Keeping Faith with the Constitution

Pamela S. Karlan, Goodwin Liu & Christopher H. Schroeder
Publication Date: 
September 15, 2009

Keeping Faith examines the text and history of the Constitution to show how the Framers inscribed the fundamental values of liberty, equality and democracy into the document. The authors describe what they call "constitutional fidelity," a principle that "serves not only to preserve the Constitution's meaning over time, but also to maintain its authority and legitimacy. The words and principles of the Constitution endure as our fundamental law because they have been made relevant to the conditions and challenges of each generation through an ongoing process of interpretation."

By considering constitutional interpretation through history, the authors show that their approach has enabled our nation's greatest advances, from Brown v. Board of Education to women's rights, free speech, the Miranda decision, and the New Deal, emphasizing that our Constitution "reflects, in a spare outline, the moral trajectory of a nation continually striving for greater justice." 

Oxford University Press released an updated version of Keeping Faith as part of its acclaimed Inalienable Rights series in 2010.

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      Keeping Faith with the Constitution


      Download Keeping Faith with the Constitution

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      Chapter 1 The Constitution's Vision and Values
      Chapter 2 Judicial Interpretation of the Constitution
      Chapter 3 Equality
      Chapter 4 Promoting the General Welfare
      Chapter 5 Separation of Powers
      Chapter 6 Democracy
      Chapter 7 Criminal Justice
      Chapter 8 Liberty
      Chapter 9 Progress and Possibilities






      Download It is a Constitution We Are Expounding: Collected Writings on Interpreting Our Founding Document

      It is a Constitution We Are Expounding


      Keeping Faith with the Constitution is a new publication of the American Constitution Society that presents a compelling and common-sense approach to constitutional interpretation – one that is faithful to the Constitution’s words and principles and that explains why it is the world’s most enduring written constitution. The book, authored by scholars Goodwin Liu, Pamela S. Karlan, and Christopher H. Schroeder, examines the text and history of the Constitution to show how the Framers inscribed the fundamental values of liberty, equality, and democracy into the document. It then describes and defends an approach to interpreting the Constitution the authors call “constitutional fidelity,” which, as the Framers envisioned, applies the Constitution’s broad principles to the changing needs, conditions, and understandings of our society. This dynamic process of constitutional interpretation, the book shows, has brought about the greatest legal achievements in our history, has allowed us to meet new challenges and unforeseen circumstances, and has enabled each generation of Americans to keep faith with the Constitution.

      Download the fact sheet here.

      Download the FAQ here.


      Along with Keeping Faith With the Constitution, ACS also has published a companion volume, entitled It Is a Constitution We Are Expounding: Collected Writings on Interpreting Our Founding Document. This book, with a Foreword by Professor Laurence H. Tribe, contains excerpts from some of the finest existing writing on methods of constitutional interpretation, taken from decisions of the Supreme Court and other opinions and speeches by Justices and judges, the scholarly literature, and other sources. The materials gathered in this volume explore a variety of interpretive resources that can help illuminate the Constitution’s meaning, including its text, structure, and history, the shared values it embodies, judicial precedent, and the consequences a particular interpretation is likely to have. Like Keeping Faith – whose authors drew upon many of the ideas presented in this volume – this publication presents accepted tools of interpretation; that are faithful to the Constitution.

      Both books are designed to be useful to a wide readership, including law students, lawyers, judges, and every citizen engaged in the nation’s debates over the Constitution, the courts, and judicial nominations.

      Read more here.




      As we contemplate the appointment of a new Supreme Court justice, two new books, released on May 1 by the American Constitution Society, will be particularly enlightening. … It is a happy coincidence that these two works come to us at precisely this moment in our history. Anyone interested in understanding the judicial philosophy that President Obama is likely to seek in his Supreme Court nominees can do no better than to read these works. - Professor Geoffrey Stone, Huffington Post

      This book promises to make a serious, even defining, contribution to the literature and debates over constitutional interpretation at a potentially watershed moment, at least with regard to constitutional interpretation in the political branches. And the web-based release and easy, accessible style will make possible a wide distribution and readership. I highly recommend this excellent work. - Professor Steven Schwinn, Constitutional Law Prof Blog

      Judges, lawyers and scholars have debated endlessly the meanings and purposes of the provisions of our 1787 Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the Civil War Amendments, as well as their proper relationships to each other. It is most timely and fitting for the American Constitution Society to offer this fine volume of first rate scholarship illuminating why only a range of interpretative tools is likely to yield coherent and constructive understandings of our basic Charter. - Drew S. Days III, Alfred M. Rankin Professor of Law, Yale Law School and former Solicitor General of the United States

      This edited collection is a treasure trove for those who love the Constitution and believe that its greatest strength is that it was written in broad and majestic generalities intended to be adapted over time to the needs of future generations. Through such adaptation, the Constitution has endured for 220 years as the bedrock of the freest nation the world has ever known--while being amended only 27 times. The American Constitution Society has done a great service in promoting public understanding of these deep truths about our founding document. - Kathleen Sullivan, Stanley Morrison Professor of Law and Former Dean, Stanford Law School

      And I do believe that the volume, that our distinguished authors here have published now, is going to make a very important contribution to that debate. It’s very carefully researched and reasoned, and very measured, it’s among the best defenses of a non-originalist interpretative methodology that I have ever seen. But it is my sad responsibility, none the less, to say that the challenge it makes to originalism I believe fails… - Charles Cooper, Cooper and Kirk, former OLC head, Reagan administration


      At the ACS book launch, authors Liu and Karlan and editor Harris were joined by Charles J. Cooper, a former assistant attorney general in the Reagan administration, in a discussion of Keeping Faith moderated by Slate Senior Editor Dahlia Lithwick at the National Press Club. The American Constitution Society for Law and Policy is one of the nation’s leading progressive legal organizations, comprised of lawyers, judges, students and policy makers committed to promoting the vitality of the Constitution and the fundamental values it expresses. The views of the authors and speakers are their own and should not be attributed to ACS.