Thomas E. Woods Jr.: Review of Brion McClanahan's "The Founding Fathers Guide to the Constitution" (Regnery, 2012)

Roundup: Books

Thomas E. Woods Jr. is the New York Times bestselling author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History and ten other books.

The two key arguments against bothering with constitutional restraints on government are “who knows” and “who cares”: we can’t know what the Constitution means, and we shouldn’t care even if we did.

In The Founding Fathers Guide to the Constitution, historian Brion McClanahan addresses the “who knows” argument, the claim that the Constitution and the intentions behind it are too inscrutable to be any kind of guide. McClanahan, who is following up his Politically Incorrect Guide to the Founding Fathers, was the last doctoral student of the recently retired Clyde Wilson, professor of history at the University of South Carolina, editor of the Papers of John C. Calhoun, and, according to Eugene Genovese, one of the ten top Southern historians in America.

McClanahan’s is a valuable if unusual volume: it’s in effect a clause-by-clause analysis of the Constitution but the only sources the author will admit are the records of the Philadelphia Convention, the records of the state ratifying conventions, The Federalist, and the essays of various Antifederalists. No later glosses, no Supreme Court cases, no testimony from the practice of the early republic. McClanahan wants the Constitution to speak through those who wrote and debated it....

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