Liberty and Union


This is the companion website for Liberty and Union: A Constitutional History of the United States,Concise Edition.

Concise Edition Resources

On this site you will find links to the following types of resources:

  • Supreme Court cases
  • Digitized letters, speeches, and papers of historical figures
  • Statutes
  • Political and legal treatises
  • Online galleries of photographs, artwork, and documents
  • Audio files of Supreme Court oral arguments
  • Video files

Each set of links is organized chronologically and by chapter, and beside each is an icon to indicate the type of resource to be found: text/document, images, audio, or video.

About the book

This, the concise edition of Liberty and Union, is an abridged constitutional history of the United States, designed for short single-semester courses, comprising the key topics from Volumes 1 and 2.

Written in a clear and engaging narrative style, it successfully unites thorough chronological coverage with a thematic approach, offering critical analysis of core constitutional history topics, set in the political, social, and economic context that made them constitutional issues in the first place. Combining a thoughtful and balanced narrative with an authoritative stance on key issues, the authors deliberately explain the past in the light of the past, without imposing upon it the standards of later generations.

Authored by two experienced professors of History and Law, this concise edition presents seminal topics while retaining the narrative flow of the two full original volumes. An accessible alternative to dense scholarly works, this textbook avoids unnecessary technical jargon, defines legal terms and historical personalities where appropriate, and makes explicit connections between constitutional themes and historical events. For students in a short undergraduate or postgraduate constitutional history course, or anyone with a general interest in constitutional developments, this book will be essential reading.

Edgar J. McManus is Professor Emeritus of History at Queens College, City University of New York.

Tara Helfman is Assistant Professor at Syracuse University College of Law.

What experts are saying about Liberty and Union, Volume 1

“Liberty and Union is a superb primer on the English origins of American jurisprudence that highlights the most significant aspects of the constitutional history of the United States. Crisply written with a dash of wit and humor, the authors excel at explaining essential legal concepts and differing historical interpretations with clarity and precision. In this splendid overview and comprehensive analysis, they persuasively make the case for the Constitution’s centrality to American culture, politics, and nationhood.”
—Edward P. Crapol, Pullen Professor of American History, Emeritus, College of William and Mary
“Rembrandt’s Aristotle, 1653, contemplated the bust of Homer for wisdom about what to make of the new state system introduced at Westphalia five years earlier. Modern states have recognized the need to make constitutions, but most turned out to be fabricated cover stories. Now with Liberty and Union we can begin to see how the U.S. Constitution made America an exception to that rule. This book fills a huge gap in intellectual history about what a constitution is supposed to be and do—but in other countries almost never is or does.”
—Charles Hill, Distinguished Fellow of International Security Studies in the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs at Yale University

What experts are saying about Liberty and Union, Volume 2

"Although history is often characterized as 'argument without end,' McManus and Helfman’s comprehensive yet accessible conclusion to their two-part constitutional history of the United States may well come to be seen as the definitive study of the topic for generations. Clear, concise, lucid, and compelling, McManus and Helfman not only explain how larger societal trends were influencing the evolution of everyday Americans’ understanding of constitutionalism and our constitutional values, but they also introduce us to the key personalities and critical legal concepts that both enabled and reflected the changes that have come to define the last century of American constitutional history. Anyone from the most amateur student of American history to the most seasoned constitutional lawyer has much to learn from this delightful denouement to Liberty and Union."
--Professor Stephen I. Vladeck, American University Washington College of Law
"This valuable book shows how the only nation in the world to define itself entirely by a written constitution has been shaped by that document throughout its history. It views constitutional issues from the sweeping perspective of the historical events that generated them, and also offers a website that allows the reader to satisfy any desire for detail that the broader view may create. Edgar J. McManus and Tara Helfman have given us a welcome addition to the library of any student of constitutional history."
--Michael B. Mukasey (Attorney General of the United States, 2007-2009; Judge of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, 1988-2006)