nation’s history. The American experiment rests on three ideas–“these truths,” Jefferson called them–political equality, natural rights, and the sovereignty of the people. And it rests, too, on a fearless dedication to inquiry, Lepore argues, because self-government depends on it.
More resources –