The Year of Living Constitutionally: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Constitution's Original Meaning

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    The New York Times bestselling author of The Year of Living Biblically chronicles his hilarious adventures in attempting to follow the original meaning of the Constitution, as he searches for answers to one of the most pressing issues of our time: How should we interpret America’s foundational document?

    A.J. Jacobs learned the hard way that donning a tricorne hat and marching around Manhattan with a 1700s musket will earn you a lot of strange looks. In the wake of several controversial rulings by the Supreme Court and the on-going debate about how the Constitution should be interpreted, Jacobs set out to understand what it means to live by the Constitution.

    In The Year of Living Constitutionally, A.J. Jacobs tries to get inside the minds of the Founding Fathers by living as closely as possible to the original meaning of the Constitution. He asserts his right to free speech by writing his opinions on parchment with a quill and handing them out to strangers in Times Square. He consents to quartering a soldier, as is his Third Amendment right. He turns his home into a traditional 1790s household by lighting candles instead of using electricity, boiling mutton, and—because women were not allowed to sign contracts— feebly attempting to take over his wife’s day job, which involves a lot of contract negotiations.

    The book blends unforgettable adventures—delivering a handwritten petition to Congress, applying for a Letter of Marque to become a legal pirate for the government, and battling redcoats as part of a Revolutionary War reenactment group—with dozens of interviews from constitutional experts from both sides. Jacobs dives deep into originalism and living constitutionalism, the two rival ways of interpreting the document.

    Much like he did with the Bible in The Year of Living Biblically, Jacobs provides a crash course on our Constitution as he experiences the benefits and perils of living like it’s the 1790s. He relishes, for instance, the slow thinking of the era, free from social media alerts. But also discovers the progress we’ve made since 1789 when married women couldn’t own property.