The following is a list of the classic books and other works
on constitutional government, which we either include in our
collection, or plan to add.
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Guides — Various analyses of key ideas and how they were
advanced by some of the works in this collection.
of Hammurabi (~1700 BCE) — Early Mesopotamian legal code laid
basis for later Hebraic and European law.
Greek and Latin Library — Selected works on ancient history,
customs and laws.
Civil Law, tr. & ed. Samuel Parsons Scott
(1932) — Includes the classics of ancient Roman law: the Law of the
Twelve Tables (450 BCE), the Institutes of Gaius (180), the Rules of
Ulpian (222), the Opinions of Paulus (224), the Corpus Juris
Civilis of Justinian (533), which codified Roman Law, and the
Constitutions of Leo.
of Medina (Dustur al-Madinah), Mohammed (622) — Not so much a
constitution as a treaty which united Muslims, Jews, Christians and
pagans, in the city-state of Medina, that exhibits some principles of
John of Salisbury (1159), various translations — Argued that citizens
have the right to depose and kill tyrannical rulers.
of Clarendon (1164) — Established rights of laymen and the
church in England.
of Clarendon (1166) — Defined rights and duties of courts and
people in criminal cases.
- Assize of Arms (1181) — Defined rights and duties of people and militias.
- Magna Carta
(1215) — Established the principle that no one, not even the king or a
lawmaker, is above the law.
- Charter of the Forest (Carta de Foresta)
(1217) — Henry III established rights of freemen to use forest resources.
- Liber Augustalis, or, Constitutions of Melfi (1231) — Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II established basic laws for the Kingdom of Sicily that provided model for later constitutions of government.
- Reforms of Simon de Mortfort (1258-65) — Had he not lost a battle, his reforms might have ended monarchy and established republican government four centuries before Cromwell and Lilburne.
- Britton, (written ~1290, printed ~1530) — Abridged, updated, more readable, and more widely used codification based on Bracton, originally in the French of the English court, reflecting changes in the law, including changes in juries.
Cartarum (1297) — United Magna Carta to the common law by
declaring that the Magna Carta could be pled in court.
Declaration of Arbroath (1320) — Scotland's declaration of
independence from England.
Prince, Niccolò Machiavelli (1513) — Practical advice on governance and statecraft, with thoughts on the kinds of problems any government must be able to solve to endure. Also see Selected Works.
Thomas More (1516) — Satirical analysis of shortcomings of his society
and a vision of what could be.
on Livy, Niccolò Machiavelli (1517 tr. Henry
Neville 1675) — Argues for the ideal form of government being a
republic based on popular consent, defended by militia. Also see Selected Works.
Franciscus de Victoria (lect. 1532, first pub. 1557) — Includes De
Indis and De iure belli, arguing for
humane treatment of native Americans and of enemies in war. Provided
the basis for the law of nations doctrine.
on Voluntary Servitude, Étienne De La Boétie (1548,
tr. Harry Kurz 1942) — People are ultimately responsible for their
servitude, and non-violent resistance can win their freedom.
Republica Anglorum, Thomas Smith (1565, 1583) —
Written while he was ambassador to France, describes the constitution
of England under Elizabeth I in a way that indicates tendencies toward
Contra Tyrannos (Defense of Liberty Against Tyrants),
"Junius Brutus" (Orig. Fr. 1581, Eng. tr. 1622, 1689) — In 1683 it was
ordered to be burned.
Books of the Commonwealth, Jean Bodin (~1590 tr.
Richard Knolles 1606, tr. & abr. M.J. Tooley 1955) — Originated
modern ideas of sovereignty, the state,
Johannes Althusius (1614, Abr. & tr. Frederick S. Carney) —
First presented a comprehensive theory of federal republicanism based
on a covenantal model of human society.
- The Mayflower Compact
(1620) — One of the first expressions of the social contract in written
- The Law of War and Peace, Hugo Grotius (1625) — Sets out principles of natural law and the laws of nations.
