The People’s Constitution

200 Years, 27 Amendments, and the Promise of a More Perfect Union

The story of how the American people have taken an imperfect constitution—the product of compromises and an artifact of its time—and made it more democratic

“When contemporary Americans cite ‘The Constitution,’ they invoke a concept that is vastly different from what the framers barely began to construct two centuries ago.”
—Justice Thurgood Marshall at a Bicentennial commemoration of the Constitution

Who wrote the Constitution? That’s obvious, we think: fifty-five men in Philadelphia in 1787. But much of the Constitution was actually written later, in a series of twenty-seven amendments enacted over the course of two centuries. The real history of the Constitution is the astonishing story of how subsequent generations have reshaped our founding document amid some of the most colorful, contested, and controversial battles in American political life. It’s a story of how We the People have improved our government’s structure and expanded the scope of our democracy during eras of transformational social change.

The People’s Constitution is an elegant, sobering, and masterly account of the evolution of American democracy.

From the addition of the Bill of Rights, a promise made to save the Constitution from near certain defeat, to the post–Civil War battle over the Fourteenth Amendment, from the rise and fall of the “noble experiment” of Prohibition to the defeat and resurgence of an Equal Rights Amendment a century in the making, The People’s Constitution is the first book of its kind: a vital guide to America’s national charter, and an alternative history of the continuing struggle to realize the Framers’ promise of a more perfect union.