Ordained and established: HLS scholars dissect the framers’ contributions

Manning, Klarman among faculty voices offering history, interpretation and critical analysis of our founding document

Two hundred and thirty years ago, on Sept. 17, 1787, the framers of the U.S. Constitution gathered in the Assembly Room of the Pennsylvania State House in Philadelphia to sign the historic document created to unite a group of states with different interests, laws and cultures.

Dean Manning

Credit: Martha Stewart Dean John Manning

To commemorate the historic event, Dean John Manning ’85 and HLS’ American Constitution Society are participating in events to mark the annual, national celebration of the signing of the Constitution.

On Monday evening, Sept. 18, Dean Manning will deliver a talk titled “The Living Constitution’s Dead Hand,” at Stanford’s  Constitutional Law Center. Manning, the Morgan and Helen Chu Dean and Professor of Law, focuses his scholarship on statutory interpretation and structural constitutional law.

At HLS, on Friday, Sept. 15, ACS hosted David Strauss ’78, a professor at the University of Chicago and author of “The Living Constitution” (Oxford University Press, 2012), who discussed constitutional law in the era of Trump. Strauss is at HLS as the Bruce Bromley Visiting Professor of Law for the fall 2017 semester, teaching a Constitutional Law course on separation of powers, federalism and the fourteenth amendment, and a course on the Supreme Court.

Professor Michael Klarman delivered a Sept. 12 talk at the Law Library of Congress on his book “The Framers’ Coup: The Making of the United States Constitution” (Oxford University Press, 2016), which offers a comprehensive history of how the Framers drafted and ratified the United States Constitution despite their clashing interests. Klarman’s book, which was a finalist for the George Washington Book Prize and the American Bar Association’s Silver Gavel Award, was reviewed in the Fall 2016 issue of the Harvard Law Bulletin.

Shortly after the book’s release in October of last year, Klarman also delivered a book talk at the Harvard Law School Library, part of a series of faculty book talks and panel discussions sponsored by the Library and held throughout each academic year. And last week, delivering his talk, “The Constitution as a Coup Against Public Opinion” at the University of Georgia, Klarman further explored his view of the framers’ document as a nationalist “coup” against the wishes and expectations of the majority at the time.

In addition, other HLS faculty scholars are exploring questions the U.S. Constitution raises regarding citizenship, freedom of speech and fundamental interpretation of the document.

Tomiko Brown-Nagin

Credit: Jessica Scranton Professor Tomiko Brown-Nagin

Joseph Singer ’81, Bussey Professor of Law, visited the University of Maine to speak on “Indian Nations & the Constitution: What Americans Need to Know;” Mark Tushnet, William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law, visited the University of Maryland, Baltimore County to give a Constitution Day talk; and, in a video for the National Constitution Center, Professor Tomiko Brown-Nagin recorded a “mini” episode of “Constitution Hall Pass,” the Center’s online video lesson series, in which she examined the continuing relevance of the 14th Amendment. Brown-Nagin, the Daniel P.S. Paul Professor of Constitutional Law, is also a professor of history at Harvard University, co-director of the Program on Law and History at HLS, and was recently appointed director of the Charles Hamilton Houston Center for Race & Justice at Harvard.

In October, Professor Noah Feldman will release “The Three Lives of James Madison: Genius, Partisan, President,” a look at how the man known as “The Father of the Constitution” redefined the United States by drafting and promoting the Constitution and Bill of Rights; co-organizing the Democratic-Republican Party and giving rise to the idea of partisanship; and leading the United States into the War of 1812. Feldman, Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law and director of the Julis-Rabinowitz Program on Jewish and Israeli Law, spoke about his forthcoming book at the Aspen Ideas Festival in July.