- Selected Works of Francis Bacon (1620-27). Includes Novum
Organum and New Atlantis. Argued for scientific approach to problems of government.
- Selected Works of Edward Coke (~1628) — Commentary on English common and statutory law, including the Institutes and the Reports.
- The Petition of Right (1628) — The objectives of the reform movement that led to the English Civil War and the deposing of Charles I.
- Fundamental Orders of Connecticut (1639) — The first written constitution in the Western tradition.
- The Elements of Law Natural and Politic, Thomas Hobbes (1640) — Discussion of the natural law foundations of government.
- Massachusetts Body of Liberties, Excerpts (1641) — Early written expression of the liberties asserted by the colonists in reaction to the oppressions of European governments.
- A Plea for Religious Liberty, Roger Williams (1644) — Early expression of the principle of religious tolerance by the founder of the colony of Rhode Island.
- Lex, Rex (The Law is King), Samuel Rutherford (1644) —
Theological arguments for the rule of law over the rule of men.
- On Liberty, John Winthrop (1645) — Discusses liberties demanded by the colonists.
- The Constitutional Documents of the Puritan Revolution: 1625-1660, Samuel Rawson Gardiner, ed. (1906) — The English "commonwealth" led by Cromwell didn't endure, but many of its ideas did.
- Selected Works of the Levellers and their Allies (1645-56) — Militia leaders who sought legal reforms later sought by the American Revolution and embodied in the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights. Includes An Agreement of the Free People of England, an early attempt at a republican constitution.
- De Cive (The Citizen), Thomas Hobbes (1641-47) — Discussion of the natural law foundations of government.
Laws and Liberties of Massachusetts, Excerpts (Adopted 1647, published 1648) — Codification of major parts of the common law that served as a constitution for Massachusetts into the 18th century.
- Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes (1651) — Laid basis for social contract theory, providing branching point for the theories of constitutionalism and fascism.
- Selected Political Works of John Milton — Includes Areopagitica (1644), Tenure of Kings and Magistrates (1649), and Defense of the People of England (1651).
- Selected Works of James Harrington (~1656) — Includes The
Commonwealth of Oceana.
- Selected Political Works of Baruch de Spinoza (1670-7) — Includes Theologico-Political Treatise and Political Treatise.
- On the Duty of Man and Citizen According to Natural Law, Samuel Pufendorf (1673, 1682 tr. Frank Gardner Moore) — Based law and right on natural law.
- I The Law of Nature and of Nations, Samuel Pufendorf (1674, tr. Basil Kennett 1703) — Derived justice and the law of nations from natural law.
- Bacon's Declaration in the Name of the People (1676) — The manifesto of a rebellion in Virginia led by Nathaniel Bacon.
- Habeas Corpus Act (1679) — English Parliament established key right.
- Patriarcha, Robert Filmer (1680) — This defense of absolute monarchy provoked Locke and Sidney to write their major works.
- Plato Redivivus, Henry Neville (1681) — Argued for limits on the powers of government.
- Frame of Government of Pennsylvania, William Penn (1682) — Early model for written constitutions.
- Selected Political Works, James Tyrrell (1681-1694) — Inspired Locke and other political philosophers.
- English Bill of Rights (1689) — Early model for recognizing natural rights in writing. Much of its language appeared later in the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution.
- Selected Works of John Locke, (1669-1690) — Includes The Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina, A Letter Concerning Toleration, and Second Treatise on Government.
Discourse of Government with Relation to Militias,
Andrew Fletcher (1698) — Analyzes importance of the militia to
legitimate government, law enforcement, and national defense.
Concerning Government, Algernon Sidney (1698) —
Built principles of popular government from foundation of natural law
and the social contract.
of the Iroquois Confederacy — A model for a federal
system of government for several Native American nations, it influenced
Franklin's proposed Albany Plan of Union.
