Constitutional History &
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Treatise on Political Power, John Ponet (1556) — Argues political
power is limited by natural law, and no ruler may exercise absolute power. (PDF
is 10 MB.)
Superior Powers Ought To Be Obeyed By Their Subjects: And Wherein They May
Lawfully By God's Word Be Disobeyed And Resisted, Christopher Goodman
(1558) — Swiss Calvinist theologian, Knox's co-pastor in Geneva, discusses
conditions under which people have right to resist with force of arms.
jure magistratuum (On the Rights of Magistrates), Theodore Beza (1574)
— Swiss Calvinist theologian argues that lower level magistrates have duty
to defend people from higher level magistrates.
Jure Regni apud Scotos (The Powers of the Crown of Scotland), George
Buchanan (1579) — Letter to James VI, to become James I of England,
setting forth doctrine of limited monarchy.
Abolition of the Star Chamber
(1641) — Precursor of Habeas Corpus Act, showing no official immunity for offenses to rights.
Selected Works of Marchamont Nedham (~1650) —
English columnist comments on political issues of his era.
W An account of Denmark, as it was in the year 1692, Robert Molesworth (1694) — Commentary on
Denmark that is really a commentary on constitutional issues in England. (5th
ed. 1745 also planned)
Complete Works, George Savile, first Marquess of Halifax (1633-1695) — Architech of the English Restoration.
Martyrdom of King Charles I, W. Delavne
(1703) — Sermon before House of Commons. Comments on some of the constitutional issues involved in the trial and execution of that monarch.
The Subject's Right of Petitioning, Anonymous.
(1703) — Provides insight into the original meaning of the right to petition.
François Hotman (1574, tr. Robert Molesworth, 1705, pub. 1711) — An
account of the ancient free state of France, and neighboring parts of Europe,
before the loss of their liberties.
Abridgment of the Project for Perpetual Peace,
Abbé Charles de Saint-Pierre (1713) — Plan for peace in
The History of
the Common Law of England, Matthew Hale (1713) — Important
reference for the Founders.
Georgicum: or a supplement to the mirror of justices; being an account of some instances of the practice of former times, in order to the improvement of justice and safeguard of the constitution, Anonymous (1716) — Recounts how corrupt judges were held accountable.
Appeal Brief in Matson v. Thomas, John Valentine
(1720) — Oldest known legal brief in British North America, got precedent that British colonists in North America had inherited the rights of Englishmen, laying the foundation for the American War of Independence.
A General Charge to All Grand Juries, and Other Juries, James Astry.
(1725) — Provides insight into the early role of juries.
The English Lawyer, showing the Nature and Forms of Original Writs, Processes, and Mandates, William Bohun. (1732) — Provides insight into the early practice of law.
The Present Practice of the Court of Common Pleas, Joseph Harrison. (1761) — Provides insight into the early practice of law.
An Analysis of the Laws of England, William Blackstone.
(1762) — Commentary on early English law.
W Selected Political
Works of Joseph Priestley — Includes First Principles of
Government (1768) and Present State of Liberty (1769).
The Dissertation of John Selden, Annexed to Fleta.
(1771) — Commentary on early English law.
An Argument in Defence of the Exclusive Right Claimed by the Colonies to Tax Themselves, with a Review of the Laws of England, Relative to Representation and Taxation, to Which is Added, an Account of the Rise of the Colonies, and the Manner in which the rights of the subjects within the realm were communicated to those that went to America, with the exercise of those rights from their first settlement to the present time.
(1774) — Arguments of English members of Parliament who agreed with the protests of the American colonists.
I Political Disquisitions, James
Burgh (1775) — Constitutional thinking of an English Whig.
Address on Libels, Case of John Horne, John Horne Tooke. (1777) — Criticism of indictment by information, rather than by grand jury. May have contributed to requirement for grand juries in U.S. Bill of Rights.
The Attorney's Practice in the Court of Common Pleas, Robert Richardson. (1778) — Provides insight into the early practice of law.
Civil Government, Josiah Tucker (1781) —
Critique of English constitution and commentary on Locke.
Considerations on the Respective Rights of Judge and Jury; Particularly upon Trials for Libel, John Bowles. (1791) — Leading exposition of the Mansfieldian movement to curtail the role of juries, which spread to the United States.
Observations on the Trial by Jury, Anonymous. (1803) — Advice to the Pennsylvania Legislature on the role of the jury.
Report of the 1814 Hartford Convention — Amendments proposed by those opposed to War of 1812.
Observations on the Trial by Jury, Attributed to John Longley. (1815) — Commentary on the role of the jury in Britain, reflecting the gain of the Mansfieldian movement.
W The Olive Branch:
or, Faults on Both Sides, Federal and Democratic..., Matthew Carey
(1816) — Treatise on the constitutional issues dividing the federalists
A Dissertation on the Nature and Extent
of the Jurisdiction of the Courts of the United States, Peter Stephen
Du Ponceau (1824) — Discusses the various kinds of jurisdiction, in
locum, in personam, and in subjectam materiam, and the limits
of the jurisdictions of each kind of court.
Essays: On the Foundation of Civil Government, On the Constitution of the
United States, Thomas Cooper (1826) — Commentary on constitutional
W An Historical Essay
on the Magna Charta, Richard Thomson (1829) — Definitive
commentary on the fundamental documents, including the Magna Charta, the
Charters of Liberties and Confirmations of Henry III and Edward I, and the
Original Charter of the Forests, and their relation to the common law.
W Constitutional Law: Being a view of the practice and
jurisdiction of the courts of the United States, and of constitutional
points, Thomas Sergeant (1830) — Commentary on constitutional
A Brief View of the Constitution of the
United States, Peter Stephen Du Ponceau (1831) — Introduction to
the Constitution for students and foreigners.
