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The Founder’s Constitution (In Honor of Constitution Day)

Much primary and historical material relating to the enactment of the U.S. Constitution is online. The Library of Congress Primary Documents in American History collection and Yale Law School’s Avalon Project’s The American Constitution – A Documentary Record are well-known and well-used.

But in honor of Constitution Day, I’d like to highlight The Founder’s Constitution, the freely available web edition of the five-volume anthology published in 1987 by the University of Chicago Press. Although the web edition is searchable, and has material organized by theme, a most useful feature is the organization by clause.

I’ve been thinking about redistricting, since Washington is gaining a Congressional seat, and the first set of maps drawn by the four voting members of the State Redistricting Commission were released this week. So I went to The Founder’s Constitution, clicked on Article 1, Section 2, Clause 3, and found a collection of links directly to writings on point. I stopped there, but if I had the time and need, I could have explored the “see also” references.

The set is indexed by case name, author and document, and constitutional provision.

On a related note, although the University of Washington’s Constitution Day website is up, the big event, to me at least, is later in the fall when all the students are on back on campus: the “read aloud.” Sponsored by the UW Libraries and organized by US Documents Librarian Cass Hartnett, “UW Reads the US Constitution” is always moving and often surprising. It’s funny how each year I seem to hear new language, or hear it in a new way. I love that new readers sign up, and I love the core of old-timers. I love that people show up at all. It’s the best lunch hour of year.

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