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Learning from Founding-era translations of the U.S. Constitution

HANDOUT IMAGE: U.S. Constitution (U.S. Archives) U.S. Constitution (U.S. Archives)

It’s not every day you learn something new about the Constitution. But I did, from Founding-Era Translations of the U.S. Constitution by Christina Mulligan, Michael Douma, Hans Lind and Brian Patrick Quinn.

As a few constitutional history geeks may know, the Constitution was translated from English into German and Dutch at ratification, for the substantial number of people in Pennsylvania and New York who did not speak English. Yet many people do not even know that the translations have been preserved, and I don’t think anybody has ever sat down to analyze the translations and see what we can learn from them. The authors have done so, and also produced this handy appendix that sets out the different texts and translations alongside one another.

Full of neat stuff.

Will Baude is an assistant professor at the University of Chicago Law School, where he teaches constitutional law and federal courts. His recent articles include Rethinking the Federal Eminent Domain Power, (Yale Law Journal, 2013), and Beyond DOMA: State Choice of Law in Federal Statutes, (Stanford Law Review, 2012).

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