Read The Law of the Land: A Grand Tour of Our Constitutional Republic by Akhil Reed Amar Online


From Kennebunkport to Kauai, from the Rio Grande to the Northern Rockies, ours is a vast republic. While we may be united under one Constitution, separate and distinct states remain, each with its own constitution and culture. Geographic idiosyncrasies add more than just local character. Regional understandings of law and justice have shaped and reshaped our nation throughFrom Kennebunkport to Kauai, from the Rio Grande to the Northern Rockies, ours is a vast republic. While we may be united under one Constitution, separate and distinct states remain, each with its own constitution and culture. Geographic idiosyncrasies add more than just local character. Regional understandings of law and justice have shaped and reshaped our nation throughout history. America's Constitution, our founding and unifying document, looks slightly different in California than it does in Kansas.In The Law of the Land, renowned legal scholar Akhil Reed Amar illustrates how geography, federalism, and regionalism have influenced some of the biggest questions in American constitutional law. Writing about Illinois, "the land of Lincoln," Amar shows how our sixteenth president's ideas about secession were influenced by his Midwestern upbringing and outlook. All of today's Supreme Court justices, Amar notes, learned their law in the Northeast, and New Yorkers of various sorts dominate the judiciary as never before. The curious Bush v. Gore decision, Amar insists, must be assessed with careful attention to Florida law and the Florida Constitution. The second amendment appears in a particularly interesting light, he argues, when viewed from the perspective of Rocky Mountain cowboys and cowgirls.Propelled by Amar's distinctively smart, lucid, and engaging prose, these essays allow general readers to see the historical roots of, and contemporary solutions to, many important constitutional questions. The Law of the Land illuminates our nation's history and politics, and shows how America's various local parts fit together to form a grand federal framework....

Title : The Law of the Land: A Grand Tour of Our Constitutional Republic
Author :
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ISBN : 9780465065905
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 357 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Law of the Land: A Grand Tour of Our Constitutional Republic Reviews

  • KC
    2019-01-20 14:06

    In this collection of brisk yet nuanced thematic essays, renowned legal scholar Akhil Reed Amar examines the various ways different states have directly or indirectly affected the development and interpretation of the Constitution. While not a comprehensive overview of either the states or the Constitution, Amar provides an interesting mix of topics, ranging from the headlining constitutional provisions that are regularly contested in courts and public discourse (the 2nd and 4th Amendments), to more obscure provisions that had their fifteen minutes of fame (the 25th Amendment and Article II's provision empowering state legislatures to set voting rules), to more general thoughts about regional and professional trends that have influenced judges and politicians throughout history. It's a thought-provoking collection that has something to offer for both amateur scholars and trained lawyers.Two aspects of this book where Amar really shines is his conversational writing style and his heterodox approach to jurisprudence. He doesn't try to portray himself as perfectly objective, and he doesn't shy away from staking out strong positions, yet he approaches his chosen topics in ways that defy easy ideological labels. His perspectives on the 2nd and 4th Amendments are very different from what you will hear in the popular media, or even in law school, yet they are firmly grounded in textual analysis and historical context. His consideration of current Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy involves the usual examination of First Amendment and gay rights cases, but whereas some commentators mock Kennedy's predilection for flowery language, Amar finds something to admire in a high court judge who doesn't hide his opinions behind walls of legal jargon. None of this content feels watered down for a general audience, which is a very good thing; most people trying to learn more about American jurisprudence are forced to choose between the hopelessly oversimplified political screeds or the impenetrable thickets of dense law review articles. The one thing that keeps me from awarding this book a full five stars is my uncertainty about the degree of overlap with Amar's other books. Amar freely admits that this book is related to some of his earlier works, which use different themes to explore the Constitution. I noticed a lot of footnotes that refer the reader back to those earlier books, which makes me wonder a little bit about how often Amar has gone fishing in these analytical ponds. But there are certainly enough controversies and divergent perspectives on the constitution and the history of jurisprudence (even in individual Constitutional amendments) to fill several books, and familiarity with Amar's earlier work may simply help the amateur legal scholar find his bearings a bit more quickly. I haven't read Amar's other books, but my interest in them has certainly been piqued. If those books are as good as this one, I know my time and money will have been well spent.

  • Fredrick Danysh
    2019-02-17 16:05

    The authors views on the American Constitutional Republic uses cases studies of actions involving several states and individuals. I get the impression that the author believes the Constitution is a changing document that should reflect the views of those in power.