W Inquiry into the Moral and
Religious Character of the American Government, H. W Warner (1838)
— Commentary on the relation between government and religious
W The American Manual, or, The Thinker, Joseph
Bartlett Burleigh (1854) — Civics textbook focusing on U.S.
Considerations on the Constitutionality
of the President's Proclamations, John Henderson (1854) —
Commentary on executive orders.
W Commentaries on the
Criminal Law, 6th Ed. Vol. 1, Joel P. Bishop (1865) — Discussion
of the limits on the constitutional authority to impose criminal penalites in
W Manual of the
Constitution of the United States of America, T. Farrar (1867) —
Provides a view of the state of constitutional interpretation as of that
W The Constitution of
the United States: Defined & Carefully Annotated, George W. Paschal
(1868) — Interpretative citations for each clause and term in the
W An Introduction to the
Constitutional Law of the United States, John N. Pomeroy (1868) —
Commentary on the state of constitutional jurisprudence during the
Reconstruction Period, with guidance on interpretation of the Fourteenth
Constitutional View of the Late War between the
States, Alexander Stephens (1868) — Vice-President of the
Confederacy explains why the war was fought.
W History of Trial by Jury, William Forsyth.
(1875) — Tells story of how it evolved, as seen by a legal scholar who
missed the point that juries were established because judges and prosecutors
cannot be trusted.
Summary of the Law of Contracts, C. C. Langdell. (1880) — Develops
an interpretative approach to law based on private (contract) law, from the
W History of the
Formation of the Constitution of the United States of America, George
Bancroft (1883) — Presents much background information on the people and
events that shaped the Constitution.
A Plea for the Constitution
of the United States: Wounded in the House of Its Guardians, George
Bancroft (1884) — Argues against an 1884 Supreme Court decision making
paper currency legal tender.
Is Codification of the Law Expedient?, by William B. Hornblower. Address delivered before the American Social Science Association (Department of Jurisprudence) at Saratoga, N.Y., September 6, 1888. — Discussion of debate over whether and how to adopt statutes that codify common-law judicial precedents.
Sources of the Constitution
of the United States, C. Ellis Stevens (1894) — Traces each of the
key provisions of the Constitution and Bill of Rights to their historical
The Common Law,
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. — Discussion of some but not all of the
elements of the Anglo-American common law.
I The History of English
Law, Pollock and Maitland (1898) — Definitive study of the
foundations of the Anglo-American legal system.
W The Constitution of the United
States, John Randolph Tucker (1899) — Commentary by the grandson
of the editor of Tucker's Blackstone.
A Treatise on American
Citizenship, John S. Wise (1906) — Discussion of the history and
principles of various kinds of citizenship.
I Select Essays in Anglo-American Legal
History, Freund, Mikell, & Wigmore, ed. (1907) — Classic
essays on legal foundations and theory.
Brief Survey of Equity Jurisdiction (Selections), C. C. Langdell.
(1908) — Exposition from formalist standpoint.
W Black's Law
Dictionary. 2nd Edition, 1910 — Standard reference for legal
The Constitution of the United States: Its History,
Application, and Construction, Chapter 5: Legislative Powers, Chapter
25: Police Power, David K. Watson (1910) — Comparison of the powers of the
national and state governments.
Notes on the Science of
Government and the Relations of the States to the United States,
Raleigh C. Minor (1913) — Discourse on federalism and the constitutional
limits on federal power.
W Introduction to the Study of the Law of
the Constitution, Albert Venn Dicey (8th Ed., 1914) — Comparative
analysis of the constitutional orders of several nations, focusing on
Leveller Movement, Theodore Calvin Pease (1916) — A study in the
history and political theory of the English Great Civil War.
The Nature of
the Judicial Process, Benjamin N. Cardozo (1921) — Discusses the
debate between legal realists and constitutionalists.
by the use of Corpus Juris Secundum, Donald J. Kiser (1924) — Guide
for students of the law.
The Mechanism of the Modern
State, John A.R. Marriott (1927) — An analysis of the British
system of government compared to other systems, especially those of ancient
Athens, Switzerland, and the United States.
Judicially, Thomas James Norton (1928) — Examines how courts have
gone along with departures from original understanding.
W Citizenship, U.S. War Department Training Manual 2000-25
(1928) — Civics textbook for training Army troops.
A Constitutional History of
the United States, Andrew McLaughlin (1936) — Perhaps the best
single textbook on the subject, winner of the 1936 Pulitzer Prize.
Treatise on the Conflict of Laws (Selections from), Joseph H. Beale
(1935) — The topic is developed with a historical and theoretical
Conflict of Criminal Laws, Edward S. Stimson
(1936) — Jurisdiction for a criminal offense is limited to the territory
where the offender is when the offense is committed, not where the effects
Law of Treason in the United States, James Willard Hurst (1945, 1971)
— The Constitution imposes strict limits on what can be punished and how
it can be proven.
Constitutionalism: 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.
the Constitution, Thomas James Norton (1950) — Constitutional
scholar examines departures from constitutional compliance arising from New
Three Human Rights in the Constitution of
1787, Zechariah Chafee, Jr. (1956) — Historical analysis of free
debate, prohibition of bills of attainder, and freedom of movement.
Still the Law of the
Land? — Essays on Changing Interpretations of the Constitution.
Forward by Forrest McDonald. © 1987. Hillsdale College Press.
Selected Works, Harvey Wheeler (1990-) —
Papers on Francis Bacon and constitutional history and law.
A living constitution or
fundamental law?, Herman Belz (1998) — American constitutionalism
in historical perspective.
& Economics Background
Liberty Library of Constitutional