Charter of Privileges, William Penn (1701) — Better model
Works of Walter Moyle, (~1696-1721, pub. 1796) — Includes Constitution
of the Roman State, a commentary on English constitutional
issues from a Whig perspective.
- W Questions
of Public Law, Cornelius van Bynkershoek (1737) —
Develops the law of nations and constitutional (public) law beyond
Grotius and Pufendorf.
Principles of Natural and Politic Law, Jean Jacques
Burlamaqui (1748, tr. Thomas Nugent 1752) — Commentary on the natural
law ideas of Grotius, Hobbes, Puffendorf, Barbeyrac, Locke, Clarke, and
Spirit of Laws, Charles de Montesquieu, (1748, tr.
Thomas Nugent 1752) — Laid the foundations for the theory of republican
government, particularly the concepts of the separation of powers into
legislative, executive, and judicial, a federal republic,
representatives elected from political subdivisions, a bicameral
legislature, and a system of checks and balances.
Essays of David Hume, (1754) — Includes "Idea of a Perfect
Commonwealth", which inspired the federal design of the U.S.
Plan of Union, Benjamin Franklin (1754) — An early model for
union that laid the foundation for what would eventually become the
Defense of a Plan for Colonial Union, Benjamin Franklin
(1754) — Arguments in favor of the Albany Plan of Union, which was
rejected as too democratic.
- Institutes of natural law,
Thomas Rutherforth (1754) — Lectures on Grotius De jure belli
Political Works of Jean Jacques Rousseau, (1754-1772) —
Includes Social Contract and A Discourse
on Political Economy.
Law of Nations, Emmerich de Vattel (1758) — Based
constitutional and civil law on the law of nations.
Rights of the British Colonies Asserted and Proved,
James Otis (1764) — A position statement that laid the foundation for
the Declaration of Independence.
Crimes and Punishments, Cesare Beccaria (1764) —
Set out rights of the accused in criminal proceedings. Argues for crime
prevention over punishment, and against the death penalty and torture.
Resolves on the Stamp Act, Patrick Henry (1765 May 30) —
Protest of a tax without representation.
Declaration of Rights of the Stamp Act Congress (1765) —
Asserted the position that people could not legitimately be taxed
except by their elected representatives.
Declaratory Act (1766) — The English Parliament repealed the
Stamp Act, but couldn't leave well enough alone, and adopted this
statement of parliamentary supremacy over the British colonies.
Essay on the History of Civil Society, Adam
Ferguson (1767) — The evolution of societies and their forms of
- I Camden, Mansfield
and the English Constitution — The rivalry between two
British jurists helped provoke the American Revolution and shaped the
evolution of the jury system in both Britain and the United States.
- W Letters
of Junius, Unknown (1767-72) — Letters from an
English Whig and ally of Lord Camden against the efforts of Lord
Mansfield to restrict the role of juries, and on other constitutional
English Constitution, John Louis De Lolme (1771) —
Discusses separation of powers, the jury system, and habeas corpus.
- The Rights of the Colonists, Samuel Adams (1772) — The Report of the Committee of Correspondence to the Boston Town Meeting.
- Sheffield Declaration (Resolves), Theodore Sedgwick (1773) — Resolution in Massachusetts that helped pave the way to the Declaration of Independence.
- Fairfax County Resolves (1774) — Developed the issues that led to the Declaration of Independence.
of Colonial Rights, First Continental Congress (1774) —
Developed the principles being violated by British rule.
of Association (1774) — Protest of British acts resulted in
this prelude to the Articles of Confederation.
Town Resolves, sometimes called the Mecklenburg Resolves (May
31, 1775) — Another step toward declaring independence.
of Taking Up Arms, Second Continental Congress (July 6, 1775)
— Last step before declaring independence.
Civil Liberty, Passive Obedience, and Nonresistance, Jonathan
Boucher (1775) — Urged obedience to established authority, representing
statist view of constitutional principles.
Writings of Thomas Paine — Includes Common Sense
(1776) and Rights of Man (1792).