  • Xander Mitchell
    2019-01-25 12:01

    I actually picked up Law of the Land after sitting in on one of Akhil Reed Amar’s lectures, where he offered copies of each of his books for $20. No better primer for a course than reading the author’s most recent book, right?In Law of the Land, Amar set out to interpret America’s Constitution in a geographical context, looking at how court cases and constitutional interpreters of different regions shaped the way we see the Constitution today. In reality, this is mostly a collection of essays, and he mentions at one point that nearly all chapters are refined versions of lectures he’s given. Amar obviously had a lot of fun writing this book, which makes it a lot of fun to read.Reading this book definitely requires some knowledge about America’s constitution and about big-name court cases. Having taken a college-level government course, I felt fairly prepared, though in retrospect I would have started with Amar’s America’s Written Constitution and America’s Unwritten Constitution, which he mentions are the first two books in this series.This book has made me a better student of constitutional law, giving me the tools to figure out what the framers meant in our founding document and its subsequent amendments. Amar uses several tools to discern these truths. Particularly central to his strategy in the context of this book is looking at the backgrounds of some of the foremost interpreters of the Constitution. For example, Hugo Black, a resident of the Deep South, owes some of his strictly-textual approach to the Constitution to his strict religious upbringing. Likewise, Lincoln was a devout Unionist because of his upbringing; he lived in several states and thus identified as an American more strongly than, say, a Kentuckian or man of Illinois. Amar also discusses how to use intratextualism – the practice of closely reading one Amendment to gain insight on another – in such plain language that it gives the reader confidence to take his own shot at reading the constitution.Make no mistake: Amar is not stuck in the past by any means. At several points in The Law of the Land, the author takes issue with the current state of our judicial system. Why is it that all nine justices hail from two law schools? Why is it that every presidential candidate in the past thirty years is somehow connected to Harvard, Yale, Columbia or Princeton? Amar is also unafraid of inserting his own quips about current inequalities in America, so if you’re looking for an objective, purely-historical reading of the Constitution, this book probably isn’t for you.All in all, this was a fun read for an aspiring student of law, and I can’t wait to take Amar’s class in the future.

  • Mike Lewis
    2019-02-11 14:07

    This is the third book in a series by Amar, a Yale law professor. The series aims to make the U.S. Constitution accessible to all Americans. I was a bit vexed to learn (on the very last page) that I was reading the third book in a series, because normally I prefer to do things in sequence. I might have more fully grasped the third book's concepts had I read the first two books first. But no matter -- it was still a good book, with many ideas that were new and interesting to me.The book focuses on geography -- how different perspectives from different regions of the United States have influenced interpretation of the Constitution. For example, in chapter 1, Amar argues that Abraham Lincoln's strong belief in the unconstitutionality of secession was shaped by his having grown up in the Midwest. His forebears had come from several states, and he himself had lived in three states (Kentucky, Indiana, and Illinois). So he naturally thought of himself and his fellow citizens as Americans first, rather than Illinoisans or South Carolinians first. In addition, as a Midwesterner, he had a special appreciation for the Mississippi River's importance, and how much economic harm the Union would suffer were New Orleans to become part of a foreign power.Later, in chapter 5, Amar discusses the famous case of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, in which the Supreme Court declared school racial segregation laws to be unconstitutional. The case from Topeka, Kansas, was the lead case in what was actually a series of cases from several different places, mostly in the South. The Court gave the Topeka case top billing on purpose, Amar says, to drive home the point that segregation was a widespread American problem and not just a southern problem, and to soften the sense among many white southerners that they were being unfairly singled out by outsiders.The book covers a lot of ground, more than I can adequately summarize here. There are chapters on Justices Hugo Black, Robert Jackson, and Anthony Kennedy, all personal heroes for Amar; there are chapters on Tinker v. Des Moines and Bush v. Gore, in addition to Brown v. Board; there are chapters on presidential selection and succession, the Second Amendment, the Fourth Amendment, and federalism.Amar does a good job, in my view, of explaining the logic behind the perplexing wording of the Second Amendment. ("A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.") The key point is that the "Militia" and the "people" were one and the same. The "people" were the voters, the electorate. The same group that was expected to constitute the jury pool in court cases, was also expected to constitute the militia in times of invasion and emergency. Today the Founders' juries still exist, but the Founders' militia does not. Amar says that there is nevertheless constitutional support for an individual right to keep and bear arms for self-protection. But that support derives more from the Fourteenth Amendment than from the Second. The Reconstructionist framers of the Fourteenth Amendment made explicit reference to such a right. They had in mind black people and Unionists in the South, who might not be able to count on local police to protect them from white terrorists, and who therefore might need to carry their own guns.

