A Bellicose Founding Charter: The US and Providing for the “Common Defence”

The Franco-American squadron closely engages the pair of British frigates on September 23, 1779.

In this book review, the author analyzes Akhil Reed Amar’s The Words That Made Us: America’s Constitutional Conversation, 1760-1840. Specifically, the author focuses on Amar’s central thesis—that the fundamental reason behind the US Constitution was national security—and how that should affect our reading of the Constitution today.

The author concludes that Amar’s book is noteworthy both in its panoramic coverage of the time period before and after the drafting and ratification of the Constitution, and in its interdisciplinary character, connecting the fields of history and law.

By the end, the author finds that Amar’s book recenters the debate around history and the original meaning of the Constitution and encourages its readers to rethink their understanding of the Constitution’s underlying purpose.

By Daniel Schoeni

Lt. Col. Daniel E. Schoeni holds a B.A. from Brigham Young University (2000); an M.A./J.D. from the University of Iowa (2003); an LL.M. from George Washington University (2014); and a Ph.D. from the University of Nottingham (2022). He clerked for Justice Jerry Larson of the Iowa Supreme Court, has been an US Air Force judge advocate since 2004, and is an adjunct in the government procurement program at George Washington University Law School.

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