The Words That Made Us
When the US Constitution won popular approval in 1788, it was the culmination of 30 years of passionate argument over the nature of government. But ratification hardly ended the conversation. For the next half century, ordinary Americans and statesmen alike continued to wrestle with weighty questions in the halls of government and in the pages of newspapers. Should the nation’s borders be expanded? Should America allow slavery to spread westward? What rights should Indian nations hold? What was the proper role of the judicial branch? In The Words that Made Us, Yale University legal scholar Akhil Reed Amar unites history and law to explore the biggest constitutional questions early Americans confronted and assesses the answers they offered. His account of the document’s origins and consolidation is a guide for anyone seeking to properly understand America’s Constitution today.
Akhil Reed Amar is Sterling Professor of Law and Political Science at Yale University, where he teaches constitutional law in both Yale College and Yale Law School. After graduating from Yale College, summa cum laude, in 1980 and from Yale Law School in 1984, and clerking for then Judge (now Justice) Stephen Breyer, Amar joined the Yale faculty in 1985 at the age of 26. He is Yale’s only currently active professor to have won the University’s unofficial triple crown — the Sterling Chair for scholarship, the DeVane Medal for teaching, and the Lamar Award for alumni service.
Amar’s work has won awards from both the American Bar Association and the Federalist Society, and he has been cited by Supreme Court justices across the spectrum in more than forty cases — tops in his generation. He regularly testifies before Congress at the invitation of both parties; and in surveys of judicial citations and/or scholarly citations, he invariably ranks among America’s five most-cited mid-career legal scholars. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and has written widely for popular publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Time, and The Atlantic. He was an informal consultant to the popular TV show, The West Wing, and his scholarship has been showcased on many broadcasts, including The Colbert Report, Tucker Carlson Tonight, Morning Joe, AC360, and Constitution USA with Peter Sagal.
He is the author of more than a hundred law review articles and several books, most notably The Bill of Rights (1998), America’s Constitution (2005), America’s Unwritten Constitution (2012), and The Constitution Today (2016). His latest and most ambitious book, *The Words That Made Us: America’s Constitutional Conversation, 1760-1840, was released in 2021. Amar also has a weekly podcast, America’s Constitution.