  • Dean
    2019-02-11 11:45

    Brilliant constitutional scholar. Oh to be so lucky as to go to Yale and have Akhil as your constitutional law professor. Next best thing is to read his books. This latest is a must read for those who love the Constitution.

  • A
    2019-01-27 20:12

    Well written

  • Groucho42
    2019-01-24 13:54

    This is what you get when a pompous, Ivy League person thinks too much of himself. His self-congratulatory text makes me fell as if he probably injured himself while patting himself on the back. He also spends too much time whining in a Yale v Harvard rivalry showing his East Coast focus.It's not really a book, but a series of independent articles about different aspects of Constitutional law. It's mostly ok. Not much new but also not much that's terrible. I'll even ignore the concept that he considers Kennebunkport to be in Texas.However, his superficial view of the Constitution is shown best in the chapter titles "Wyoming," focused on the Second Amendment. As with most supposed scholars, he focuses on how all the amendments balance to create meaning for the Second. However, while he quickly mentions a key to understanding the amendment, he only does so briefly, towards the end of the chapter and misses the point.He uses that textualism to claim that the militia and the people are identical, referring to mentions of the people elsewhere in the document. However, while he briefly mentions that the militia is mentioned in Article 1 (pages 218-219), he doesn't provide the text. More to the point, he doesn't mention that the militia is discussed also in Article 2, Section 2, "The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States..."The Constitution is clear in differentiating the people from the militia. The document makes clear that the people control the government but that the government controls the militias.Nobody claiming to be a Constitutional scholar should miss that point.

  • Justin
    2019-01-31 11:54

    Very good introduction to how the SCOTUS functions in relation to the Constitution, states, and common law. The author is very knowledgeable and his writing style does not require that you have a background in law. Focusing on different states Amar blends history, geography, and the reality of American life from our founding to present and how these factors have influenced our interpretation of the constitution. Well balanced, his chapter on the 2nd Amendment was particularly insightful to the myriad of issues that surround this debate currently and how it has been interpreted in light of the founding fathers fears of a standing, professional army until Reconstruction after the Civil War. Also, if you are wondering about any 4th Amendment issues (searches & seizures) this book is a must. This will give you a greater appreciation for the forethought that the founders had and the subsequent courts that have kept to the Constitution as the country, and world, has changed.

  • Steve Mayer
    2019-02-07 19:14

    Amar is a wonderful writer, and a cogent and persuasive thinker. But I found this book a little disappointing. The chapters on case studies (Brown, Tinker) are not nearly as original as the chapters dealing with portions of the constitution that are equally important, but less often the subject of Supreme Court litigation. And the geographical threads felt forced at times. For example, there was only a little about New York in the chapter about Justice Jackson, and not much about Iowa in the chapter on Tinker. On the other hand, the chapter on Lincoln and the geographic influences that shaped his life was masterful. I expected a little more emphasis on, and research about, the impact of place on American constitutional law. Yet there is much here to interest both the general reader and the reader who interacts with constitutional law on a daily basis.

  • Kerri
    2019-01-30 18:15

    Great concept, weak executionSolid 3.5 stars. Great information and exploration of the evolving interpretations of several key phrases and amendments, but weak in the promised regional angle. There's a compelling story to be told if the geographical connection and context of amendments, but unfortunately the author doesn't really deliver, and the base level of expected legal knowledge is higher than what even a well educated, 40 year old possesses. Tough read.

  • Jack Raia
    2019-01-25 11:48

    Dr. Reed teaches at Yale Law School and it's my layman's impression the students are in good hands. Good discussion of several Justices several landmark cases and the influence of geography on the constitution, an interesting take. Well worth it for those who have an interest in the constitution.

  • Ryan
    2019-02-12 14:58

    This book is a great geographical introduction to constitutional law. For one who has not thought much about this topic since high school civics class, his writing and explanations are clear and give life to current legal issues and political discussions. I look forward to reading his other books.

  • Barron
    2019-01-26 13:06

    Very Akhil Amar. Alternatively brilliant and the odd disturbingly large stretch on the basis of transparently thin evidence. At those moments, I can't help but think of the old saw: Why didn't Akhil Amar cross the street? Because he couldn't see the other side.

  • David Holt
    2019-01-24 20:00

    Brilliant. If you read any con law books this year read this one and Chemerinsky's Case Against the Supreme Court.

  • Julie
    2019-02-15 14:56

    Lots of interesting analysis regarding our Constitution. But rather dry and a little repetitive after a while.