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America is a world power, but does it have the strength to understand itself? Is it content, even now, to remain an intellectual colony, borrowing European categories to decode the meaning of its national identity?

This was not always a question posed by the American Constitution. When America was a military and economic weakling on the European fringe, it was at the forefront of constitutional thought. As it transformed itself into the powerhouse of the West, its leading constitutionalists became increasingly derivative. Two centuries onward, the study of the American Constitution is dominated by categories that owe more to European than to American thought and experience.

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