About the National Archives

Welcome Remarks for The Words That Made Us: America’s Constitutional Conversation, 1760–1840

Greetings from the National Archives. I’m David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, and it's my pleasure to welcome you to today’s virtual author lecture with Akhil Reed Amar, author of The Words That Made Us.

Before we begin, though, I’d like to tell you about two upcoming programs you can view on our YouTube channel.

On Thursday, May 6, at noon, we’ll hear from former New York Times White House correspondent Robert M. Smith, whose new book, Suppressed, reveals how some stories make it to print, while others are ignored.

And on Monday, May 10, at 5 p.m., Bob Drury and Tom Clavin will tell us the true saga of Daniel Boone and the conquest of the frontier, the subject of their new book, Blood and Treasure.

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Our partner in bringing you today’s discussion is James Madison’s Montpelier, the historic home of our fourth President. It’s through Madison’s notes that we know what occurred behind the closed doors of the Constitutional Convention in 1787. Madison was also the last surviving member of that convention, dying in 1836.

That span of 50 years plus the preceding three decades are the years covered in Akhil Reed Amar’s new book on the origins and development of the U.S. Constitution. Decades of debate over the nature of government preceded the ratification of our Constitution, and such debate continued into the first half-century of the federal period.

New constitutional questions arose, and efforts to arrive at decisions marked these early decades of our nation’s existence. America’s constitutional conversation continues, and through Professor Amar’s new work we can come to a better understanding of its origins.

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Akhil Reed Amar is Sterling Professor of Law and Political Science at Yale University, where he teaches constitutional law. He is the author of several books including The Constitution Today, America’s Unwritten Constitution, and America’s Constitution. His work has won awards from both the American Bar Association and the Federalist Society, and he has been cited by Supreme Court justices across the spectrum in more than 40 cases. He regularly testifies before Congress, and is a recipient of the American Bar Foundation’s Outstanding Scholar Award. He has written widely for popular publications, including the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, Time, and The Atlantic.

Now let’s hear from Akhil Reed Amar. Thank you for joining us today.