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Thursday, September 6, 2012

America’s Unwritten Constitution by Professor Akhil Reed Amar ’84

The right to privacy. One person, one vote. The presumption of innocence. As Americans, we think of these freedoms – and many more – as our constitutional rights. But they can’t actually be found in the Constitution.

“While they’re not explicitly written in our Constitution, these things are part of America’s working constitutional system – part of America’s unwritten Constitution,” says Sterling Professor of Law and renowned constitutional scholar Akhil Reed Amar ’84. In his new book, America’s Unwritten Constitution: The Precedents and Principles We Live By, Professor Amar guides readers through the landmark cases, implicit principles, common practices, and more that make up our unwritten Constitution, showing how the written and unwritten Constitutions fit together to form a single system.

Going beneath, behind, and beyond the written Constitution, Professor Amar shows that as we approach the 225th anniversary of the written document on September 17, we should also recognize the importance of its “unwritten” counterpart. “The written Constitution cannot work as intended without something outside of it – America’s unwritten Constitution – to fill in its gaps and to stabilize it,” he says. “In turn, America’s unwritten Constitution could never properly ignore the written Constitution, which is itself an integral part of the American experience.”

A sequel to his award-winning book, America’s Constitution: A Biography, America’s Unwritten Constitution will be published by Basic Books on Sept. 11, 2012. Read more about the book here.

Akhil Reed Amar is Sterling Professor of Law and Political Science at Yale University, and periodically serves as a visiting professor at Harvard, Columbia, and Pepperdine Law Schools. He is the author of four books, including America’s Constitution: A Biography, which won the Silver Gavel Award from the American Bar Association, and The Bill of Rights: Creation and Reconstruction, which was awarded a Silver Gavel Certificate of Merit. A member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a Senior Scholar at the National Constitution Center, Amar is often cited by the Supreme Court and is a frequent expert witness in Congressional hearings.