Keith E. Whittington

William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Politics

Princeton University


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American Constitutionalism, Volume One: Structures of Government

Howard Gillman, Mark A. Graber, and Keith E. Whittington


Winner of the Teaching and Mentoring Award for innovative instructional materials in Law and Courts



Constitutionalism in the United States is not determined solely by decisions made by the U.S. Supreme Court.  Moving beyond traditional casebooks, American Constitutionalism takes an innovative approach to the teaching of American constitutional law and politics.  Organized into the standard two-semester sequence, with volume one covering institutions and volume two covering rights and liberties, the text is distinctive in presenting the material in a historical organization within each volume and fully integrating the material into a political and legal context for students.

Many scholars have deepened our understanding of the development of our constitutional system, while also providing more interesting and sophisticated analyses of the political forces that shape constitutional debates and outcomes. American Constitutionalism has incorporated these lessons about how our constitutional system actually works while at the same time preserving what instructors and students find most engaging about the topic.  These new materials allow instructors to develop more interesting explanations and debates about familiar issues, while at the same time introducing students to vitally important questions that are often excluded from Court-centered textbooks.

American Constitutionalism offers a number of useful features.  It covers all important debates in American Constitution (not just those that have been recently litigated before the Supreme Court), organized by historical era.  It incorporates readings from all the prominent participants in those debates.  It clearly lays out the political and legal contexts of those materials.  It integrates more documents and cases than any other text on the market, including decisions made by elected officials and state courts.  The book offers numerous pedagogical features, including topical sections within each historical chapter, bulleted lists of major developments, explanatory headnotes for the readings, questions on court cases, illustrations and political cartoons, tables and figures, and suggested readings.  The text is supported by websites for students and teachers with extensive supplementary materials, including additional readings, sample syllabi, instructor guides, and presentation slides.

Table of Contents


Oxford University Press casebook supplemental site  -- This site is filled with supplemental materials for instructors and students, including hundreds of additional excerpts from primary materials in American constitutionalism, flashcards, and self-evaluation quizzes.

Praise for American Constitutionalism:

“American Constitutionalism marks a new age in the teaching of constitutional law. The book elegantly presents a historicized and developmental account that unveils the political and institutional roots of contemporary constitutional controversies. History and politics come alive for students as they engage constitutional problems as concrete political and legal struggles with stakes that span all American institutions, not just the courts. After using this text, I can't imagine teaching constitutional law any other way.

            JULIE NOVKOV, University of Albany


“With the long-awaited publication of Gillman, Graber, and Whittington's American Constitutionalism, students can finally see vividly how American constitutional development has been shaped by a fascinating array of political actors-legislators, Presidents, and political party and social movement leaders-not just by courts. A landmark contribution to the teaching and study of American constitutionalism.

        ROGERS M. SMITH, University of Pennsylvania


“A much-needed addition to the market. It will change the way that we teach constitutional law and politics.

            GREG GOELZHAUSER, Coastal Carolina University


Did you know that the U.S. Supreme Court was prepared to overrule McCulloch v. Maryland but did not have the opportunity to do so because Jacksonian politicians treated the case as a dead letter and killed any legislation that would have tested congressional power under that precedent before the Civil War?  American Constitutionalism reviews the debates that led to the Court’s decision in McCulloch v. Maryland, and also examines the battles over Jackson’s veto of the Bank bill, his theory of the unitary executive, and the censure resolution that followed his unilateral decision to remove federal deposits from the Bank.


Did you know that former Whigs such as Benjamin Curtis decried Lincoln’s abuse of power in issuing the Emancipation Proclamation?  American Constitutionalism reviews the debates over Lincoln’s assertions of emergency power during the Civil War and the debates over the constitutionality of secession and the status of the southern states during the Civil War and Reconstruction.


Did you know that Franklin Roosevelt drafted a speech to be delivered in case the government lost the Gold Clause Cases in which he was prepared to announce that the government would not comply with the Supreme Court because the president had a higher obligation “to protect the people of the United States”?  American Constitutionalism reviews the cases and political context of the battles between the U.S. Supreme Court and the administration during the early New Deal and details how the New Deal transformed the constitutional landscape.


Did you know that the head of Clinton’s Office of Legal Counsel prepared an elaborate legal analysis on the president’s authority to decline to execute statutes that he regarded to be unconstitutional?  American Constitutionalism reviews contemporary constitutional cases on federalism and the separation of powers, while also providing extensive background on the changing politics of judicial appointments, the rise of presidential signing statements, and executive-branch justifications for initiating military activities abroad and engaging in “enhanced interrogation” techniques.


With American Constitutionalism, you can explore the full range of theoretical, political, and legal questions that have characterized the American effort to both empower and limit government officials.



Oxford University Press

March 2012

816 pages, paper

ISBN 0-19-9975126-9 (pb)

$99.95 (pb)

Table of Contents

Oxford University Press description


Oxford University Press casebook supplemental site  -- This site is filled with supplemental materials for instructors and students, including hundreds of additional excerpts from primary materials in American constitutionalism, flashcards, and self-evaluation quizzes.



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