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In his book, The Second Creation: Fixing the American Constitution in the Founding Era (Harvard University Press, 2018), Jonathan Gienapp revisits the Founding Era to retell the story of America’s favorite document. Looking at the Constitution’s creation, Gienapp makes a compelling case for why we should reconceptualize just what this document meant to early Americans. By examining the debates which gripped Congress immediately following the ratification of the Constitution, and throughout the 1790s, Gienapp illustrates how the very meaning of the Constitution, both as an idea and a text, was forged through partisan politics. If most Americans think of the Constitution as a fixed document, Gienapp shows how “fixing” the Constitution turned it into a “fixed” document. The Second gives us a new starting point for how to interpret the constitutional politics of the Early Republic, and the enduring image of the Constitution to our own day.

Jonathan Gienapp is an assistant professor in History at Stanford University. He is a scholar of the Revolutionary Era and Early Republic. He’s principally interested in these period’s political culture, constitutionalism, and intellectual history.

Derek Litvak is a Ph.D. student in the department of history at the University of Maryland.

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