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For Ourselves and Our Posterity

The Preamble to the Federal Constitution in American History

Peter Charles Hoffer

Publication Date - 22 August 2012

ISBN: 9780199899531

192 pages
5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches

A sweeping narrative that traces the revolutionary origins of the Preamble to the federal Constitution


In For Ourselves and Our Posterity: The Preamble to the Federal Constitution in American History, author Peter Charles Hoffer offers a sweeping, dramatic narration of a crucial moment in Early American history. Over the course of five days in September 1787, five men serving on an ad hoc "Committee of Style and Arrangement" edited the draft of the federal Constitution at the Constitutional Convention, profoundly recasting the wording of the Preamble. In so doing, the committee changed a federation into a Union and laid out an ambitious program for national governance many years ahead of its time. The Preamble and all that it came to represent was the unique achievement of a remarkable group of men at a momentous turning point in American history. Providing a clear exposition of constitutional issues, For Ourselves and Our Posterity features individual portraits of the leading framers at the heart of this dramatic event.

About the Author(s)

Peter Charles Hoffer is Distinguished Research Professor at the University of Georgia. He is the author of several books, including Cry Liberty: The Great Stono River Slave Rebellion of 1739 (OUP, 2011), The Brave New World: A History of Early America (2007), The Supreme Court: An Essential History (2007), Seven Fires: The Urban Infernos that Reshaped American History (2006), and Past Imperfect (2004).


"Peter Charles Hoffer, one of this nation's most distinguished legal historians, has written a vitally important book in this age of Tea Party hostility to an energetic federal government. For Ourselves and Our Posterity is a brilliant analysis of the way in which the fifty-two words of the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution-the pledge not only 'to form a more perfect union,' but also 'to establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessing of liberty' to the American people-shaped much of the political debate during the period between the ratification of the Constitution and the coming of the Civil War. Hoffer's book is a notable example of a work that combines impressive scholarship with contemporary relevance. It will provoke lively debate both within the classroom and in the public arena."--Richard R. Beeman, University of Pennsylvania

"Peter Hoffer uses the fifty-two-word preamble to the United States Constitution as a wide-angle lens, encompassing the quirky characters (like Gouverneur Morris, the disfigured rake who wrote the preamble), the uncanny coincidences, and the titanic clashes that all came together in 1787 to forge a nation."--Woody Holton, University of Richmond, author of Unruly Americans and the Origins of the Constitution

Table of Contents

    Editor's Foreword

    Prologue: Dinner at Mrs. Dailey's Boarding House
    One: The Revolutionary Republics, The Confederation, and their Laws
    Two: The Constitutional Convention Meets
    Three: The Drafting of the Preamble
    Four: The Preamble and Federalism, 1787-1801
    Five: The Preamble in Crisis Times, 1801-1865
    Six: Legacies of the Preamble
    Epilogue: "Our Posterity"

    For Further Reading

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