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The Closing of the Constitution

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JonathanGienapp, The Second Creation: Fixing the American Constitution in the Founding Era, Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2018. Pp. 451. $35.00 hardcover (ISBN 9780674185043).

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 August 2019

Kevin Arlyck*
Georgetown University Law Center


Anyone who picks up a recent volume of the United States Reports or a prominent legal journal will be sure to find judges and lawyers debating, in agonizing detail, the meaning of a particular word or phrase in the Constitution. Marshaling late-eighteenth century dictionaries and legal treatises, records of debates from the drafting and ratifying conventions, and well-thumbed copies of the Federalist Papers, modern constitutional interlocutors will scrutinize text, structure, and history to discern an inherent logic. Above all, although disputants will endlessly contest what a particular provision means, they largely agree on what the Constitution itself is: as Jonathan Gienapp puts it in The Second Creation: Fixing the American Constitution in the Founding Era, “an artifact circumscribed in time and space,” the “fixed Constitution” that we have been collectively dissecting since the late 1780s (10).

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Copyright © the American Society for Legal History, Inc. 2019 

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