The Intellectual Origins of the Constitution: A Lawyers' Guide to Contemporary Historical Scholarship
In the past twenty years, historians have greatly enriched our knowledge of the eighteenth-century ideas that underlie the Constitution. Much of this scholarship has been devoted to rediscovery of eighteenth century "republicanism" and an examination of its role in the drafting and ratification of the Constitution. Some legal scholars, including Frank Michelman, Cass Sunstein, and Mark Tushnet have begun to explore the implications of republicanism for modern constitutional law. Yet, for most teachers of constitutional law, the historical literature on republicanism has been unfamiliar and fairly inaccessible. The following article, which is an adaptation of the introductory chapter of a forthcoming textbook on the history of the Constitution,** attempts to synthesize the historical literature. We reprint it here in the hope that readers will be encouraged not only to think about the relevance of the "new learning" to contemporary constitutional concerns but also to explore the historical works for themselves.