HARRISON, N.Y. -- Matthew Pauley, director of legal studies and associate professor of political science and legal studies at Manhattanville College, has written a book about the constitutional heritage of the United States.
In the book, “Athens, Rome, and England: America's Constitutional Heritage,” Pauley thoroughly examines the major influences on our constitution and the sources from which we get our concepts, ideas, institutions and experiences of constitutional government.
“I think there are a lot of influences on our constitution, but the three most important have been through the ancient world, ancient Athens and Rome, and England. Those are the three that I focus on in the book,” explained Pauley.
“The book is really an attempt to trace the story of the constitutional development of those three civilizations and do it in a way that shows parallels to and differences from our experience and sheds light on it.”
Pauley began working on the book when he realized that some students didn’t know enough about our constitutional heritage.
“They didn’t really know a lot about the roots of our legal tradition, just sort of took the view that the Constitution was started in 1787 and nothing happened before that,” he said. “I began writing some things to try and give them a little background on what happened before and the writings started turning into chapters for the book.”
Pauley is using the book in one of his seminars this fall. He hopes that the book, which he thoroughly researched, will be enjoyed by scholars and students alike, as well as used in other seminars and schools.
“It’s important for students to acknowledge and understand our constitutional heritage because we are a kind of democracy,” he said.
“We the people are in charge. It’s our responsibility to know something about what we have, what our system is. There are so many terms in our law, so many concepts that one doesn’t really understand unless one knows the historical basis of them. It’s important for people to know about it because as citizens we are part of the ruling class, and if we have no idea what our rules and institutions mean, then we are not really able to govern.”
The book, which is published by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute under its Griffon House imprint, is available from the publisher, at the college bookstore and on Amazon.