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The Odd Clauses: Understanding the Constitution Through Ten of Its Most… (2011)

by Jay Wexler

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When I was studying Constitutional Law back in the 1970's we were all so excited to be looking and studying the questions that had engaged the minds of the Founding Fathers back in the day.

Our teacher would tease us with a few lines of Holy Writ - the elegant phrasing of the original Constitution, perhaps the most beautiful writing ever to come out of a Committee.

And then Whammo! he would dump on us the fifty pound bound books of all the case law and statute law and findings that had been built up like barnicles on that original elegant foundation.

Which is what the new book The Odd Clauses reminded me of. It's a light hearted trip through some of the odder and perhaps not so well thumbed parts of the Constitution, with lovely side glances into modern interpretation and the Nine Old Men of the Supreme Court whose duty it is to tell us what the heck the Founders really meant.

The section on Letters of Marque and Reprisal is alone worth the price of admission (and to think that in the 21 century people are still talking about issuing them to stop the Somali pirates - incredible!)

But OTOH what is the role of Congress on making war? Lots of fascinating stories here.

The author has done his homework and the book reads like a bull session late night in a really good law school.
(That's intended as a compliment)
  magicians_nephew | Dec 27, 2013 |
The Odd Clauses, by Jay Wexler, provided a fascinating and very accessable journey through ten of The Constitution's more obscure provisions.
A professor at Boston University School of Law, Mr Wexler writes with a large dollop of snarky political asides, that I found in no way affected my understanding of the difficul subject matter.

Seperation of Powers; Weights and Measures; Recess Appointments; Original Jurisdiction; Natural Born Citizen; Federalism; Letters of Marque and Reprisal; Title of Nobility and Privacy clauses are all treated thoroughly enough that even a political neophyte like myself grasped a basic understanding of these parts of our Constitution with out making me feel stupid.
I came away with a much greater respect and admiration for the framers of the Constitution who were prescient to include these clauses to ensure a more free and open society than what they had left in Great Britain.
My interest has been piqued enough that I will pursue more on this and similar subjects. ( )
  iluvvideo | Apr 1, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Bias in a book about law is to be expected. However, it occasionally got so extreme in this book that I was almost embarrassed for the author. Any time half of the country's population is called "nauseating" and "silly" there is credibility lost. After reading half of the book, I decided that I couldn't trust his representation of anything. That's unfortunate, since he actually did a good job at making complicated issues accessible. ( )
  melopher | Mar 9, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Some of the negative reviews for this book mention the fact that Wexler is pretty brazen about his political views, quite often blasting conservatives. While true, I didn't find it all that hard to look past that, and focus on the quality of the content, which was actually quite good.

The book, as the subtitle states, focuses on the constitutions's least well known clauses. Wexler gives in-depth, intelligent and engaging commentary on the recess appointment clause; the weights and measures clause; my personal favorite, the letters of marque and reprisal clause; and a few others.

What made this book a real pleasure was that the analysis was not just legal and historical; the author went through great pains to look at these clauses from a modern, relevant point of view. For example, he describes a view held by a small minority of legal professors that states that the separation of powers clause does not prohibit a president from also simultaneously serving in Congress, since the president is not a member of the executive, but rather presides over it.

Overall this was a very fun, light, informative read, and I would recommend it to readers with any prior degree of knowledge of the constitution.
2 vote AdamRackis | Mar 8, 2012 |
A mildly interesting book on several less-discussed clauses of the Constitution. His humor falls a bit flat at times. He does have a clear bias, but I don't think it's as bad as some reviewers have claimed. I suppose if you're a touchy Republican, this is a book to avoid.
  prosfilaes | Feb 17, 2012 |
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The Constitution of the United States contains some of the most powerful and well-known legal provisions in the history of the world.
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Oh, what curious / constitutional phrases! / Obscure but not dull. (legallypuzzled)

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0807000906, Hardcover)

If the United States Constitution were a zoo, and the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth amendments were a lion, a giraffe, and a panda bear, respectively, then The Odd Clauses would be a special exhibit of shrews, wombats, and bat-eared foxes. Past the ever-popular monkey house and lion cages, Boston University law professor Jay Wexler leads us on a tour of the lesser-known clauses of the Constitution, the clauses that, like the yeti crab or platypus, rarely draw the big audiences but are worth a closer look. Just as ecologists remind us that even a weird little creature like a shrew can make all the difference between a healthy environment and an unhealthy one, understanding the odd clauses offers readers a healthier appreciation for our constitutional system. With Wexler as your expert guide through this jurisprudence jungle, you’ll see the Constitution like you’ve never seen it before.
 
Including its twenty-seven amendments, the Constitution contains about eight thousand words, but the well-known parts make up only a tiny percentage of the entire document. The rest is a hodgepodge of provisions, clauses, and rules, including some historically anachronistic, some absurdly detailed, and some crucially important but too subtle or complex to get popular attention. This book is about constitutional provisions like Section 2 of the Twenty-first Amendment, the letters of marque and reprisal clause, and the titles of nobility clauses—those that promote key democratic functions in very specific, and therefore seemingly quite odd, ways. Each of the book’s ten chapters shines a much-deserved light on one of the Constitution’s odd clauses—its history, its stories, its controversies, its possible future.
 
The Odd Clauses puts these intriguing beasts on display and allows them to exhibit their relevance to our lives, our government’s structure, and the integrity of our democracy.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:49:47 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

"An innovative, insightful, and often humorous look at the Constitution's lesser-known clauses, offering a fresh approach to understanding our democracy. In this captivating and witty book, Jay Wexler draws on his extensive background in constitutional law to shine a much-deserved light on some of the Constitution's lesser-known parts. For a variety of reasons, many of the Constitution's "odd clauses" never make it to any court, and therefore never make headlines or even law school classrooms that teach from judicial decisions. Wexler delves into many of those more obscure passages, which he uses to illuminate the essence of our democratic process, including our tripartite government; the principles of equality, liberty, and privacy; and the integrity of our democracy"--Provided by publisher.… (more)

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