As amended over the years, the Constitution is the supreme law of the land, the nation’s fundamental law. But the broad language of the Constitution is illuminated by the principles set forth in the Declaration. Indeed, for more than two centuries the ringing phrases of the Declaration have inspired countless millions around the world. When it came time to draft a new constitution, the Founders drew upon the principles they had outlined in the Declaration.

The Declaration and the Constitution, together, address mankind’s most basic political questions. Resting on a firm moral foundation, they articulate the first principles of political organization. Thus, they were meant to serve not merely the 18th century but generations to come, which would face those same basic questions, whatever their particular circumstances, whatever their state of material progress. Because the principles the Founders articulated transcend both time and technology, they will serve us well as we move through the 21st century, if only we understand them correctly and apply them well.

Featured Scholars
Roger Pilon

B. Kenneth Simon Chair, Constitutional Studies

Ilya Shapiro

Vice President and Director, Robert A. Levy Center for Constitutional Studies

Bill of Rights Day

Tim Lynch, former director of Cato’s project on criminal justice, posted an extensive related piece on Cato’s blog, detailing the vulnerabilities our safeguards face and the government’s intrusion into what our Founders and Constitution Framers intended to be some of our most precious individual rights.

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Featured Books

The Conscience of the Constitution: The Declaration of Independence and the Right to Liberty

Examines how the Constitution was written to secure liberty, not empower democracy, and documents why the Declaration of Independence should be the framework for interpreting our fundamental law.

How Progressives Rewrote The Constitution

How Progressivism and the New Deal era still shape the Supreme Court’s decisions.

The Cult of the Presidency: America’s Dangerous Devotion to Executive Power

Examines how Americans have expanded presidential power over recent decades by expecting solutions for all national problems, and concludes by calling for the president’s role to return to its properly defined constitutional limits.

The Dirty Dozen: How Twelve Supreme Court Cases Radically Expanded Government and Eroded Freedom

A non-lawyer’s guide to the worst Supreme Court decisions of the modern era.

The Right to Earn a Living: Economic Freedom and the Law

Explores the legal and constitutional history of the right to earn a living without unreasonable government interference, and reveals the many ways in which that right is threatened today.

David’s Hammer: The Case for an Activist Judiciary

An active judiciary is a key element in our government that ensures that limits are placed on executive and legislative action, constitutional rights are protected, and unelected bureaucrats are kept in check.

Gun Control On Trial: Inside the Supreme Court Battle over the Second Amendment

With exclusive behind‐​the‐​scenes access, the book delves into the monumental Heller case — where the Supreme Court ruled that individual citizens have the constitutional right to possess guns — to provide a compelling look at the inside stories of the forces that fought for and against the Second Amendment.

Cornerstone of Liberty: Property Rights in 21st Century America

Real‐​life stories and solid legal analysis combine to show why property rights are the “cornerstone of liberty,” how they are protected in the U.S. Constitution, and how the Supreme Court’s Kelo v. New London case has impacted them.

Supreme Court Review

Published every September, the Cato Supreme Court Review analyzes key cases from the Court’s most recent term.

“The Founders’ Constitution,” Liberty Fund (Indianapolis, IN)
Arguably the most important of all resources on the principles of the Framers of the American republic. Includes extracts from the leading works of political theory, history, law, and constitutional argument on which the Framers and their contemporaries drew and which they themselves produced.

“The Charters of Freedom,” National Archives (Washington, DC)
The official National Archives website.

“American Treasures,” Library of Congress (Washington, DC)
Holograph images of Thomas Jefferson’s “Original Rough Draught of the Declaration of Independence,” with minor emendations by John Adams and Benjamin Franklin, June 1776.

“Interactive Constitution,” National Constitution Center (Philadelphia, PA)
A hypertext edition of the Constitution based on Linda Monk’s The Words We Live By: Your Annotated Guide to the Constitution (Hyperion, 2003).

“Interpreting the Declaration of Independence by Translation,” George Mason University (Fairfax, VA)
Translations of the Declaration of Independence in Italian, Japanese, and other languages.

“Political Database of the Americas,” Georgetown University (Washington, DC)
A non‐​governmental Internet‐​based project that provides reference materials, primary documents, comparative studies, and statistical data for countries in the Western Hemisphere.