The Original Constitution

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by Rob Natelson

My book, The Original Constitution: What It Actually Said and Meant is—believe it or not—the first book EVER to explain the legal force of the entire U.S. Constitution as it stood in December, 1791, right after adoption of the Bill of Rights.

There have been many books surveying parts of the Constitution, or purporting to explain the entire document as interpreted by modern courts. But this is the first one to focus on the original meaning of the entire Constitution.

Now it is available in an updated Second Edition you can buy here.

Why, you might ask, was a second edition necessary? After all, the original meaning of the Constitution doesn’t change. One reason was simply to clear up problems that affect any first edition—typographical errors and the like. Another reason is that I thought the book should have a better index.

And although the Constitution’s original meaning doesn’t change, I wanted to update the bibliography to insert new scholarship that improves our understanding and to delete some that has been superseded.

But perhaps the biggest reason was to correct, directly or indirectly, new misinterpretations—particularly by law professors at prestige universities, some of whom seem to have no shame in advancing fanciful claims about the Constitution to justify their personal political agendas.

One such misinterpretation, involving the Necessary and Proper and Post Office Clauses, is corrected in the posting below this one. In the second edition of the book, I handled it by adding the sentence, “Moreover, the specific phrase ‘establish post Offices’ was used in Anglo-American law to include comprehensive law-making pertinent to post office affairs, including the delineation of punishments for those violating the postal monopoly or interfering with the mail.”

One advantage I bring to this project is that unlike most constitutional writers I have academic training in history and classics as well as law—and a good dose of real world experience also.

The Original Constitution: What It Actually Said and Meant is written for the layperson, but as the only book of its kind, it is useful for the specialist as well.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Rob Natelson will be a guest on TRX: Tenther Radio on October 5th. If you have questions about the Necessary and Proper clause – or any other part of the constitution, let us know! You can call in your questions to our voice feedback line 24/7 – 213.785.7848 – or post them in our chat room here

In private life, Rob Natelson is a long-time conservative/free market activist, but professionally he is a constitutional scholar whose meticulous studies of the Constitution’s original meaning have been published or cited by many top law journals. (See Most recently, he co-authored The Origins of the Necessary and Proper Clause (Cambridge University Press) and The Original Constitution(Tenth Amendment Center). After a quarter of a century as Professor of Law at the University of Montana, he recently retired to work full time at Colorado’s Independence Institute.

Rob Natelson

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