Review: Harvard Law School professor tells real U.S. Constitution story Special

Posted Mar 22, 2017 by Jonathan Farrell
What is it about our U. S. Constitution that gets everyone so stirred up? It is among the most referred to documents in recent history. It is a secular document but it holds an almost religious sacredness to it.
Michael J. Klarman is a Kirkland & Ellis endowed professor at Harvard Law School. His speciality is ...
Michael J. Klarman is a Kirkland & Ellis endowed professor at Harvard Law School. His speciality is history and has received accolades and awards for other books he has written about U.S. Law and American History.
Courtesy of Oxford University Press and Harvard Law School
It also stimulates such intense debate that some people argue bitterly about it. And, even with its flaws, it is surprising as a secular governmental document that the Constitution has continued to inspire. In his new book, "The Framers' Coup, The Making of the United States Constitution," Harvard Law professor Michael J. Klarman, PhD points out that even in its conception, the U.S. Constitution was drafted from ordinary things (including human limitations) much like today.
He told this reporter, when asked what are some of the misconceptions people today still have? "I think people tend to think of the Constitution as reflecting timeless principles of governance, whereas, in fact, there was a great deal of interest-group bargaining over both the drafting and ratification of the Constitution." Hmm! Sort of sounds like the familiar 'bi-partisan' struggles we see going on in the U.S. Congress today, perhaps?
The established and acclaimed professor, who has written four other books, explained that an example of interest-group bargaining from that time would be, "between large states and small states, between southern states and northern states."
"Also," said Klarman, "people tend to revere the Framers. While they were indeed very impressive individuals... they were mortal, they made mistakes. They had interests; and they often held values that we don't think much of today, such as support for slavery."
I then asked him, why is it that people are so stirred by The U.S. Constitution more so than let’s say “the Magna Carta” or the constitution of any other nation?
"I think Americans tend to revere the Constitution because it has been around for a long time and because the people who wrote it were, as I have said, very impressive. Klarman shed some insight as to why people cling to it and seem to refer to it so readily.
"Moreover, it was written in sufficiently open-ended language that people on both sides of most modern debates can find support for their positions in both the document and in the political philosophy of those who wrote it. If it weren't for this fact... then I doubt there could be such widespread reverence for the Constitution."
I then asked the professor. Canada is very similar to the U.S. with regards to diversity and pioneer-West history. Yet few people speak passionately about Canada’s constitution or its form of government. Even though these two neighboring countries share much in common, why it is that America is most well-known and sought after over Canada?
"Again," he said. "I think the age of the U.S. Constitution has a great deal to do with how much it is revered. Canada's constitution is still very young. I think that explains a lot of the difference."
The Farmers  Coup - The Making of the United States Constitution is published by Oxford University P...
The Farmers' Coup - The Making of the United States Constitution is published by Oxford University Press (2016).
In its review this past September, New Republic Magazine praised the book as "impressive." But it pointed out that, "The book seems intended as a bracing antidote to the phenomenon that Klarman has elsewhere labeled 'constitutional idolatry,' his term for 'our misguided tendency to blindly worship the Constitution' and the men who wrote it."
The New Yorker in its brief review this past fall, noted. That the book highlights the extent to which our Constitution was geared “toward constraining democracy.” And that, groups back in colonial times like the 'anti-federalists'..(were)...objecting to such anti-democratic elements as the Electoral College and Supreme Court appointments — complaints that resonate today." In its online reviews, The New Rambler exclaims that with Klarman's impressive and loving detail, "'The Framers’ Coup' might well be the best book ever written on the founders and their handiwork."
At over 600 pages with at least 300 pages of notes, bibliography, etc. And, it has no color illustrations or photos, just plain black and white - featuring the historical paintings and portraits familiar to text books and archives. 'The Framers' Coup' is dedicated reading at a more academic level. Definitely more like a text book than a biography. Yet as some reviewers point out, Klarman is searching for facts and avoids opinions.
This then leads to the issue of interpretation, which like The Bible, the U.S. Constitution is also subjected to. One thing this reporter noticed while going over 'The Farmers' Coup,' is that unlike The Bible and other sacred religious scriptures, our U.S. Constitution was written just once, officially that is. And, it was written in only one place, only 200 years ago. Whereas The Bible has been transcribed many, many times, in many places in the ancient world, down through the ages, and over 2,000 years ago. Need I say anything more?
Published by Oxford University Press, 'The Farmers' Coup, The Making of the United States Constitution," by Michael J. Klarman, can be purchased in bookstores and online. For more information, visit the Oxford University Press web site and check out the Facebook page, along with other social media sites.