Ever heard of this little document called the United States Constitution? Over the past two centuries it has been making quite a name for itself. It has gone from a document that was not going to get the required votes for ratification to a document that rules all other documents. What does it all mean and how is the average citizen supposed to interpret this powerful document? In years past, one would have to read and understand hundreds upon hundreds of scholarly articles to get an idea as to the intention of the law, but that era is now over. Seth Lipsky’s The Citizen’s Constitution is an annotated guide to the document most Americans hold very dear to their hearts.
Lipsky is no lawyer or politician; he is an accomplished journalist, former editor of The Wall Street Journal, and founder of the now deceased publication, The New York Sun. Lipsky is very patient in his demeanor and will take you step-by-step through every line in the Constitution and turn your world upside down in the process.
Things that you thought seemed simple enough are mixed with numerous bizarre complexities or twists. For example, the Constitution states, “The House of Representatives shall chuse [sic] their Speaker.” Nowhere does the Constitution stipulate that this person already be a member of House of Representatives, yet I cannot think of a Speaker of the House who was not also a representative of a state.
I have taken a personal liking to the United Kingdom’s use of titles of nobility. It might be pretty cool to be knighted someday. Did you know that the U.S. Constitution specifically says, “No title of nobility shall be granted by the U.S. Government”? This gives real insight into the minds of the framers of the Constitution. They were in constant fear that they would revert to the tyranny that they had experienced under King George III. They were willing to take every step to not turn the United States to the country they despised more than others. For this reason you will see laws and rules in the Constitution that seem a little silly, but Lipsky explains every single one extremely well so that you will not have any extra questions. If by any chance you do, there is a footnote for almost every explanation that cites his sources. The Citizen’s Constitution is not merely a commentary on the present, but it is a commentary on the past, present, and the future.
At this point, I bet, you are only worried about Lipsky’s political leanings. If you, like me, have read your share of annotated guides, you know that a guide is only as good as the author’s objective. While Lipsky is no doubt a right–leaning conservative, he does not let his political leanings affect his analysis of the Constitution. He just lays down the facts for us, the citizens. As always, it’s up to us to decide what that means.
The Citizen’s Constitution is not something that may be a pleasure read for everyone, but it sure is a must read for anyone who lives in the United States. Never has the Constitution been explained so succinctly and in depth at the same time. The writing is clear, crisp, and written for the American citizen by an American citizen. Never has access to American citizenry been so readily available; you would be a fool not to give this book a try. If it doesn’t turn out to be your cup of tea, at the very least you could leave it on your shelf in an attempt to impress a love interest.