Magazine December 17, 2020, Issue

The Federalist Papers: Instruction Manual for the Constitution

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Hamilton, Madison, and Jay explained the meaning of our highest law

Most countries don’t have an instruction manual. But, then, most countries don’t need one. In its brilliance, in its longevity, and in its dual role as outline for legitimate government and incubator of well-considered ideals, the United States Constitution is unique. At many points in history, nations have elected to rewrite their rulebooks, but rarely have those who were charged with the task thought so seriously and assiduously while doing so. Critics of the American settlement sometimes sneer that its champions believe it to be “perfect.” We do not, although the Burkeans among us may believe that it is superior

This article appears as “Instruction Manual for the Constitution” in the December 17, 2020, print edition of National Review.

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