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A Reader's Advisory

This collection of thoughts, opinions, and arguments of the Founders is meant to be useful to different kinds of readers, and hence useful in a variety of ways. How one uses this book will depend on the energy, time, and needs of the particular individual. Those desiring a general view of the state of the question that ultimately took the form of a specific phrase or clause in the Constitution will find materials assembled under the article, section, and clause numbers of that provision. Readers wishing to pursue their inquiries further are directed--within and at the end of each unit or chapter--to the location of other primary materials that they might find germane. Some of those materials are reprinted here under the headings of thematic chapters in volume 1 or under other, closely related, constitutional clauses, and their location will be so indicated. Many other documents will be of a kind that we could not accommodate within the already stretched confines of this collection; references to their published locations are clearly noted.

Other users may be interested less in the exact language of the Constitution's text than in the more general questions of political science and political practice that informed the making of that frame of government. Those readers may find it more useful to begin with one or more of the thematic chapters of volume 1 and then follow those leads into the appropriate clauses of the Constitution.

From these remarks it should become clear that this collection may be engaged at any number of points. The oversharp distinction between theoretical reflection and practical activity was alien to the leading members of the Founders' generation. They usually thought and acted as though theory and practice should inform each other rather than remain in separate compartments. The arrangement of this collection is meant to foster that kind of free movement and interchange. Investigators and browsers alike may trace their own paths starting from their particular points of departure. This is not to deny that the Constitution of 1787 has its own beginning, middle, and end. In urging readers to enter this collection at whatever juncture their need or curiosity suggests, we do not mean to discount the logic underlying the order of discussion in volume 1. But, again, our primary intention is that this collection be serviceable to a wide range of possible users. We have recognized that few are likely to read this book from cover to cover and have made our editorial judgments and arrangements accordingly.

We have sought to find a middle ground between needlessly duplicating texts that could with good reason have been included under more than one head, and requiring repeated search for cross-references. On the other hand, we have not hesitated to disassemble a large and many-faceted discussion and range its parts under several headings. Throughout, we have tried to anticipate the modes of inquiry of the likely readers.

References to documents follow a consistent pattern both in the cross-references (in the detailed tables of contents) and in the indexes. Where a document in volume 1 is being cited, reference is to chapter and document number: thus, for example, ch. 15, no. 23. Where the document is to be found in one of the subsequent volumes, which are organized by Constitutional article, section, and clause, or by amendment, reference is in this mode: 1.8.8, no. 12; or, Amend. I (religion), no. 66. Each document heading consists of its serial number in that particular chapter; an author and title (or letter writer and addressee, or speaker and forum); date of publication, writing, or speaking; and, where not given in the first part of the heading, an identification of the source of the text being reprinted. These sources are presented in short-title form, the author of the source volume being presumed (unless otherwise noted) to be the first proper name mentioned in the document heading. Thus, for example, in the case of a letter from Alexander Hamilton to Governor George Clinton, "Papers 1:425--28" would be understood to refer to the edition fully described under "Hamilton, Papers" in the list of short titles found at the back of each volume.

A somewhat different form has been followed in the case of the proceedings of the Constitutional Convention that met in Philadelphia from late May to mid-September of 1787. As might be expected, we have included many extracts from the various records kept by the participants while they were deliberating over the shape and character of a new charter of government. For any particular chapter or unit, those extracts have been grouped as a single document, titled "Records of the Federal Convention," and placed undated in that chapter's proper time slot. The bracketed note that precedes each segment within that selection of the "Records" lists the volume and opening page numbers in the printed source (Max Farrand's edition), the name of the participant whose notes are here being reproduced (overwhelmingly Madison, but also Mason, Yates, others, and the Convention's official Journal), and the month and day of 1787 when the reported transaction took place.

We have followed the orthography and typographical style of whatever edition of the text is being cited. Where those editions seek to preserve the irregularities of eighteenth-century manuscripts, readers may expect to encounter many misspellings. It seems that among the Founders only Franklin the printer had a sure hand in this respect. Nor ought one to be surprised by the grammatical incoherence of notes--for example, Madison's--taken in the midst of debate by men who were active participants and not mere reporters.

We are pleased to acknowledge the help that we have received from individuals and institutions in preparing this manuscript and bringing it to publication. Faithful and intelligent diligence was exercised by our editorial assistants: Dr. Gayle McKeen, Michael A. McAlister, Joshua Lerner, and Benjamin Fiedler. Unreserved and expert criticisms of the introductory essays in volume 1 were bestowed by Professors Marvin Meyers (Brandeis University), Thomas S. Schrock (University of California, Santa Barbara), Gerald Stourzh (University of Vienna), and Nathan Tarcov (University of Chicago). Needless to say, our sins of editorial omission and commission remain ours and not theirs who gladly tried to shield us from blunder.

If "money is with propriety considered as the vital principle of the body politic" (as Hamilton, and Hobbes before him, observed), no less is it the blood even of scholarly publishing. Our project to help bring the Founders' Constitution back into this generation's consciousness would have come to nought but for the confidence and support of benefactors who were pleased by the notion and equally pleased to leave all further decisions to the editors. For this we (and, we hope, our readers) owe special thanks to the Institute for Educational Affairs and its then-president, Philip N. Marcus. We have made ample use of the facilities and services afforded by The College and The Law School of The University of Chicago. And we have had the continuous unbounded assistance and loyalty of Mrs. Artie Scott even though it has proved the first publication in thirty years of one of the editors that she has not typed and retyped from beginning to end.

The Founders' Constitution
A Reader's Advisory
The University of Chicago Press

Easy to print version.

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