Virginia Declaration of Rights (1776) — Further developed
principles being violated by British rule, adopted as part of Virginia
Constitution. Contains accepted definition of militia.
Declaration of Independence (July 4, 1776) —
Classic statement of what constitutes legitimate government and under
what conditions men were justified in resorting to armed revolution to
Political Works of Richard Price — Includes Civil
Liberty (1776) and Importance of the American
on Government, Jeremy Bentham (1776) — Critique of
natural law theory of Blackstone's Commentaries.
of Confederation (1777) — First attempt to form a common
government for the newly independent states.
- Proposed Amendment to Articles of Confederation (1783) — Rejected. Attempt to amend unsatisfactory system.
- Amendment to Articles of Confederation (1784) — Proposed by Madison, but not approved by Congress.
- Proposed Amendment to Articles of Confederation (1785) — Submitted but not ratified by all states.
- Proposed Amendments to Articles of Confederation (1786) — Submitted, not ratified.
Principles of Morals and Legislation, Jeremy
Bentham (1781) — Introduced utilitarianism, to provide a better
theoretical foundation for penal statutory law than natural law theory.
Libel and the Duty of Juries, Joseph Towers (1764, 1784),
Francis Maseres (1792) — Three essays on the right of defendants,
especially in criminal libel cases, to have the jury decide the law as
well as the fact issues.
Political Works of Immanual Kant (~1785-95) — Includes Metaphysics
Northwest Ordinance (1787) — Model for administration of
common territory not yet a part of any state.
- Constitutional Ratification Debates
of Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787, James
Madison. — These are the proceedings of the Constitutional Convention
held in Philadelphia, an essential guide to interpreting the intent of
- Notes of the Secret Debates of the Federal Convention of 1787, Robert Yates. — Record of parts of the Convention by one who later opposed ratification and wrote articles as "Brutus".
for the United States (1787) — Annotated and linked to other
documents in this collection.
Federalist Papers, James Madison, Alexander
Hamilton, John Jay (1787-88) — Arguments for ratification of the
Papers (1787-89) — Various essays criticizing the proposed
Constitution and urging changes.
Debates in the Several Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal
Constitution, Jonathan Elliot (1836) — A collection
of documents, including proceedings of the ratifying state conventions.
History of the Constitution of the United States of America,
U.S. State Department (1894, 1900) — A collection of documents,
including some not in Elliot's Debates or the other works listed.
History of the Bill of Rights — From the English Bill of
Rights through the proposed amendments of the state ratifying
conventions to the drafts debated in Congress before adopting the final
- W Selected
Essays from the Founding Period — Lectures,
newspaper articles, and sermons which reflect the understanding of
constitutional issues during the founding period.
- I A
Defense of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of
America, John Adams (1787-89) — Comprehensive
historical review of how various national constitutions worked, with
quotes from political philosophers and historians, that influenced the
Founders in their drafting of state and federal constitutions.
of the Rights of Man and the Citizen (Marquis de
Lafayette, Thomas Jefferson, 1789) — Manifesto of the French
Revolution, expressing its ideals.
Works of Edmund Burke (1788-92) — Commentary on the
American and French Revolutions and the political issues they raised.
Vindication of the Rights of Women, Mary
Wollstonecraft (1792) — Set forth the arguments for women's rights.
Mother of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, the author of Frankenstein.
on Political and Other Subjects, Joseph Towers
(1796) — Followup on his earlier writings on the role of juries.
- Federalist-Republican Debates 1790-1800
Report on Public Credit, Jan. 9, 1790.
the Constitutionality of the Bank of the United States,
Thomas Jefferson, Feb. 15, 1791.
the Constitutionality of the Bank of the United States,
Alexander Hamilton, Feb. 15, 1791.
on Manufactures, Alexander Hamilton, Dec. 5, 1791.
for Changing a Limited Republican Government into an Unlimited
Hereditary One, Philip Freneau (1792).
Address, George Washington (1796).
