The Classical Foundations of the American Constitution

Prevailing Wisdom

The Classical Foundations of the American Constitution

The Framers of the American Constitution were substantially influenced by ancient history and classical political theory, as exemplified by their education, the availability of classical readings, and their inculcation in classical republican values. This volume explores how the Framing generation deployed classical learning to develop many of the essential structural aspects of the Constitution: federalism, separation of powers, a bicameral legislature, independent courts, and the war and foreign relations powers. Also examined are very contemporary constitutional debates, for which there were classical inspirations, including sovereign immunity, executive privilege, line-item vetoes, and the electoral college. Combining techniques of intellectual history, classical studies, and constitutional interpretation, this book makes a unique contribution to our understanding of contemporary constitutionalism.


"...this fine book is essential reading for anyone concerned with the origins of the Constitution or the intellectual world that produced it."
--Law and Politics Book Review

"In this innovative and erudite study, Bederman surveys the influence of classical works on the American founding generation. A convincing argument for the Founding Fathers' use of classical ideas is lucidly advance. The book offers a more historically accurate and philosophically coherent argument than other recent volumes on the topic...The author defends the importance of original intent, with limitations, while concluding that the Founders' use of ancient sources was "instrumental and pragmatic."...Highly Recommended..."
--H.L. Cheek Jr., CHOICE


Choice Outstanding Academic Title 2009 - Winner