“[N]either major American political party adheres to [the] Constitution; many of our elected representatives are ignorant of its text and original meaning. The only hope lies in a better educated public. Americans don’t need judges, lawyers, politicians, or ivory tower academics descending to provide answers to our constitutional questions. The Founding Fathers have already done that for us. We just need to read what they said and hold politicians in Washington accountable,” writes Brion McClanahan as he closes his book The Founding Fathers Guide To The Constitution. And McClanahan has taken an important step in making obtaining that education simpler with his book.
For those without the time or inclination to read the thoughts of those who participated in the process of debating, drafting and ratifying the Constitution — the Federalist Papers, the Anti-Federalist Papers and the text of the ratification debates — this book is an excellent place to begin obtaining a greater understanding of the Nation’s founding document.
McClanahan has taken the U.S. Constitution and broken it down into its separate clauses. He then inserted quotes from the participants to provide the context of their thoughts and concerns on each clause and the discussions that took place to help them agree on the final wording of the founding document.
The way it’s done provides the reader with a greater understanding of Founding Fathers and the way they viewed the Nation, the different States and individual and States’ rights. McClanahan doesn’t use the terms “Federalist” and “Anti-federalist.” He divides them as “proponents” and “opponents.”
Opponents of the Constitution were never comfortable with the term “Anti-federalist.” They correctly pointed out during the ratification debates that what they wanted was to retain the federal system of the Articles of Confederation, and the proponents of the Constitution, instead of being federalists, were in faction nationalists bent on eliminating the State governments. Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts remarked in 1789 that “those who were called antifederalists at the time complained that they had injustice done them by the title, because they were in favor of a Federal Government, and the others were in favor of a national one; the federals were for ratifying the constitution as it stood, and the others not until amendments were made. Their names then ought not to have been distinguished by federalists and antifederalists, but by rats and antirats.”
In fact, one of the major sources of contention during the debates involved ensuring that States remained sovereign under a Federal government. Most people today have no understanding of how the early citizens of the countries viewed the Nation. They did not consider it an amalgam of homogenous people, but a confederation of different States. They considered each State almost as a separate country.
And while the idea of whether the States should retain their sovereignty was much discussed, the idea that they would under this Constitution won out.
The Constitution was not ratified by the people, but by the States. The Federal government, in their view, was to be a source of a few specific services that benefited the States generally. Everything else was left under the purview of State and local governments.
McClanahan devotes a great deal of the book discussing the Founder’s views on the more controversial aspects of the Constitution — those clauses that are so abused by the elected class today. These are the “Necessary and Proper Clause” and the General Welfare Clause of Article I, Section 8; and the Supremacy Clause of Article 6. Reading the discussions that took place around the adoption of those closes provides a greater understanding of the intended role of government and lays out in stark detail how far afield our government has grown from the original intent.
I can’t emphasize enough how important this book is to the cause of liberty and for the education of those who are beginning to wake up to the tyranny that is now squeezing us like a python squeezes its prey. I recommend everyone read it and pass it along to friends.
It’s a simple read; the main text of the hardcover edition encompasses only 197 pages. There are also two appendices. One is filled with Founders’ quotes that did not make the text but could be used during any discussion about the Constitution’s adoption. The other discusses the amendments proposed but not adopted.