Virginia Report, J.W. Randolph, ed. (1850) —
Documents and commentary arising out of the controversies attending the
Alien and Sedition Acts, including the Kentucky Resolutions
of 1798 and 1799 and the Virginia Resolution of
1798, which set forth the "Doctrine of '98" concerning constitutional
interpretation, and led to the "Revolution of 1800", the dominance of
the Jeffersonians, and the demise of the Federalist Party.
Inaugural Address, Thomas Jefferson (1801) — Represents the
triumph of the strict constructionists following the excesses
represented by the Alien and Sedition Acts.
Works of Thomas Jefferson — Includes complete Writings
of Thomas Jefferson, Albert Ellery Bergh, ed., 19
Works of James Madison — Selected writings bearing on
Blackstone, St. George Tucker (1803) — The Commentaries
on the Laws of England by William Blackstone (1769), with
additional commentaries by Tucker adapting the common law to the needs
of the U.S. Constitution.
of James Wilson (1804) — Includes "Lectures on
Law, 1790-1792" and other writings of the Pennsylvania delegate to the
- W Dallas,
Cranch and Wheaton — Three
successive collections of U.S. Supreme Court decisions covering
of William Maclay — Maclay served as senator from
Pennslyvania from 1789 to 1791 and kept a private journal of his
experiences that is highly revealing.
from Annals of Congress and Statutes at
Large — Records of debates and statutes in the
first years of the U.S. Congress on matters of constitutional
- W An
Inquiry into the Principles and Policy of the Government of the United
States, John Taylor (1814) — A response to John
Adams' A Defense of the Constitutions of Government of the
United States of America by a leading theorist of the
Construed and Constitutions Vindicated, John Taylor
(1820) — A commentary on some of the misconstructions of the
Constitution by the Marshall Court.
Unmasked, John Taylor (1821) — An attack on the
constitutionality of protective tariffs and other violations of the
original understanding of the Constitution, as seen by the leading
spokesman for the Jeffersonian "Old Republicans".
Elements of the Art of Packing, As Applied to Special Juries,
Particularly in Cases of Libel Law, Jeremy Bentham
(written 1809, published 1821) — Critical treatise on abuses of the
English jury system and ways to reform it, which provides a historical
background to practices that continue to this day. The first publisher
in 1817 of excerpts from this work was prosecuted twice for doing so,
and the second three times, but in each attempt, juries acquitted them.
Views of the Constitution of the United States,
John Taylor (1823) — A discourse on the constitutional nature of the
American union reflecting views of Jefferson and Madison.
- I Commentaries
on American Law, James Kent (1826) — Kent's Commentaries
succeeded Tucker's Blackstone by reformulating the
relevant content of Blackstone's Commentaries and
integrating Common Law with Constitutional Law up to that time.
View of the Constitution, William Rawle (1829) —
Early commentary on the Constitution and how it should be interpreted.
Made point that the Bill of Rights also applied to the states,
something that would later be denied, then partially reassserted by the
14th Amendment and the doctrine of (selective) incorporation.
Works of Daniel Webster (1782-1852) — Selected writings
bearing on constitutional interpretation.
Debate (1830) — Debates between Daniel Webster, representing
a broader construction of federal powers, and Robert Y. Hayne,
representing strict construction and the views of John C. Calhoun.
Works of John C. Calhoun, (1831) — Includes "A Disquisition
on Government" and "A Discourse on the Constitution and Government of
the United States". Developed the doctrines of concurrent
majority, interposition, nullification and state
secession, to correct what he perceived as a defect in the
design of the Constitution that permits a persistent majority to
dominate all three branches of government and legislate against the
interests of a minority to the point where they would consider their
- W Commentaries
on the Constitution of the United States, Joseph
Story (1833) — Authoritative commentaries by an early Supreme Court
justice who helped shape interpretation of the Constitution for the
Brief Enquiry into the True Nature and Character of our Federal
Government, ..., Abel Parker Upshur (1840, 1868) —
A review of Joseph Story's Commentaries on the Constitution
of the United States, arguing against some of Story's
expansive interpretations of national powers.
