Jennifer Biddison

I had heard that the just-released Heritage Guide to the Constitution was going to be the book all conservatives would want on their bookshelves.  I guess I was skeptical, however, because upon seeing a real-life example of this expectation just a few weeks ago, I was floored.

As two Canadian-born health care experts walked into the office of my boss, one of them immediately noticed the big blue book on his desk, and his eyes began to gleam with interest. “Where can I get one of these?” he asked before grabbing the book and paging through it.  While I stood there wondering about the magnetism of this book, it occurred to me that the Guide is as indispensable for free-market Canadians as it is for free-market Americans.

In fact, the Guide is an essential reference book for anyone interested in our nation or in democracy in general.  I’m giving a copy to my liberal law student brother, and a copy is also on its way to my hard-core conservative brother in seminary.  If you’re stumped for a Christmas gift, the Guide is an easy pick for anyone halfway intelligent or curious about such matters.

What makes the Guide so special?  More than 100 of the top legal experts in the country – both liberal and conservative – have put their brains and expertise together to unveil what our Founding Fathers really meant when they wrote the Constitution more than 200 years ago.  Similar to what theologians do when performing exegesis of the Bible, the contributors have carefully researched the intent behind every little phrase of the most important legal document in our nation’s history.

In fact, the book’s editors, overseen by former Attorney General Edwin Meese, have broken up the Constitution into more than 200 sections and phrases and assigned each to an expert on the particular subject or issue of that piece.  The contributors are united in one common philosophy: originalism, or the belief that the Constitution should be interpreted the way the Founders intended.  Meese is a fitting choice to oversee the project, as he was the original champion of originalism in 1986 while still serving President Reagan.