Falls Declaration, Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1848). — Manifesto
of the women's equality movement.
Disobedience, Henry David Thoreau (1849) —
Discusses duty of individuals to resist government excesses.
- Selected Works of Frederick Bastiat (1849-1850). Includes The Law, (1850) — Classic treatment of one of the main challenges to the survival of democratic government.
Dictionary, John Bouvier (1856). Also available as
two self-extracting executables: Part
1 and Part 2.
Political Works of John Stuart Mill (~1860-9) — Includes On
Liberty, Representative Government, Utilitarianism,
and The Subjection of Women.
- I Documents
and Commentary on Slavery, the Confederate States of America, and the
1861-65 War of Secession.
American Republic: its Constitution, Tendencies, and Destiny,
O. A. Brownson (1866) — Argument against secession, distinguishes the
constitution of government from the underlying constitution of the
society, and territorial from socialistic or egoistic democracy.
- W A
Treatise on the Constitutional Limitations Which Rest Upon the
Legislative Powers of The States of the American Union,
Thomas M. Cooley (1868, 1883) — Commentary reflecting constitutional
thought at the time.
- W The
General Principles of Constitutional Law in the United States of America,
Thomas M. Cooley (1891) — Introduction by the leading constitutional
scholar of his era.
Evolution of the Constitution of the United States,
Sydney George Fisher (1897). Traces each of the clauses of the U.S.
Constitution back to previous colonial, state and other government
Grand Jury, George J. Edwards (1906) — Classic treatise on the grand jury, unequalled to this day.
Usurpation, Franklin Pierce (1908) — Historical and
constitutional analysis of how corruption, zealotry, and incompetence
combined to violate the Constitution.
Documents on Federal Relations, Herman V. Ames
(1911) — Debates among the states on the Constitution, 1789-1861.
Rules of Order Revised, Henry Robert (1915) —
Essential manual for parliamentarians of deliberative assemblies.
Conventions, Roger Sherman Hoar (1917) — Treatise
on the way a body politic manifests its sovereignty.
Changes in American Constitutional Theory, John W.
Burgess (1923) — Constitutional scholar surveys departures from
constitutional compliance from 1898 through 1920.
Revival of Natural Law Concepts, Charles Grove
Haines (1930) — Review of natural law theory as the foundation of
of English Constitutional History: 600-1937, Carl
Stephenson & Frederick George Marcham (1937) — Collection of
the documents that define the English "constitution".
Now, Clarence K. Streit (1939) — Classic treatise
on international conflict and federalism.
Ancient and Modern, Charles Howard McIlwain (1947)
— Discourse on the origins and development of constitution theory.
Origins of Modern Constitutionalism, Francis D.
Wormuth (1949) — Historical analysis of the key constitutional concepts.
over Federal Areas within the States — Report of
the Interdepartmental Committee for the Study of Jurisdiction over
Federal Areas within the States (1956).
Treatises, James B. Whisker — Standard references
on the subject. Includes The Militia (1992) and The
American Colonial Militia (1997).
- Selected Works on Tyranny
— To understand the principles of constitutional republican government,
one must understand the principles of its opposite.
- Trials of Liberty
— Some of the best expositions of law and constitutional principles are
made during trials.
- Landmark Court Decisions
— Includes commentaries on the rulings and the opinions.
- Constitutional History &
Commentary — Books, anthologies, and essays.
- History & Economics Background
— Books, anthologies, and essays.
- Legal Briefs Collection
— Organized by subject.
- Law Review Article Collection
— Organized by subject.
- Common Law Writs —
Sometimes called Extraordinary Remedies, they are
key to understanding the Constitution.
- U.S. State Constitutions and Web Sites
- National Constitutions
— The supreme laws of many of the most important countries, for
For contributions to and suggestions for additional items to
be added to this collection, contact editor Jon Roland, firstname.lastname@example.org
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